Emmett Chappelle: Life and Work at NASA

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Photobiologist, Biochemist, Astrochemist, Inventor and the recipient of 14 U.S. patents, Emmett Chappelle was one of our country’s most significant scientist. He was born in Phoenix Arizona on Oct 24, 1925

Emmett joined the army after graduating from high school in 1942. He took engineering classes while in the army. When Emmett left the army in 1946, he enrolled in Phoenix College. He continued his education at the University of Berkeley graduating in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in science. From 1950 to 1953 he was a professor at Meharry Medical college, where he started his long career of research and discovery. His research at Meharry led him to the University of Washington where he obtains a master’s degree in science in 1954.

He worked at Stanford University as a research associate from 1955 to 1958. Emmett was a biochemist and scientist for the Research Institute of Advance Studies at Stanford until 1963. While there he helps discover that single cell organism can convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. This discovery helped astronauts breathe in space and help to develop a safe sustainable food supply for them.

In 1966 he joined NASA, and over the next 34 years he works on many projects and obtained 14 U.S. patents. He helped with the development of finding bacteria in food, water and human fluids. This discovery helped doctors with detecting bacterial infections The Mars Viking spacecraft used tools developed by Emmett to gather soil from Mars for research. Emmett also discovered bioluminescence a way to detect life by how much light is produce by an organism. Food production and forest growth can be measured by this discovery with the use satellites. Bioluminescence may also be a way of detecting life in space and on other planets in the future.

Some of the patents that Emmett Chappelle are credited with are patent number 5412219 (Method for determining surface coverage by materials exhibiting different fluorescent properties) May 2, 1995 Patent number 4385113 (Rapid, quantitative determination of bacteria in water) May 24,1983 Patent number 4014745 (Application of luciferase assay for ATP to antimicrobial drug susceptibility).

Emmett Chappelle wrote 35 peer-reviewed articles, and numerous scientific papers. He also was a member of many scientific societies. He received many awards and honors including being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and recognized as one of the100 most distinguished African American scientist of the 20th Century. Emmett Chappelle retired from NASA in 2001, and died on Oct 14, 2019 at the age of 93.


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Emmett Chappelle: Life and Work at NASA. (2020, Nov 15). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/emmett-chappelle-life-and-work-at-nasa/



What did Emmett Chappelle do at NASA?
Emmett Chappelle was a biochemist who worked at NASA and developed techniques to detect life on other planets. He also helped design experiments for the Viking missions to Mars.
What was Emmett Chappelle childhood like?
Emmett Chappelle was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and raised in Oakland, California. He excelled in science and math from a young age, which led to his eventual career as a chemist.
who was emmett chappelle?
Emmett Chappelle was an American biochemist and microbiologist. He is best known for his work on the structure and function of bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria.
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