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Black and Latino Men in STEM: An Abridged History

From the very beginning, the STEM field has been the beneficiary of contributions made by people from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds. Here, we recognize the achievements of Black and Latino men in the broader STEM community, while highlighting the experiences and accomplishments of our innovative alumni, since the school's founding in 1854. 

Tandon Seal

The 19th Century

1823

Alexander Lucius Twilight becomes the first African-American to graduate from an American postsecondary institution.

 

1837

James McCune Smith graduates from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, becoming the first African-American to earn a medical degree.
 

james mccune smith headshot

1854

The Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute is founded, as well as the NYU School of Civil Engineering and Architecture.

1872

Elijah McCoy patents the automatic lubricator for steam engines. A prolific inventor, McCoy secured 57 patents in his lifetime.

Elijah McCoy headshot

1876

Edward Bouchet completes his doctorate in physics at Yale, becoming the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. from a US institution.
 

Edward Bouchet Headshot

1881

Dr. Carlos Juan Finlay discovers how yellow fever is transmitted, a finding confirmed in 1900.

Dr. Carlos Finlay Headshot

1889

Renamed the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.

Polytechnic Brooklyn 1889

1891

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams opens Provident Hospital, the first Black owned and run hospital in the US.

dr daniel hale willliams headshot

1894

NYU establishes the University Heights campus in the Bronx.

nyu heights campus

The 20th Century

1911

Panamanian-born Dario Melendez graduates from Polytechnic with a degree in electrical engineering.
 

dario melendez yearbook photo

1915

Luis E. Eckelmann (BS Chemistry '16) presides over the Polytechnic Chemical Society and publishes a paper in The Polytechnic Engineer.

Luis Eckelmann Yearbook Photo

1922

Multi-instrumentalist William G. Holly (BS Chemical Engineering ’22) assumes directorship of the Poly orchestra.
 

William G Holly yearbook photo

1928

Professor Darnley Howard (BS Mechanical Engineering '20) leaves Poly to head Howard University's Mechanical Engineering Dept.

Darnley Howard Yearbook Photo

1948

X-ray reflection microscope is co-invented by Albert Baez and his doctoral advisor, Paul Kirkpatrick.
 

Albert Baez headshot

1960

World War II veteran Charles E. Anderson (MS Chemistry ‘48) earns a Ph.D. in meteorology from MIT.
 

1961

Albert Baez serves as the first director of UNESCO's science education program.
 

UNESCO

1961

Visiting Congolese students from Lovanium University tour Polytechnic's research labs with Dean Jacob Hostetter.

Group of visiting Congolese students with Dean Hostetter

1967

Maj. Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. (US Air Force) becomes the first African American astronaut.
 

Maj. Robert Lawrence Headshot

1968

Black Student Union is created and begins to publish a column in the Polytechnic Reporter.

1969

Alpha Phi Alpha establishes a presence on campus.

Alpha Phi Alpha crest

1973

Renamed Polytechnic Institute of New York after encompassing the faculty, programs, and students of New York University College of Engineering

nyu university heights campus

1979

Society of Black Engineers is established as a student club.

Society of Black Engineers yearbook photo

1979

The Cooperative Educational Minority Scholars and the Women Late Entry Program awards a five-year scholarship to Armando Rodriguez.

Armando Rodriguez Yearbook Photo

1979

Association of Latin American Students is established at Poly.

Association of Latin American Students yearbook photo

1980

National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) establishes a chapter at Poly.

1981

Physicist Franklin Chang-Diaz becomes the first Latino astronaut.

Franklin Diaz Chang in space suit

1983

Guion Bluford becomes the first African American to travel into space.

NASA photo of Guion Bluford

1985

Renamed Polytechnic University.

1989

HENAAC, now known as Great Minds in STEM, is created.

great minds in stem logo

1992

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) establishes a chapter at Poly.

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers yearbook photo

The 21st Century

2006

Erich Kunhardt (Ph.D. Physics '76) rejoins the Polytechnic community as the new provost.

Dr. Erich Kundhardt headshot

2008

An affiliation is forged between Polytechnic and New York University, creating the Polytechnic Institute of NYU and paving the way for an official merger. 

2008

Arthur C. Martinez (BS Mechanical Engineering '60), retired chairman and CEO of Sears, receives an honorary doctorate at commencement.

Arthur C Martinez

2014

Merger with New York University becomes official - name changes to the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.

2015

Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon generously donate $100 million and the school is renamed NYU Tandon School of Engineering

2015

Calvin Young III (BS Mechanical Engineering ‘10) announces his candidacy for mayor of Baltimore.

Calvin Young Headshot

2018

The Black and Latino Men at Tandon committee is created.

2018

Professor André Taylor discusses his solar cell research with Hari Sreenivasan on an episode of SciTech Now on PBS.

Professor Andre Taylor and Host Hari Sreenivasan

2019

Professor Juan Pablo Bello assumes the directorship of the Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP).

Professor Juan Pablo Bello

2020

Professor Miguel Modestino receives a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Professor Miguel Modestino headshot