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  • All my life, I've dreamed of getting out there into space.

  • Now, that was a challenge for me

  • because I went to 13 different schools

  • and I have a condition called dyslexia.

  • Today I want to talk about three fellow black scientists,

  • one from the past,

  • one from the present

  • and one from the future -

  • all pioneers in their field.

  • My first hero is unfortunately no longer with us -

  • his name was Alan Powell Goffe.

  • He was born in Kingston upon Thames in 1920.

  • His father was Jamaican and his mother was English.

  • Both his parents were physicians.

  • Like me, he was inspired by his parents

  • and gained a degree in medicine and a diploma in bacteriology.

  • He went on to specialise in pathology

  • the study of the causes and effects of disease.

  • In the 1950s, measles was described

  • as the greatest killer of children in history.

  • Goffe's work on vaccines was revolutionary

  • in ending the measles epidemic.

  • A sample of the virus is taken and then weakened

  • usually by reproducing it many times.

  • This creates a living but weakened version of the original virus

  • which the body can fight, stimulating long-lasting immunity.

  • He also worked on the polio virus

  • and made important contributions

  • to the development of a vaccine for this too.

  • Tragically, he died young in a sailing accident

  • aged just 46.

  • Dr Goffe was a true pioneer

  • but few people know his name

  • and with the important role that vaccines are playing

  • in our lives today

  • it's wonderful to celebrate the work of this fantastic man.

  • A present-day scientist who I think you should know

  • is Dr Asmeret Asefaw Berhe.

  • She was born and grew up in Eritrea.

  • Sadly, when Asmeret was young,

  • her country was undergoing a war of independence.

  • Despite this turmoil,

  • she was one of only 1,000 students admitted to university in Eritrea

  • when she left school.

  • She studied soil science

  • and was fascinated by ecosystems within the soil.

  • Her childhood experiences led her to conduct research

  • into the effects of landmines on soil,

  • looking at how the explosions cause disruption

  • in the structure of the soil

  • and how they can leak toxic chemicals into the soil.

  • She also worked out that if just a quarter of the landmines

  • from the affected areas were removed

  • that this would enable the land to produce enough food

  • to feed 1.6 million people every year.

  • Another brilliant black pioneer.

  • Her work inspires me because in my early career

  • I worked on the development of a handheld landmine detector.

  • also trying to tackle the same problem

  • but from a different angle.

  • Now, a scientist you should look out for is Kayisha Payne.

  • Like me, Kayisha grew up in London

  • and showed an early aptitude for science and maths.

  • It was chemistry that most excited her.

  • She loved the idea of studying

  • the fundamental building blocks of everything.

  • This passion led her to undertake a degree in chemical engineering.

  • She was the first member of her immediate family to go to university.

  • Kayisha was a process engineer at AstraZeneca in Cambridge.

  • This is where one of the Covid-19 vaccines was developed.

  • Kayisha's work focused on ensuring that drugs that were being developed

  • didn't degrade by the time they were administered to patients.

  • Throughout her studies and her career

  • she was often the only black person in the room.

  • Passionate about having more diversity in STEM

  • Kayisha created the Black British Professionals In STEM.

  • A network for black students in the UK

  • to connect with their peers and receive advice and mentoring

  • from black British STEM professionals.

  • As she says: "When you don't see yourself represented in an industry

  • it's extremely difficult to believe there's a place for you in it."

  • These three black scientists didn't only dream of a better future

  • but had the determination to make it a reality.

  • I'm truly inspired by these amazing people

  • and I'm excited by what the next generation will achieve.

All my life, I've dreamed of getting out there into space.

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B1 black soil measles pioneer weakened worked

Three black scientists you need to know | BBC Ideas

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    Summer posted on 2021/09/09
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