Celebrating Black Scientists: Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence

Discovery Place Science

The leading hub for science learning in the Carolinas, Discovery Place Science celebrates Black scientists, medical professionals, engineers and inventors past and present who have advanced mental health practices, contributed to spaceflight and aerospace engineering and led the development of modern computer technology and artificial intelligence.

During the past year, Discovery Place Science has proudly hosted inspiring, impactful and interactive exhibitions highlighting these critical areas of science. Currently at the Museum is Mental Health: MIND MATTERS (January 29 – April 10, 2022). Prior exhibitions include Apollo: When We Went to the Moon (October 2, 2021 – January 2, 2022) and Artificial Intelligence: Your Mind & The Machine (January 16 – August 22, 2021).

In this three-part Celebrating Black Scientists series, meet a few of the mental health champions, aerospace trailblazers and computer science pioneers who have made, and continue to make, groundbreaking discoveries and scientific advances—across our communities and our galaxy.


Timnit Gebru, PhD | Computer Scientist

Timnit Gebru

Timnit Gebru is a leader in artificial intelligence ethics research and a computer scientist who works on algorithmic bias and data mining. An advocate for diversity in technology, Gebru co-founded Black in AI, a community of Black researchers working in artificial intelligence. She also opened her own firm, DAIR (Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute), aimed to influence AI policies and practices and recognize harmful outcomes technology can have on marginalized groups.

Clarence “Skip” Ellis, PhD | Computer Scientist

Clarence Ellis

Clarence Ellis was a computer scientist who helped to develop the ILLIAC IV supercomputer and headed the team that invented the first office system to use icons and Ethernet to allow people to collaborate from a distance. The first Black person to earn a PhD in computer science, Ellis was a pioneer in the field of operational transformation, which examines functionality in collaborative systems. He was an early leader in the University of Colorado at Boulder’s research on human-centered computing.

Fay Cobb Payton, PhD | IT Professor and Researcher

Fay Cobb Payton

Fay Cobb Payton is a professor of information systems/technology at North Carolina State University and a program director at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Computer and Network Systems. Payton’s research examines healthcare IT, bias in tech, artificial intelligence/human computer interaction, tech innovation and the future of work. She has authored over 100 scholarly manuscripts and conference proceedings.

Mark Dean, PhD | Computer Scientist and Inventor

Mark Dean

Mark Dean is a computer scientist and inventor who was central to the creation of the IBM personal computer and who contributed to the development of the color PC monitor, the first gigahertz chip and the Industry Standard Architecture that allowed early computers to communicate with external devices. Dean was the first Black IBM Fellow, representing the highest level of technical excellence. He is an emeritus professor in electrical engineering and computer science at University of Tennessee.

Learn more about these and other computer science pioneers.