Black History Month - Science

This year to celebrate Black History Month, M. H. West & Co., Inc. will be highlighting notable African-Americans in selected fields each week. This week the field is science. Please check back next week to view notable African-Americans in athletics.

Past Black History Month Fields

African-American Scientists

Benjamin Banneker
Benjamin Banneker

11.09.1731 – 10.09.1806

Benjamin Banneker was a largely self-educated mathematician, astronomer, compiler of almanacs and writer.

Famous Quote

“The colour of the skin is in no way connected with strength of the mind or intellectual powers.”

Synopsis

Benjamin Banneker was born on November 9, 1731, in Ellicott's Mills, Maryland. A free black man who owned a farm near Baltimore, Banneker was largely self-educated in astronomy and mathematics. He was later called upon to assist in the surveying of territory for the construction of the nation's capital. He also became an active writer of almanacs and exchanged letters with Thomas Jefferson, politely challenging him to do what he could to ensure racial equality. Banneker died on October 9, 1806.

Background and Early Years

Born on November 9, 1731, in Ellicott's Mills, Maryland, Benjamin Banneker was the son of an ex-slave named Robert and his wife, Mary Banneky. Mary was the daughter of an Englishwoman named Molly Welsh, a former indentured servant, and her husband, Bannka, an ex-slave whom she freed and who asserted that he came from tribal royalty in West Africa.

Because both of his parents were free, Benjamin escaped the wrath of slavery as well. He was taught to read by his maternal grandmother and for a very short time attended a small Quaker school. Banneker was primarily self-educated, a fact that did little to diminish his brilliance. His early accomplishments included constructing an irrigation system for the family farm and a wooden clock that was reputed to keep accurate time and ran for more than 50 years until his death. In addition, Banneker taught himself astronomy and accurately forecasted lunar and solar eclipses. After his father's passing, he ran his own farm for years, cultivating a business selling tobacco via crops.

Interests in Astronomy and Surveying

Banneker's talents and intelligence eventually came to the attention of the Ellicott family, entrepreneurs who had made a name and fortune by building a series of gristmills in the Baltimore area in the 1770s. George Ellicott had a large personal library and loaned Banneker numerous books on astronomy and other fields.

In 1791, Andrew Ellicott, George’s cousin, hired Banneker to assist in surveying territory for the nation’s capital city. He worked in the observatory tent using a zenith sector to record the movement of the stars. However, due to a sudden illness, Banneker was only able to work for Ellicott for about three months.

Popular Almanacs

Banneker's true acclaim, however, came from his almanacs, which he published for six consecutive years during the later years of his life, between 1792 and 1797. These handbooks included his own astronomical calculations as well as opinion pieces, literature and medical and tidal information, with the latter particularly useful to fishermen. Outside of his almanacs, Banneker also published information on bees and calculated the cycle of the 17-year locust.

Letter to Jefferson

Benjamin Banneker's accomplishments extended into other realms as well, including civil rights. In 1791, Thomas Jefferson was secretary of state and Banneker considered the respected Virginian, though a slaveholder, to also be open to viewing African Americans as more than slaves. Thus, he wrote Jefferson a letter hoping that he would “readily embrace every opportunity to eradicate that train of absurd and false ideas and opinions which so generally prevail with respect to us." To further support his point, Banneker included a handwritten manuscript of an almanac for 1792, containing his astronomical calculations.

In his letter, Banneker acknowledged he was “of the African race” and a free man. He recognized that he was taking “a liberty” writing to Jefferson, which would be unacceptable considering “the almost general prejudice and prepossession which is so prevalent in the world against those of my complexion.” Banneker then respectfully chided Jefferson and other patriots for their hypocrisy, enslaving people like him while fighting the British for their own independence.

Jefferson quickly acknowledged Banneker's letter, writing a response. He told Banneker that he took “the liberty of sending your almanac to Monsieur de Condorcet [secretary of the French Academy of Sciences]...because I considered it as a document to which your whole colour had a right for their justification against the doubts which have been entertained of them.” Banneker published Jefferson’s letter alongside his original piece of correspondence in his 1793 almanac. Banneker's outspokenness with regard to the issue of slavery earned him the widespread support of the abolitionist societies in Maryland and Pennsylvania, both of which helped him publish his almanac.

Later Life and Death

Never married, Benjamin Banneker continued to conduct his scientific studies throughout his life. By 1797, sales of his almanac had declined and he discontinued publication. In the following years, he sold off much of his farm to the Ellicotts and others to make ends meet, continuing to live in his log cabin.

