Influential Black Mathematicians: Then and Now

What is a Mathematician?
Mathematicians work to solve problems using data and formulas. They work in a large variety of fields, including academia, medicine, security, film, and more- nearly anywhere that requires the use of a computer.


The field is growing rapidly- but less than 1% of all mathematical doctoral degrees are received by Black Americans.


Today we’re diving into prominent black mathematicians in history, going all the way from 1919 to today, to show students that pursuing a career in mathematics is achievable.

Black Mathematicians in History

John Urschel (1991-Present)

John Urschel is the ultimate mathlete: he played as an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens and is now a mathematician and professor at MIT. Urschel juggled advanced math classes and football practice throughout his time at Penn State and pursued his Ph.D. full-time while also working full-time in professional football.


His advice is to not compare yourself, while also always seeking to improve yourself.


Learn more about Urschel here.


Candice Renee Price (1980-Present)

Candice Price is an associate professor, founder, and mathematician. After earning her doctoral degree in mathematics, she co-founded Mathematically Gifted and Black, a nationally awarded website that celebrates the achievements of Black mathematicians. Today, she teaches at Smith College and advocates for greater representation of women and people of color in STEM.


Her advice is to do more of what you love every day and to not listen to imposter syndrome.


Learn more about Price here.


Edray Goins (1972-Present)

Edray Goins is a mathematician focusing on number theory and algebraic geometry. He has served as president of the National Association of Mathematicians and spends his time engaged with underrepresented students pursuing mathematics and running the National Science Foundation funded research program that he founded, Pomona Research in Mathematics Experience (PRiME), at Pomona College where he teaches.


Goins tells students to learn more about their field by talking to professors outside of class and getting involved on campus- plus, using YouTube as a resource.


Learn more about Goins here.


Mae Jemison (1956-Present)

Mae Jemison is an accomplished engineer and was the first Black woman to travel into space. On top of her career as an astronaut, she’s a published author, professor, and summer camp founder.


Today, Jemison works with the consulting company that she founded, The Jemison Group, and leads the 100-Year Starship project, which works to allow humans to travel to another star in the next 100 years.


Jemison’s greatest advice is to excel in school and remember that the sky is not the limit.


Check out our blog about her here!


Annie Easley (1933-2011)

Annie Easley enjoyed a 34-year-long career with NASA, where she worked as a “human computer” and rocket scientist. Easley went most of her career without a college degree and did substantial work with NASA to address gender and race complaints. She helped people in her community pass literacy tests to vote and was a founding member of the NASA Lewis Ski Club, even though she didn’t learn to ski until she was 46.


Learn more about Easley here.


David Blackwell (1919-2010)

David Blackwell was a leader in dynamic programming, with multiple theories and concepts named after him. Blackwell taught himself how to read growing up, becoming the first Black tenured professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the first Black scholar to be admitted into the National Academy of Sciences. He’s best known for applying game theory to important military situations.


Learn more about Blackwell here.


Want to learn about more mathematicians? Check out our blog about Hispanic and Latino mathematicians here!