2017-02-17 / Top Stories

Black History Month

Food And Fun
By Gail Johnson


Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, the first African American woman to earn a bachelors, masters and doctoral degree, in Theoretical Solid State Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, the first African American woman to earn a bachelors, masters and doctoral degree, in Theoretical Solid State Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). George “Speck” Crum invented one of our bestloved snacks – the potato chip. Americans eat the most potato chips in the world. Retail sales are more than $6 billion a year.

In the summer of 1853, George Crum, the son of a Huron Native American mother and an African American father, was a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge, an elegant resort in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. One evening, a finicky guest -- urban legend names railroad magnate Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt as the guest -- complained that the French-fried potatoes were too thick. The thick-cut was a French style introduced to America at Monticello in the 18th century by James Hemings, who was brought to Paris by President Thomas Jefferson to become a French-trained chef. James Hemings was also his slave. So Crum sliced the new order as thinly as he could, fried them extra hard and crunchy and topped them off with lots of salt as a way to annoy the hard-to-please customer. His idea backfired. The customer loved them. ‘Saratoga Chips’ were added to the menu.


Lonnie G. Johnson is the U.S. Air Force and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientist/engineer who invented the Super Soaker™ Water Gun in his spare time. Lonnie G. Johnson is the U.S. Air Force and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientist/engineer who invented the Super Soaker™ Water Gun in his spare time. In 1860, George Crum opened his own restaurant, Crum’s Place and placed his ‘Saratoga Chips’ on every table. He ran the successful restaurant for 30 years, never applied for a patent on his ‘chips’ and died in 1914. The snack food industry he began in 1853 continues today.

Lonnie G. Johnson is the U.S. Air Force and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientist/engineer who invented the Super Soaker™Water Gun in his spare time.


George “Speck” Crum invented one of our best-loved snacks – the potato chip. His “Saratoga Chips” debuted in 1853. George “Speck” Crum invented one of our best-loved snacks – the potato chip. His “Saratoga Chips” debuted in 1853. During his assignment with the Strategic Air Command, he helped to develop the B-52 stealth bomber program. At the JPL he developed award-winning work for the thermodynamic and control systems for the Galileo Jupiter Probe and the Mars Observer Project space projects. The financial success of the Super Soaker permitted him to create Johnson Research & Development where he acquired more than 80 patents for inventions that include a ceramic battery and hair curlers that set a style without heat. With more than 20 patents pending, his greatest invention may be the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter (JTEC), a unique heat engine that will revolutionize the solar energy industry. His JTEC green technology has no moving parts, produces no waste and converts 60 percent of solar power to electricity (today’s best systems convert 30 percent) andwill make solar power competitive with coal.

Paul Werbos, Director of The National Science Foundation says, “This is a whole new family of technology. …It’s like discovering a new continent. You don’t know what’s there, but you sure want to explore it to find out. …It has a darn good chance of being the best thing on Earth.”

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson is the first African American woman to earn a bachelors, masters and doctoral degree, in Theoretical Solid State Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

A Theoretical Physicist at AT&T Bell Laboratories, with research in telecommunications, her research specialty was in condensed matter physics, layered systems and the physics of opto-electrical materials and her successful experiments led to the breakthroughs that brought us touch-tone telephones, portable fax machines, fiber optic cables, solar cells, caller ID and call waiting.

Dr. Jackson is the current President of one of America’s top 50 universities, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological research university in the U.S. Dr. Jackson’s goal for Rensselaer is “to achieve prominence in the 21st Century as a top-tier, world-class technological research university, with global reach and global impact.”

Dr. Jackson has been awarded 50 honorary doctoral degrees. In 2015 President Barack Obama awarded Dr. Jackson, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to science and engineering, the National Medal of Science. In 2014 President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Jackson, Co- Chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. From 2009 to 2014 Dr. Jackson, served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). President William Jefferson Clinton appointed Dr. Jackson as the Chairman of the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from 1995 to 1999.

The National Science Board described her as a “national treasure.” Time magazine called Dr. Jackson “perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science.”

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