On October 9, 1806, after his usual morning walk, Banneker died in his sleep, just a month short of his 75th birthday. In accordance with his wishes, all the items that had been on loan from his neighbor, George Ellicott, were returned by Banneker’s nephew. Also included was Banneker’s astronomical journal, providing future historians one of the few records of his life known to exist.

On Tuesday, October 11, at the family burial ground a few yards from this house, Benjamin Banneker was laid to rest. During the services, mourners were startled to see his house had caught on fire, quickly burning down. Nearly everything was destroyed, including his personal effects, furniture and wooden clock. The cause of the fire was never determined.

Benjamin Banneker’s life was remembered in an obituary in the Federal Gazette of Philadelphia and has continued to be written about over the ensuing two centuries. With limited materials having been preserved related to Banneker's life and career, there's been a fair amount of legend and misinformation presented. In 1972, scholar Sylvio A. Bedini published an acclaimed biography on the 17th-century icon—The Life of Benjamin Banneker: The First African-American Man of Science. A revised edition appeared in 1999.

Source: biography.com | http://www.biography.com/people/benjamin-banneker-9198038

Charles Drew
Charles Drew

06.03.1904 – 04.01.1950

Charles Drew was an African-American surgeon who pioneered methods of storing blood plasma for transfusion and organized the first large-scale blood bank in the U.S.

Synopsis

Charles Richard Drew was born on June 3, 1904, in Washington, D.C. He was an African-American physician who developed ways to process and store blood plasma in "blood banks." He directed the blood plasma programs of the United States and Great Britain in World War II, but resigned after a ruling that the blood of African-Americans would be segregated. He died on April 1, 1950.

Early Life

A pioneering African-American medical researcher, Dr. Charles R. Drew made some groundbreaking discoveries in the storage and processing of blood for transfusions. He also managed two of the largest blood banks during World War II.

Drew grew up in Washington, D.C. as the oldest son of a carpet layer. In his youth, Drew showed great athletic talent. He won several medals for swimming in his elementary years, and later branched out to football, basketball and other sports. After graduating from Dunbar High School in 1922, Drew went to Amherst College on a sports scholarship. There, he distinguished himself on the track and football teams.

Drew completed his bachelor's degree at Amherst in 1926, but didn't have enough money to pursue his dream of attending medical school. He worked as a biology instructor and a coach for Morgan College, now Morgan State University, in Baltimore for two years. In 1928, he applied to medical schools and enrolled at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

At McGill University, Drew quickly proved to be a top student. He won a prize in neuroanatomy and was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha, a medical honor society. Graduating in 1933, Drew was second in his class and earned both Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery degrees. He did his internship and residency at the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Montreal General Hospital. During this time, Drew studied with Dr. John Beattie, and they examined problems and issues regarding blood transfusions.

After his father's death, Drew returned to the United States. He became an instructor at Howard University's medical school in 1935. The following year, he did a surgery residence at Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C., in addition to his work at the university.

Father of Blood Banks

In 1938, Drew received a Rockefeller Fellowship to study at Columbia University and train at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. There, he continued his exploration of blood-related matters with John Scudder. Drew developed a method for processing and preserving blood plasma, or blood without cells. Plasma lasts much longer than whole blood, making it possible to be stored or "banked" for longer periods of time. He discovered that the plasma could be dried and then reconstituted when needed. His research served as the basis of his doctorate thesis, "Banked Blood," and he received his doctorate degree in 1940. Drew became the first African-American to earn this degree from Columbia.

As World War II raged in Europe, Drew was asked to head up a special medical effort known as "Blood for Britain." He organized the collection and processing of blood plasma from several New York hospitals, and the shipments of these life-saving materials overseas to treat causalities in the war. According to one report, Drew helped collect roughly 14,500 pints of plasma.

In 1941, Drew spearheaded another blood bank effort, this time for the American Red Cross. He worked on developing a blood bank to be used for U.S. military personnel. But not long into his tenure there, Drew became frustrated with the military's request for segregating the blood donated by African Americans. At first, the military did not want to use blood from African Americans, but they later said it could only be used for African-American soldiers. Drew was outraged by this racist policy, and resigned his post after only a few months.

Death and Legacy

After creating two of the first blood banks, Drew returned to Howard University in 1941. He served as a professor there, heading up the university's department of surgery. He also became the chief surgeon at Freedmen's Hospital. Later that year, he became the first African-American examiner for the American Board of Surgery.

