October is Black History Month, which we are marking by sharing suggestions of notable Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people whose stories and contributions could be highlighted in schools, across the eight curricular areas of the Curriculum for Excellence, as one aspect of a whole-school approach to anti-racist education. The second curricular areas we are highlighting are Sciences and Mathematics.

Suggested people to celebrate

Did you know that Professor Sir Geoff Palmer is a Professor Emeritus & human rights activist who was the first Black professor in Scotland?

Prof Sir Geoff Palmer is a Professor Emeritus in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and a human rights activist. He discovered the barley abrasion process while a researcher at the Brewing Research Foundation from 1968 to 1977. In 1998, Palmer became the fourth person, and the first European, to be honoured with the American Society of Brewing Chemists Award of Distinction, considered the "Nobel prize of brewing". In 1989, he became the first Black professor in Scotland, becoming a professor emeritus after he retired in 2005. He was knighted in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to human rights, sciences and charity. His book on race relations, ‘Mr. White and the Ravens’, was first published in 2001 and he also authored a book on the history of slavery, ‘The Enlightenment Abolished: Citizens of Britishness’, and has spoken out extensively against the slave trade.


Learn more:  https://www.hw.ac.uk/about/news/2017/life-and-work-of-university-emeritus.htm


Did you know that Dr Mae Carol Jemison was the first Black woman to travel into space?

Dr Jemison is an American engineer, physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. After medical school and a brief general practice, Jemison served in the Peace Corps from 1985 until 1987, when she was selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps. She resigned from NASA in 1993 to found a company researching the application of technology to daily life. She holds nine honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters, and the humanities. She is the current principal of the 100 Year Starship organization. She has worked in the areas of computer programming, printed wiring board materials, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, computer magnetic disc production, and reproductive biology.

Learn more: https://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/jemison-mc.html


Did you know that Dr Nira Chamberlain is a British Mathematician, who campaigns for more diversity within the mathematical sciences?

Dr Chamberlain currently holds the title as the 5th Most Influential Black Person in the UK. This is the first time a mathematician has made into the Top 100 Britain’s most influential people of African and African-Caribbean Heritage. He is also listed by the Science Council as ‘one of the UK’s top 100 Scientist’. Furthermore in 2015, he became the first Black mathematician to join the exclusive list of distinguish living British mathematicians who feature in the biographical reference book Who’s Who. In 2017, Dr Chamberlain became one of the Vice-Presidents of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. He has over 20 years of experience at writing mathematical models/simulation algorithms that solve complex industrial problems, and developed mathematical solutions within industries such as the defence, aerospace, automotive and energy sectors. His recommendation to any aspiring mathematician is that “You don’t need anybody’s permission to be a great mathematician!”

Learn more: http://nirachamberlain.com/


Did you know that Professor Rosina Mamokgethi Setati-Phakeng is a South African Mathematician & Researcher who was the first Black female South African to obtain a PhD in Mathematics?

Prof Rosina Mamokgethi Phakeng is currently Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town, having previously been Vice Principal, Research and Innovation, at the University of South Africa In 2002 she became the first black female South African to obtain a PhD in Mathematics Education.

Learn more: https://mamokgethi.com/


Did you know that Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson & Mary Jackson were Black women who were NASA employees whose calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the early U.S. spaceflights?

These remarkable women were featured in the book/film Hidden Figures (https://www.foxmovies.com/movies/hidden-figures); they made a vital contribution to the work of NASA.

Learn more: https://www.nasa.gov/modernfigures


If you have more ideas of BME people whose contribution to Sciences and Mathematics may have been overlooked and could be highlighted in schools, please share them with Jenny Kemp (jkemp@eis.org.uk).

Coming soon…notable figures in Social Studies, Technologies, Religious and Moral Education and Health and Wellbeing.