Influential Black Computer Scientists

Influential Black Computer Scientists

Our list of influential Black computer scientists is as diverse as the field of study. These leaders in the field of computer science include educators, computer scientists, rock scientists, computer engineers, and more. These innovators are doing groundbreaking work and advancing the field in areas like biotechnology, healthcare, and aeronautics, helping to prepare the next generation of computer scientists.

Top 10 Black Computer Scientists from the Last 30 Years

  1. Valerie Taylor
  2. Juan E. Gilbert
  3. Annie Easley
  4. Katherine Johnson
  5. Clarence Ellis
  6. Mark Dean
  7. Roscoe Giles
  8. Mary Jackson
  9. Charles Lee Isbell Jr.
  10. Kaya Thomas

For a look at schools that have serveda as the alma mater for Black scholars in every field, check out The Colleges with the Most Influential Black Graduates.

Computer Science is the study of computers and computational systems, dealing primarily with the theory, design, development and application of software and software systems. Computer scientists research, publish, and teach in areas including artificial intelligence, security, human computer interaction, software engineering, and bioinformatics.

An influential organization in the advancement of Black scholars in the field of computer science, The Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences, seeks to increase the number of African-Americans receiving doctoral degrees in computing sciences. Prominent African American scholars in the field are working in areas such as test methodology development (Blanton), performance analysis and modeling of parallel, scientific applications (Taylor), database, data science and informatics, human centered computing, information security, and machine learning (Gilbert).

25 Influential Black Computer Scientists

The Black scholars in our list were identified as highly cited and searched people using our machine-powered Influence Ranking algorithm, which produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data.

Influence is dynamic, therefore some of the conmputer scientists listed are contemporary scholars while others may be more historical figures. In either case, according to our AI, these are the most cited and searched Black scholars in computer science over the past 30 years.

Find out more about our Methodology.

List is arranged alphabetically

  1. Robert M. Bell

    Robert Bell is a principal member of the technical staff at AT&T Labs—Research. His research interests are survey research methods and statistical learning methods. He received a PhD in statistics from Stanford University. Bell is a member of the American Statistical Association and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics.

    Professional Website

  2. Shawn Blanton

    Shawn Blanton is a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Carnegie Mellon University. In 1995, he received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His research interests include various aspects of integrated system tests, testable design, and test methodology development. He has consulted for various companies, and is the founder of TestWorks, a Carnegie Mellon University spinout focused on information extraction from IC test data. Blanton is a founding member of the Security Assurance of Fabricated Electronics Center, established to complement the world-class expertise in architectural and software security and privacy housed within Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab.

    He received the CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation in 1997, and IBM Faculty Partnership Awards in 2005 and 2006. He has given more than 100 talks at many universities and companies, including Stanford, Yale, Texas A&M, Duke, Purdue, Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, IBM, Delphi, Hewlett Packard, CISCO, Texas Instruments, Analog Devices, Freescale, Motorola and Nvidia. He has served on various technical program committees that include the IEEE/ACM Design Automation Conference, IEEE VLSI Test Symposium, IEEE/ACM International Conference on Computer-Aided Design, and the International Test Conference, and served as an associate editor for the IEEE Transactions on CAD. He has published more than 100 refereed conference and journal papers and has seven U.S. patents or patent applications filed. He is a fellow of the IEEE and senior member of the ACM and served as the program chair for the 2011 International Test Conference.

