Famous Black Engineers Throughout History

Aprille Ericsson
A shot of the storied Howard University circa 1900. Aprille Ericsson attended the university as a graduate student, earning a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, the first African-American woman to do so. © CORBIS

If you're looking for a person to look up to -- regardless of race or gender -- Aprille Ericsson is a good candidate. Dr. Ericsson is a senior deputy instrument manager for NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite program, where she works on mapping instruments for future lunar explorations. In other words, Ericsson has one of the coolest jobs in the universe.

Like any good overachiever, Ericsson's accomplishments started way before her work with NASA. She was the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Howard University and the first American to receive her Ph.D. with an aerospace option in the program. She was also the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center [source: Ericsson].