In 1944, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People honored Drew with its 1943 Spingarn Medal for "the highest and noblest achievement" by an African-American "during the preceding year or years." The award was given in recognition of Drew's blood plasma collection and distribution efforts.

For the final years of his life, Drew remained an active and highly regarded medical professional. He continued to serve as the chief surgeon at Freedmen's Hospital and a professor at Howard University. On April 1, 1950, Drew and three other physicians attended a medical conference at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Drew was behind the wheel when his vehicle crashed near Burlington, North Carolina. His passengers survived, but Drew succumbed to his injuries. He left behind his wife, Minnie, and their four children.

Drew was only 45 years old at the time of his death, and it is remarkable how much he was able to accomplish in such a limited amount of time. As the Reverend Jerry Moore said at Drew's funeral, Drew had "a life which crowds into a handful of years' significance, so great, men will never be able to forget it."

Since his passing, Drew has received countless posthumous honors. He was featured in the United States Postal Service's Great Americans stamp series in 1981, and his name appears on educational institutions across the country.

Source: biography.com | http://www.biography.com/people/charles-drew-9279094

Mae Jemison
Mae Jemison

10.17.1956 –

Mae C. Jemison is the first African-American female astronaut. In 1992, she flew into space aboard the Endeavour, becoming the first African-American woman in space.

Synopsis

Mae C. Jemison was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama. On June 4, 1987, she became the first African-American woman to be admitted into the astronaut training program. On September 12, 1992, Jemison finally flew into space with six other astronauts aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, becoming the first African-American woman in space. In recognition of her accomplishments, Jemison has received several awards and honorary doctorates.

Early Life

Astronaut and physician Mae Jemison was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama, the youngest child of Charlie Jemison, a roofer and carpenter, and Dorothy (Green) Jemison, an elementary school teacher. Her sister, Ada Jemison Bullock, became a child psychiatrist, and her brother, Charles Jemison, is a real estate broker. The family moved to Chicago, Illinois, when Jemison was 3 years old to take advantage of better educational opportunities there, and it is that city that she calls her hometown.

Throughout her early school years, Jemison's parents were supportive and encouraging of her talents and abilities, and she spent a considerable amount of time in her school library reading about all aspects of science, especially astronomy. During her time at Morgan Park High School, she became convinced she wanted to pursue a career in biomedical engineering, and when she graduated in 1973 as a consistent honor student, she entered Stanford University on a National Achievement Scholarship.

Initial Career Choice

As she had been in high school, Jemison was very involved in extracurricular activities at Stanford, including dance and theater productions, and served as head of the Black Student Union. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the university in 1977. Upon graduation, she entered Cornell University Medical College and, during her years there, found time to expand her horizons by studying in Cuba and Kenya and working at a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand.

After she obtained her M.D. in 1981, Jemison interned at Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center and later worked as a general practitioner. For the next two and a half years, she was the area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia where she also taught and did medical research. Following her return to the United States in 1985, Jemison made a career change and decided to follow a dream she had nurtured for a long time. In October of that year, she applied for admission to NASA's astronaut training program. The Challenger disaster of January 1986 delayed the selection process, but when she reapplied a year later, Jemison was one of the 15 candidates chosen from a field of about 2,000.

First Female African-American Astronaut

When Jemison was chosen on June 4, 1987, she became the first African-American woman to be admitted into the astronaut training program. After more than a year of training, she became the first African-American female astronaut, earning the title of science mission specialist—a job that would make her responsible for conducting crew-related scientific experiments on the space shuttle.

When Jemison finally flew into space on September 12, 1992, with six other astronauts aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, she became the first African-American woman in space. During her eight days in space, she conducted experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew and herself. In all, she spent more than 190 hours in space before returning to Earth on September 20, 1992. Following her historic flight, Jemison noted that society should recognize how much both women and members of other minority groups can contribute if given the opportunity.

Honors and Recognition

In recognition of her accomplishments, Jemison received a number of accolades, including several honorary doctorates, the 1988 Essence Science and Technology Award, the Ebony Black Achievement Award in 1992 and a Montgomery Fellowship from Dartmouth College in 1993. She was also named Gamma Sigma Gamma Woman of the Year in 1990. Additionally, in 1992, an alternative public school in Detroit, Michigan, the Mae C. Jemison Academy, was named after her.

Jemison has been a member of several prominent organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and served on the board of directors of the World Sickle Cell Foundation from 1990 to 1992. She has also served as an advisory committee member of the American Express Geography Competition and an honorary board member of the Center for the Prevention of Childhood Malnutrition.