  3. Kimberly Bryant

    1967 - Present (57 years)
    Kimberly Bryant is an American electrical engineer who worked in the biotechnology field at Genentech, Novartis Vaccines, Diagnostics, and Merck. In 2011, Bryant founded Black Girls Code, a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing technology and computer programming education to African-American girls. After founding Black Girls Code, Bryant was listed as one of the “25 Most Influential African-Americans In Technology” by Business Insider.
  4. Roy Clay

    1929 - Present (95 years)
    Roy Clay Sr. is an American computer scientist and inventor. He was a founding member of the computer division at Hewlett-Packard, where he led the team that created the HP 2116A. He is the Chief Executive Officer of ROD-L electronics and has been involved with the development of electrical safety equipment.
  5. Mark Dean

    1957 - Present (67 years)
    Mark E. Dean is an American inventor and computer engineer. He developed the ISA bus, and he led a design team for making a one-gigahertz computer processor chip. He holds three of nine PC patents for being the co-creator of the IBM personal computer released in 1981. In 1995, Dean was named the first ever African-American IBM Fellow.
  6. Annie Easley

    1933 - 2011 (78 years)
    Annie Easley was an American computer scientist and accomplished mathemetician who made critical contributions to NASA’s rocket systems and energy technologies over her 34-year career. As a black female in America during the 1950s she faced heavy adversity throughout her career and was often underrepresented and disregarded. Despite these barriers Easley demonstrated perserverance and determination to make a name for herself in a line of work dominated by males. She demonstrated exceptional skills in mathematics, data analysis, and code development across projects focused on alternative energ...
  7. Clarence Ellis

    1943 - 2014 (71 years)
    Clarence “Skip” Ellis was an American computer scientist, and Emeritus Professor of Computer Science and Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder. While at the CU-Boulder, he was the director of the Collaboration Technology Research Group and a member of the Institute of Cognitive Science. Ellis was the first Black Person to earn a Ph.D. in Computer Science , and the first Black Person to be elected a Fellow of the ACM . Ellis was a pioneer in Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Groupware. He and his team at Xerox PARC created OfficeTalk, one of the first groupware syst...
  8. Philip Emeagwali

    1954 - Present (70 years)
    Philip Emeagwali is a computer scientist originally from Nigeria. He won the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize for price-performance in high-performance computing applications, in an oil reservoir modeling calculation using a novel mathematical formulation and implementation. He is known for making controversial claims about his achievements that are disputed by the scientific community.
  9. Juan E. Gilbert

    1969 - Present (55 years)
    Juan E. Gilbert is an American computer scientist, researcher, inventor, and educator. An advocate of diversity in the computing sciences, Gilbert’s efforts to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the computing disciplines have been recognized by professional engineering organizations and the United States government.
  10. Roscoe Giles

    Roscoe C. Giles, III is an American physicist and computer engineer, the deputy director of Boston University’s Center for Computational Science. He is also a professor of computer and electrical engineering at Boston University College of Engineering, with a joint appointment in physics.
  11. Evelyn Boyd Granville

    1924 - 2023 (99 years)
    Evelyn Boyd Granville was the second African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics from an American university; she earned it in 1949 from Yale University. She graduated from Smith College in 1945. She performed pioneering work in the field of computing.
  12. Kerrie Holley

    1954 - Present (70 years)
    Kerrie Lamont Holley is an American software architect, author, researcher, consultant, and inventor. He recently joined Industry Solutions, Google Cloud. Previously he was with UnitedHealth Group / Optum, their first Technical Fellow, where he focused on ideating healthcare assets and solutions using IoT, AI, graph database and more. His main focus centered on advancing AI in healthcare with an emphasis on deep learning and natural language processing. Holley is a retired IBM Fellow. Holley served as vice president and CTO at Cisco responsible for their analytics and automation platform. Ho...
  13. Charles Lee Isbell, Jr.

