Bethan Foulkes - Subject Advisor
It’s Black History Month in the UK – a time to reflect upon and recognise the contributions of black people in Britain. Originally published on 23 October 2020, this very popular blog post highlights the life and work of six pioneers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
Mary was born in Jamaica and her father was a Scottish soldier. She learnt her nursing skills from her mother who had a boarding house for invalid soldiers. Mary enjoyed travelling and ended up staying in Panama for a time. It is here Mary encountered many cases of cholera and learnt much about the disease and how to treat it.
Mary visited Britain twice when she was younger. On her second visit, Mary went to the War Office to ask to be sent as a nurse to the Crimean War. She was refused but did not let this stop her. She travelled to Crimea anyway and set up a hotel to treat soldiers. She was also often found to be tending to soldiers on the frontline whilst under fire. Once the war was over, Mary lived out most of the remainder of her life in Britain. Her reputation during and after the war rivalled Florence Nightingale’s, but her story was almost forgotten for a time after she died.
Elizabeth began working in the NHS at the age of 16. She helped to set up the first nurse-led sickle cell and thalassaemia screening and counselling centre. This pioneering service led to the nationwide screening of babies. Elizabeth has worked tirelessly throughout her career to ensure that people with sickle cell disease and thalassaemia get all the support they need and deserve.
Through her work and research, Elizabeth has made a large contribution to the health and wellbeing of multi-ethnic communities. Elizabeth overcame stigma and racism to build a distinguished career as a nurse, health visitor, academic and campaigner.
Donald is an Associate Professor of Immunology. His research involves investigating the way the human body changes with age, as well as the identification of ‘markers’ on the surfaces of cells. Through this research, he is able to learn about how the body protects itself from diseases such as cancer and infections.
Donald carried out post-doctoral work at Cancer Research UK and Imperial College, London. Donald is also a co-founder of Reach Society. The aim of this society is to encourage and inspire young people, especially black boys and young black men to realise their potential.
Maggie is a space scientist and science communicator. Maggie has worked on many projects throughout her career. These include project managing the development of hand-held instruments to detect landmines, developing a high-resolution spectrograph for the Gemini telescope and being the lead scientist at Astrium, managing observation instruments on a satellite which measured wind speeds to help investigate climate change.
Maggie also engages with many children and adults to inspire new generations of astronauts, engineers and scientists. Her talks also lead her to myth-bust about careers, class and gender whilst talking about how and why she became a scientist.
Nira is a mathematical modeller and a chartered scientist. Nira has developed mathematical solutions for industries such as defence, aerospace and energy. He also writes mathematical models that solve complex problems.
Nira has achieved many accolades in his career. In 2014 he was named as one of the UK’s Leading Practising Scientists by the Science Council. He was one of only two black scientists. In 2018 he also won the title of World’s Most Interesting Mathematician.
Charlotte is a Nutritional Biochemist at the Institute of Food Research. Her particular area of research looks at the effect of diet on human health. Her current focus is researching the effect a particular type of broccoli can have on our cardiovascular health.
Charlotte’s career progression has taken her through pharmacology and onto nutrition, and during her studies she was one of a few people from an ethnic minority background.
This is a brief overview from just a small selection of black British scientists and people in STEM. You can find out about more scientists, as well as other inspirational black people, on the Black History Month website.
We have previously produced Women in science posters and will continue to feature diverse scientists in future to inspire you and your students.
We would love to hear about your favourite or most inspirational scientists. Please let us know in the comments below who you would like to see us include.
Bethan joined OCR in April 2019 and is a subject advisor for GCSE Sciences and Applied Science. Before joining OCR, Bethan taught biology to 11–18 year-olds for eight years, and was responsible for planning her school’s biology schemes of learning. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Bethan mentored PGCE students and NQTs in science, and oversaw all the trainees and NQTs within the school as professional tutor. In her spare time she enjoys dressmaking, quilting and many other different crafts.