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Great Engineers & Scientists

In 1676, Sir Isaac Newton wrote "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants." In this blog, we take Newton's words to heart, and recognize the many great engineers and scientists upon whose shoulders we stand.

So who do you think of when you hear "Great Engineer"? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add him or her to the pantheon. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

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History of the National Society of Black Engineers

Posted February 26, 2010 10:31 AM by nsbe

Before I go into the history of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), I would like to highlight an upcoming historic event for NSBE. NSBE is hosting its first convention outside of the United States. The 36th Annual Convention of NSBE is taking place March 31 - April 4, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. This will be the largest Black professional convention ever held in Canada, and in 2012 the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) will follow suit and hold their annual convention in Canada. "Engineering a Global Impact," the theme of this year's NSBE convention will surely do that. Leading the Technical Professional Conference, 2-Day Career Fair, an expo of technical research, technology, and businesses, a series of workshop tracks, and a list of dynamic speakers with powerful names in the STEM, business, and education communities, will be a unforgettable opening session that will include a performance from dancers who reflect the culture of African descendants from all over the world. For more information on NSBE's Annual Convention please visit,, or

NSBE's History

In 1971, two Purdue undergraduate students, Edward Barnette (now deceased) and Fred Cooper approached the dean of engineering at Purdue University with the concept of starting the Black Society of Engineers (BSE). They wanted to establish a student organization to help improve the recruitment and retention of black engineering students. In the late 1960's, a devastating 80 percent of the black freshmen entering the engineering program dropped out. The dean agreed to the idea and assigned the only black faculty member on staff, Arthur J. Bond, as advisor.

Barnett served as the first president of the BSE. The fledging group gained momentum in 1974, with the direction and encouragement of Bond and the active participation of the young men whose destiny was to become the founders of NSBE. Now known as the "Chicago Six", these men are Anthony Harris, Brian Harris, Stanley L. Kirtley, John W. Logan, Jr., Edward A. Coleman, and George A. Smith.

Encouraged by their on-campus success, Anthony Harris, president of the Purdue chapter, wrote a letter to the presidents and deans of every accredited engineering program in the country (288), explained the Society of Black Engineers (SBE) concept and asked them to identify black student leaders, organizations and faculty members who might support their efforts on a national basis. Approximately 80 schools responded. Many had similar Black student organizations with similar objectives. A date was set for the first national meeting and 48 students representing 32 schools attended the event, held April 10-12, 1975. Harris also changed the organizations' nomenclature from the BSE to the Society of Black Engineers (SBE).

It was at that historic meeting through majority vote, that SBE became the National Society of Black Engineers. The familiar NSBE symbol "N" with lightning bolts was chosen and it remains a distinctively recognizable symbol representing the premier technical organization for African American engineering students and professionals. NSBE was eventually incorporated in Texas, in 1976 as 501©3 non-profit organization. John Cason, also of Purdue, served as the first elected president of NSBE. As the organization grew, Virginia Booth became the first female National Chairperson and the first to serve two terms 1978-1980.

The torch symbolizes members' everlasting, burning desire to achieve success in a competitive society and positively affect the quality of life for all people. The lightening bolt represents the striking impact that will be felt by the society and industry due to the contributions and accomplishments made by the dedicated members of the National Society of Black Engineers.

NSBE has since grown from six to over 33,000 members and the annual meeting has blossomed into the Annual National Convention, hosting over 8,000 attendees. NSBE has 99 active NSBE Jr. pre-college, 450 student and 68 alumni/technical professional chapters. Headquartered in Alexandria, Va., NSBE offers academic excellence programs, scholarships, leadership training, professional development and access to career opportunities for thousands of members annually. With over 2000 elected leadership positions, 18 regional conferences and an annual convention, NSBE provides opportunities for success that remain unmatched by any other organization.


The mission of NSBE is to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.


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Re: History of the National Society of Black Engineers

02/26/2010 11:20 AM

The NSBE deserves high commendation for presenting these profiles during the last month. As an older white guy, I knew of only three or four of these folks beforehand. I was especially interested in those whose work was related to or contributed to my area. I occasionally need to use gas masks or ventilation hoods, so I owe a debt to Garrett Morgan. I hadn't previously heard of him, so I am thankful to have learned about this. Well done!

Thanks also to Moose and CR4 for hosting this effort.

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Re: History of the National Society of Black Engineers

02/26/2010 12:19 PM

You're welcome, Tornado. Thank you for reading the many fine biographies that the NSBE has supplied us with all month long.

As Black History Month draws to a close, I'd like to thank the NSBE again for all that they've done - both here on CR4 and in the world at large. It's been a pleasure working with you, and I hope that you'll continue to blog with us in the future.



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Re: History of the National Society of Black Engineers

02/28/2010 10:16 PM

Before I read the whole article, i was thinking of the 'Black' part of NSBE as an 'evil, sinister, opposing, etc' part of engineering not about colour.

I don't know about you guys - and i don't want to this to be a 'race' debate - I feel that setting up organization for certain groups, people, race, colour in itself is racist.

I feel better about myself more so because i did not think of colour but rather a 'conspiracy' type of folk

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