After leaving the astronaut corps in March 1993, Jemison accepted a teaching fellowship at Dartmouth. She also established the Jemison Group, a company that seeks to research, develop and market advanced technologies.

Source: biography.com | http://www.biography.com/people/mae-c-jemison-9542378

James West
James West

02.10.1931 –

James West is a U.S. inventor and professor who, in 1962, developed the electret transducer technology later used in 90 percent of contemporary microphones.

Synopsis

Born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, on February 10, 1931, James West attended Temple University before working for Bell Labs. Along with Gerhard M. Sessler, he developed the foil electret microphone, an inexpensive, compact device that is now used in 90 percent of all contemporary microphones. A prolific writer as well, West has more than 250 patents and became a professor at Johns Hopkins University.

Background

Inventor James West was born on February 10, 1931, in Prince Edward County, Virginia. As a child, he was intrigued by how things worked and enjoyed taking apart appliances. "If I had a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, anything that could be opened was in danger," West would later recollect. "I had this need to know what was inside."

After an accident with a radio he had tinkered with, West became enthralled with the concept of electricity. He knew he wanted to pursue his interest in science academically, though his parents were concerned about future job prospects for an African-American scientist, due to the racism and Jim Crow laws of the South. They preferred for him to become a physician.

Education

Undeterred, West headed to Temple University in 1953 to study physics and worked during the summers as an intern for the Acoustics Research Department at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. He received a bachelor's degree in physics in 1957, and was hired for a full-time position as an acoustical scientist by Bell.

Develops Electret Microphone

In 1960, while at Bell, West teamed up with fellow scientist Gerhard M. Sessler to develop an inexpensive, highly sensitive, compact microphone. In 1962, they finished development on the product, which relied on their invention of electret transducers. By 1968, the electret microphone was in mass production. West's and Sessler's invention became the industry standard, and today, 90 percent of all contemporary microphones—including the ones found in telephones, tape recorders, camcorders, baby monitors and hearing aids—use their technology.

Years later, West was appointed president-elect of the Acoustical Society of America in 1997 and joined the National Academy of Engineering in 1998. And both West and Sessler were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999. West has also worked with initiatives to entreat women and students of color to explore and pursue careers in the fields of science and technology.

Joins Johns Hopkins University

West retired from Bell in 2001, after more than four decades with the company. After interviewing with several universities, he chose Johns Hopkins and became a research professor at its Whiting School of Engineering in the electrical/computer engineering department.

"I discovered that Johns Hopkins was a lot like Bell Labs, where the doors were always open and we were free to collaborate with researchers in other disciplines," he said in a statement. "I like the fact that I won't be locked into one small niche here."

During his career, West has received an array of accolades and honors as well as developing more than 250 patents on microphones and related discoveries involving polymer-foil electrets. Known for being humanistic in his approach to working with others, he has also been a prolific writer, having authored and/or contributed to a number of scientific papers and books.

Source: biography.com | http://www.biography.com/people/james-west-538802

Garrett Morgan
Garrett Morgan

03.04.1877 – 08.27.1963

Garrett Morgan blazed a trail for African-American inventors with his patents, including those for a hair-straightening product, a breathing device, a revamped sewing machine and an improved traffic signal.

Synopsis

With only an elementary school education, Garrett Morgan, born in Kentucky on March 4, 1877, began his career as a sewing-machine mechanic. He went on to patent several inventions, including an improved sewing machine and traffic signal, a hair-straightening product, and a respiratory device that would later provide the blueprint for WWI gas masks. The inventor died on July 27, 1963, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Early Life

Born in Paris, Kentucky, on March 4, 1877, Garrett Morgan was the seventh of 11 children. His mother, Elizabeth (Reed) Morgan, was of Indian and African descent, and the daughter of a Baptist minister. It is uncertain whether Morgan's father was Confederate Colonel John Hunt Morgan or Sydney Morgan, a former slave freed in 1863. Morgan's mixed race heritage would play a part in his business dealings as an adult.

When Morgan was in his mid teens, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to look for work, and found it as a handyman to a wealthy landowner. Although he only completed an elementary school education, Morgan was able to pay for more lessons from a private tutor. But jobs at several sewing-machine factories were to soon capture his imagination and determine his future. Learning the inner workings of the machines and how to fix them, Morgan obtained a patent for an improved sewing machine and opened his own repair business.

