Look to the stars: inspirational black scientists you should know about

The Sky at Night presenter, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Margaret Ebunoluwa Aderin-Pocock MBE is a physicist, space scientist, telescope engineer, and presenter of the BBC’s ‘The Sky at Night’ (note – I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Aderin-Pocock, which you can check out here).

Alongside her work in science communication, Dr Aderin-Pocock helped design the Gemini telescope in Chile as well as the James Webb Space Telescope – the joint NASA–ESA–CSA space telescope planned to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope. T-minus 10, 9… check out the launch countdown for the telescope here!

The first Black woman in space, Mae Carol Jemison

Not content with simply being a doctor, Mae Jamison decided to become an engineer; that still wasn’t quite enough so she went ahead and became an astronaut – becoming the first Black woman to go into space in 1992. She joined a crew of seven aboard the Endeavour on a mission named ‘STS-47.’

Mathematician instrumental in the first US crewed spaceflight, Katherine Johnson

The ingenious mathematician, Katherine Johnson, was the mastermind behind a set of critical orbital mechanics calculations that led to the first, and subsequent, US crewed spaceflights. She has been recognised in the film, ‘Hidden Figures’ – a title that serves to remind us of the numerous underappreciated, incredible minds behind humanities greatest scientific achievements.

Physicist and musician, Stephon Alexander

Stephon Alexander joins the likes of Brian May and Brian Cox (Brian club?) in the world of musical physicists. He is theoretical physicist who explores the interconnections between music, physics, mathematics and technology – and regularly appears in the media with his striking and engaging scientific exploits. Want to know why we might be living in a universe underpinned by a self-learning AI? He’s your man.

As president of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) and co-inventor of the model of inflation based on higher dimensional hypersurfaces in string theory (called ‘D-Branes’), Prof Alexander is a highly engaging and inspirational figure – and not just in science, but in jazz. Hey, talking about music, now might be a good time to remind ourselves that Black musicians underpin all of our favourite musical genres.


  1. Imperial College London. Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. Available at: Accessed October 2021.
  2. BBC. The Sky at Night. Available at: Accessed October 2021.
  3. New Scientist. Mae Jemison. Available at: Accessed October 2021.
  4. NASA. Katherine Johnson. Available at: Accessed October 2021.
  5. Brown University. Stephon H Alexander. Available at: Accessed October 2021.
  6. Stephon Alexander Lab. Available at: Accessed October 2021.
  7. NY Times. Black Culture. Available at: Accessed October 2021.
  8. BBC Bitesize. History of the Blues. Available at: Accessed October 2021.
  9. Highsnobiety. How Black People Created All Your Favourite Music. Available at: Accessed October 2021.