5 Famous STEM Inventors from MSIs

by Aisha Bowen

As we engage in activities and life responsibilities day to day, does it ever cross your mind who were the masterminds that created the things you use every day? Interestingly, a large majority of these inventors received their training at MSIs. Today’s Monday Morning Line Up highlights 5 inventors in STEM from MSIs.

1) CUNY Hunter College (AANAPISI)—New York City, NY

hunter college

patricia bathDr. Patricia Bath (1942– )

Dr Patricia Bath is the first African American to complete her residency in ophthalmology. Her most well-known invention, the Laserphaco Probe (1986), involved laser technology, where the device created a less painful and more precise treatment of cataracts. Bath received a patent for her invention, the Laserphaco Probe, in 1988. With this invention, she took the title of the first African-American female doctor to receive a patent for this type of medical purpose. Bath is a two-time MSI graduate, earning her Bachelors degree from Hunter College (AANAPISI) in 1964 and graduating from Howard University Medical School.

For more information, click here.

2) Fisk University (HBCU)—Nashville, TN

Fisk University .jpg


Otis Boykin (1920-1982)

Otis Boykin graduated from Fisk University (then known as Fisk College) with a Bachelors degree in 1941. He is most famous for his 1959 invention of a wire precision resistor. The resistor allowed for specific amounts of current to flow through for a specific purpose and would be used in radios and televisions. He also created another resistor that could be manufactured very inexpensively.

For more information, click here.

3) Southern University and A&M College (HBCU)—Baton Rouge, LA


Betty Harris.jpg

Dr. Betty Harris (1940–   )

Dr. Betty Harris is a three-time MSI graduate! She received her Bachelors of Science from Southern University, Master of Science from Atlanta University (now combined to make Clark Atlanta University), and her Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico (HSI). Dr. Harris is an expert in the chemistry of explosives. Harris invented a spot test for discovering explosives in a field environment.

For more, click here and here.

 4) Howard University (HBCU)—Washington, D.C.


george alcorn

George Edward Alcorn, Jr. (1940–   )

George Alcorn has many impressive credentials but is most famous for his innovation of the imaging x-ray spectrometer. This device “helps scientists better understand what materials are composed of when they cannot be broken down” (source). Alcorn received the NASA Inventor of the Year Award for this amazing invention. Alcorn received his Masters of Science in Nuclear physics in 1963 from Howard University (HBCU) and also held faculty positions at two MSIs: Howard University (HBCU) and the University of the District of Columbia (HBCU).

For more information, click here.

5) Morgan State University (HBCU)—Baltimore, MD


morgan state

valerie thomas

Valerie Thomas (1943–   )

Valerie Thomas completed her undergraduate studies at Morgan State University and was one of only two women at Morgan to major in physics. She graduated from Morgan and accepted a position as a data analyst at NASA. In 1980, Thomas invented the “illusion transmitter which produces optical illusion images via two concave mirrors” (source). This invention was adopted by NASA, for use in surgery, and for advancing television and video screens.

For more information, click here.

Who are some more inventors, either in STEM or not, who graduated from Minority Serving Institutions? Share in the comments below!

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