Morgan's business was a success, and it enabled him to marry a Bavarian woman named Mary Anne Hassek, and establish himself in Cleveland. (He and his wife would have three sons during their marriage.)

G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company

Following the momentum of his business success, Morgan's patented sewing machine would soon pave the way to his financial freedom, albeit in a rather unorthodox way: In 1909, Morgan was working with sewing machines in his newly opened tailoring shop—a business he had opened with wife Mary, who had experience as a seamstress—when he encountered woolen fabric that had been scorched by a sewing-machine needle. It was a common problem at the time, since sewing-machine needles ran at such high speeds. In hopes of alleviating the problem, Morgan experimented with a chemical solution in an effort to reduce friction created by the needle, and subsequently noticed that the hairs of the cloth were straighter.

After trying his solution to good effect on a neighboring dog's fur, Morgan finally tested the concoction on himself. When that worked, he quickly established the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company and sold the cream to African Americans. The company was incredibly successful, bringing Morgan financial security and allowing him to pursue other interests.

Breathing Device

In 1914, Morgan patented a breathing device, or "safety hood," providing its wearers with a safer breathing experience in the presence of smoke, gases and other pollutants. Morgan worked hard to market the device, especially to fire departments, often personally demonstrating its reliability in fires. Morgan's breathing device became the prototype and precursor for the gas masks used during World War I, protecting soldiers from toxic gas used in warfare. The invention earned him the first prize at the Second International Exposition of Safety and Sanitation in New York City.

There was some resistance to Morgan's devices among buyers, particularly in the South, where racial tension remained palpable despite advancements in African-American rights. In an effort to counteract the resistance to his products, Morgan hired a white actor to pose as "the inventor" during presentations of his breathing device; Morgan would pose as the inventor's sidekick, disguised as a Native American man named "Big Chief Mason," and, wearing his hood, enter areas otherwise unsafe for breathing. The tactic was successful; sales of the device were brisk, especially from firefighters and rescue workers.

Cleveland Tunnel Explosion

In 1916, the city of Cleveland was drilling a new tunnel under Lake Erie for a fresh water supply. Workers hit a pocket of natural gas, which resulted in a huge explosion and trapped workers underground amidst suffocating noxious fumes and dust. When Morgan heard about the explosion, he and his brother put on breathing devices, made their way to the tunnel and entered as quickly as possible. The brothers managed to save two lives and recover four bodies before the rescue effort was shut down.

Despite his heroic efforts, the publicity that Morgan garnered from the incident hurt sales; the public was now fully aware that Morgan was an African American, and many refused to purchase his products. Adding to the detriment, neither the inventor nor his brother were fully recognized for their heroic efforts at Lake Erie—possibly another effect of racial discrimination. Morgan was nominated for a Carnegie Medal for his efforts, but ultimately wasn't chosen to receive the award. Additionally, some reports of the explosion named others as the rescuers.

Later Inventions

While the public's lack of acknowledgement for Morgan's and his brother's roles at the Cleveland explosion was undoubtedly disheartening, Morgan was a voracious inventor and observer who focused on fixing problems, and soon turned his attention to all kinds of things, from hats to belt fasteners to car parts.

The first black man in Cleveland to own a car, Morgan worked on his mechanical skills and developed a friction drive clutch. Then, in 1923, he created a new kind of traffic signal, one with a warning light to alert drivers that they would need to stop, after witnessing a carriage accident at a particularly problematic intersection in the city. Morgan quickly acquired patents for his traffic signal—a rudimentary version of the modern three-way traffic light—in the United States, Britain and Canada, but eventually sold the rights to General Electric for $40,000.

Social Activism

Outside of his inventing career, Morgan diligently supported the African-American community throughout his lifetime. He was a member of the newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was active in the Cleveland Association of Colored Men, donated to Negro colleges and opened an all-black country club. Additionally, in 1920, he launched the African-American newspaper the Cleveland Call (later named the Call and Post).

Death and Legacy

Morgan began developing glaucoma in 1943, and lost most of his sight as a result. The accomplished inventor died in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 27, 1963, shortly before the celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation centennial, an event he had been awaiting. Just before his death, Morgan was honored by the U.S. government for his traffic signal invention, and he was eventually restored to his place in history as a hero of the Lake Erie rescue.

Morgan improved and saved countless lives worldwide, including those of firefighters, soldiers and vehicle operators, with his profound inventions. His work provided the blueprint for many important advancements that came later, and continues to inspire and serve as a basis for research conducted by modern-day inventors and engineers.

