Inventor Emmett Chappelle is the recipient of 14 U.S. patents and was recently recognized as one of the 100 most distinguished African-American scientists and engineers of the 20th Century.
Chappelle was born on October 24, 1925, in Phoenix, Arizona, to Viola White Chappelle and Isom Chappelle. His family farmed cotton and cows on a small farm.
Chappelle was drafted into the U.S. Army right after graduating from the Phoenix Union Colored High School in 1942.
He was assigned to the Army Specialized Training Program, where he was able to take some engineering courses. Chappelle was later reassigned to the all-Black 92nd Infantry Division and served in Italy. After returning to the U.S., Chappelle went on to earn his associate"s degree from Phoenix College.
Chappelle went on to teach at the Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, from 1950 to 1953, where he was also conducted his own research. His work was recognized by the scientific community, and he accepted an offer to study at the University of Washington, where he received his master"s degree in biology in 1954. Chappelle continued his graduate studies at Stanford University, though he did not complete a Ph.D. degree. In 1958 Chappelle joined the Research Institute for Advanced Studies in Baltimore, where his research aided in the creation of a safe oxygen supply for astronauts. He went on to work for Hazelton Laboratories in 1963.
Chappelle started with NASA in 1966 in support of NASA"s manned space flight initiatives. He pioneered the development of the ingredients ubiquitous in all cellular material. Later, he developed techniques that are still widely used for the detection of bacteria in urine, blood, spinal fluids, drinking water and foods.
In 1977, Chappelle turned his research efforts toward the remote sensing of vegetation health through laser-induced fluorescence (LIF). Working with scientists at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, he advanced the development of LIF as a sensitive means of detecting plant stress.