    1968 - Present (56 years)
    Charles Lee Isbell Jr. is an American computationalist, researcher, and educator. He is Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Before joining the faculty there, he was a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology College of Computing starting in 2002, and served as John P. Imlay, Jr. Dean of the College from July 2019 to July 2023. His research interests focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence, particularly interactive and human-centered AI. He has published over 100 scientific papers. In addition to his research work, Isbe...
  14. Mary Jackson

    1921 - 2005 (84 years)
    Mary Jackson was an American mathematician and aerospace engineer at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics , which in 1958 was succeeded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration . She worked at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, for most of her career. She started as a computer at the segregated West Area Computing division in 1951. In 1958, after taking engineering classes, she became NASA’s first black female engineer.
  15. Trachette Jackson

    1972 - Present (52 years)
    Trachette Levon Jackson is an American mathematician who is a professor of mathematics at the University of Michigan and is known for work in mathematical oncology. She uses many different approaches, including continuous and discrete mathematical models, numerical simulations, and experiments to study tumor growth and treatment. Specifically, her lab is interested in “molecular pathways associated with intratumoral angiogenesis,” “cell-tissue interactions associated with tumor-induced angiogenesis,” and “tumor heterogeneity and cancer stem cells.”
  16. Katherine Johnson

    1918 - 2020 (102 years)
    Creola Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. During her 33-year career at NASA and its predecessor, she earned a reputation for mastering complex manual calculations and helped pioneer the use of computers to perform the tasks. The space agency noted her “historical role as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist”.
  17. Jerry Lawson

    1940 - 2011 (71 years)
    Gerald Anderson Lawson was an American electronic engineer. He is known for his work in designing the Fairchild Channel F video game console as well as leading the team that pioneered the commercial video game cartridge. He was thus dubbed the “father of the videogame cartridge” according to Black Enterprise magazine in 1982. He eventually left Fairchild and founded the game company Video-Soft.
  18. William A. Massey

    1956 - Present (68 years)
    William Alfred Massey is an American mathematician and operations researcher, the Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering at Princeton University. He is an expert in queueing theory.
  19. James Mickens

    James W. Mickens is an American computer scientist and the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. His research focuses on distributed systems, such as large-scale services and ways to make them more secure. He is critical of machine learning as a boilerplate solution to most outstanding computational problems.
  20. Valerie Taylor

    1963 - Present (61 years)
    Valerie Elaine Taylor is an American computer scientist who is the director of the Mathematics and Computer Science Division of Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. Her research includes topics such as performance analysis, power analysis, and resiliency. She is known for her work on “Prophesy,” described as “a database used to collect and analyze data to predict the performance on different applications on parallel systems.”
  21. Kaya Thomas

    1995 - Present (29 years)
    Kaya Thomas is an American app developer. She is the creator of We Read Too, an iOS app that helps readers discover books for and by people of color. Thomas is a volunteer mentor with Black Girls Code and a Made with Code role model. She has received recognition for her work to improve diversity in the tech industry and was honored in 2015 by Michelle Obama at BET’s Black Girls Rock! award show and was named one of Glamour 2016 College Women of the Year.
  22. John Thompson

    1959 - Present (65 years)
    John Henry Michael “JT” Thompson is the inventor of the Lingo programming language used in Adobe Director and a former Chief Scientist at Macromedia. He is a former professor in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts and instructor at Drexel University. He is committed to teaching and motivating successive scions of tech developers. He is a graduate of MIT and the Art Student League of New York.
  23. John Brooks Slaughter

    1934 - Present (90 years)
    John Brooks Slaughter is an American electrical engineer and former college president who served as the first African-American director of the National Science Foundation . His work focuses on development of computer algorithms for system optimization and discrete signal processing.
  24. Alicia Nicki Washington

    Alicia Nicki Washington is an American computer scientist, author, and professor at Duke University. She is the author of the book Unapologetically Dope. She was the first Black woman to earn a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science from North Carolina State University in 2005.
  25. Warren M. Washington

    1936 - Present (88 years)
    Warren Morton Washington is an American atmospheric scientist, a former chair of the National Science Board, and currently a Distinguished Scholar at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

This list is far from exhaustive; if you have a suggestion for someone to add, please contact us.

For more famous Black scholars in other fields of study, visit our Influential Black Scholars page. If you want more in computer science, visit our Computer Science page to find more influentiual computer scientists, top colleges and universities for computer science, and more.

Other Influential Black Scholars by Academic Discipline

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