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Celebrating Black History Month

Posted by: Mark Burslem

Given that WRS specialises in recruitment within the oil and gas, renewable energy, mining and technology sectors, we know a thing or two about scientists and engineers. In fact, our consultants spend most of their time speaking to these technically minded, experienced candidates, helping them source opportunities on projects around the globe where their skill and expertise is really needed. Recently, we were able to find a Structural Engineer a job with a renewable energy company in Europe, where this candidate will be involved in the design of offshore structures. The skill and talent of these engineers and the impact they have on the world, in ways the general populace don’t even realise, is incredible.

In this special blog commemorating Black History Month, we honour four famous engineers and scientists and their profound contributions that have shaped the world around us.  

Mary Jackson – NASA’s first black female engineer

Mary Jackson became NASA’S first black female engineer in 1958. Alongside her colleagues Katherine Jonson and Dorothy Vaughan, Mary helped NASA to send the first American to space, Alan Shepard in 1961.

Mary began her career at NASA in the West Area Computing Unit of NASA’S Langley Research Centre in Hampton, Virginia. Mary was an aerospace engineer and mathematician, who went on to lead programs that influenced the hiring and promotion of women at NASA. Earlier this month, NASA announced that their headquarters building in Washington D.C will be named after Mary Jackson.

Lewis Latimer – inventor and innovator

Lewis Latimer was an engineer and inventor who was most famous for improving Thomas Edison’s light bulb which burnt out too quickly. Lewis Latimer is considered to be one of the most important black inventors of all time, not only for his inventions and patents but also for the magnitude of his famous discovery.

Latimer famously worked with Hiram Maxim, an inventor at the U.S. Electric Lighting Company. Whilst working there in 1881, Lewis patented the carbon filament for the lightbulb. Thanks to this invention, electric lighting was made a lot safer, practical and affordable for the average household.

In addition to working with Maxim, Lewis drafted drawings which Alexander Graham Bell used to patent the first telephone in 1876.

Walter Braithwaite – helped develop CAD/CAM

Walter Braithwaite was born in Jamaica. In 1966, Walter received a degree in engineering and joined Boeing in the same year. At the time of commercial flying was taking off, so too was Walter’s career as he worked his way up the ladder, developing and leading some of the most important aircraft systems.

Walter’s team helped to develop one of the most important inventions of the 20th century, developing computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing systems for Boeing, which enabled airplanes and eventually other products to be designed through software. In the year 2000 Walter became the president of Boeing in Africa. Walter worked for Boeing for 36 years and retired in 2003.

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock – influential space scientist

In 2016, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock was listed in the top 10 most influential Black Britons for her work as a space scientist. Maggie is a lead scientist for the Optical Instrumentation Group for Astrium and her role involves managing the observation instruments for the Aeolus satellite which will help with climate change research by measuring wind speeds. Launched on 22 August 2018, Aeolus is the first satellite mission to acquire profiles of Earth’s wind on a global scale. These near real-time observations will improve the accuracy of numerical weather and climate prediction and advance our understanding of tropical dynamics and processes relevant to climate variability (source European Space Agency).

Maggie is very passionate about inspiring new generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts. During her career she has spoken to over 25,000 children with the aim of breaking stereotypes of careers, class and gender.

These engineers are beacons of progression and innovation, often facing discrimination and racism but still succeeding to produce some of the most valuable work of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. We are privileged to work with engineers from around the world, some of whom may have been inspired by these people.


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