African Americans in Astronomy and Astrophysics

African Americans in Astronomy and Astrophysics

African Americans in Astronomy_Picture.jpg

Project Engineer William Conway (left) and Principal Investigator Dr. George Carruthers (right) with the Apollo 16 far ultraviolet camera/spectrograph instrument.

Project Engineer William Conway (left) and Principal Investigator Dr. George Carruthers (right) with the Apollo 16 far ultraviolet camera/spectrograph instrument.

Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), courtesy AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives, Ronald E. Mickens Collection

The purpose of this lesson is for students to explore the history of astronomy in the United States and the African-American scientists that are associated with this discipline.  This lesson introduces students to African Americans involved in astronomy and astrophysics from the 1700s when astronomy was used as a practical tool to the twentieth century space race.  In the first part, students will learn about Benjamin Banneker – the eighteenth century African American astronomer.  They will use his 1793 almanac and read a letter Banneker wrote to Thomas Jefferson regarding racial equality.  In the second part, students will learn about George Carruthers, a contemporary African American astrophysicist whose inventions contributed to the study of space.  Optionally, students will choose to study other African American astronomers and astrophysicists from the twentieth century.