Source: biography.com | http://www.biography.com/people/garrett-morgan-9414691

Patricia Bath
Patricia Bath

11.04.1942 –

Among many firsts, Patricia Bath is the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology and the first African-American female doctor to receive a medical patent. She invented the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment in 1986.

Synopsis

Born in Harlem, New York, on November 4, 1942, Patricia Bath became the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology in 1973. Two years later, she became the first female faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute. In 1976, Bath co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, which established that "eyesight is a basic human right." In 1986, Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe, improving treatment for cataract patients. She patented the device in 1988, becoming the first African-American female doctor to receive a medical patent.

Early Life

Patricia Era Bath was born on November 4, 1942, in Harlem, New York, to Rupert Bath, the first black motorman for the New York City subway system, and Gladys Bath, a housewife and domestic worker who used her salary to save money for her children's education. Bath was encouraged by her family to pursue academic interests. Her father, a former Merchant Marine and an occasional newspaper columnist, taught Bath about the wonders of travel and the value of exploring new cultures. Her mother piqued the young girl's interest in science by buying her a chemistry set.

As a result, Bath worked hard on her intellectual pursuits and, at the age of 16, became one of only a few students to attend a cancer research workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The program head, Dr. Robert Bernard, was so impressed with Bath's discoveries during the project that he incorporated her findings in a scientific paper he presented at a conference. The publicity surrounding her discoveries earned Bath the Mademoiselle magazine's Merit Award in 1960.

After graduating from high school in only two years, Bath headed to Hunter College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1964. She then attended Howard University to pursue a medical degree. Bath graduated with honors from Howard in 1968, and accepted an internship at Harlem Hospital shortly afterward. The following year, she also began pursuing a fellowship in ophthalmology at Columbia University. Through her studies there, she discovered that African Americans were twice as likely to suffer from blindness than other patients to which she attended, and eight times more likely to develop glaucoma. Her research led to her development of a community ophthalmology system, which increased the amount of eye care given to those who were unable to afford treatment.

Pioneer in Ophthalmology

In 1973, Patricia Bath became the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology. She moved to California the following year to work as an assistant professor of surgery at both Charles R. Drew University and the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1975, she became the first female faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute.

In 1976, Bath co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, which established that "eyesight is a basic human right." By 1983, Bath had helped create the Ophthalmology Residency Training program at UCLA-Drew, which she also chaired—becoming, in addition to her other firsts, the first woman in the nation to hold such a position.

Inventing the Laserphaco Probe

In 1981, Bath began working on her most well-known invention: the Laserphaco Probe (1986). Harnessing laser technology, the device created a less painful and more precise treatment of cataracts. She received a patent for the device in 1988, becoming the first African-American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. (She also holds patents in Japan, Canada and Europe.) With her Laserphaco Probe, Bath was able to help restore the sight of individuals who had been blind for more than 30 years.

In 1993, Bath retired from her position at the UCLA Medical Center and became an honorary member of its medical staff. That same year, she was named a "Howard University Pioneer in Academic Medicine."

Among her many roles in the medical field, Bath is a strong advocate of telemedicine, which uses technology to provide medical services in remote areas.

Source: biography.com | http://www.biography.com/people/patricia-bath-21038525

Marie M. Daly
Marie M. Daly

04.16.1921 – 10.28.2003

Marie M. Daly is best known for being the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States.

Synopsis

Marie M. Daly was born on April 16, 1921, in Queens, New York. She was raised in an education-oriented family, and Daly quickly received her B.S. and M.S. in chemistry at Queens College and New York University. After completing her Ph.D. at Columbia—and becoming the first African-American woman to obtain a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States—Daly taught and conducted research. She died in New York City on October 28, 2003.

Background

Future chemist Marie M. Daly was born on April 16, 1921, in Queens, New York. The pioneering scientist was the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States, and her groundbreaking work helped clarify how the human body works.

Daly came from a family who believed strongly in the power of education. Her father, Ivan C. Daly, had emigrated from the West Indies as a young man and enrolled at Cornell University to study chemistry. A lack of money blocked his path, however, and he was forced to quit college, instead returning to New York City where he found work as a postal clerk.

Daly's mother, Helen, grew up in Washington, D.C., and came from a family of readers. She spent long hours reading to her daughter, and fostered Marie's love of books—in particular those that centered on science and scientists.

Higher Education

After graduating from Hunter College High School, an all-girls institution in New York City, Daly attended Queens College in Flushing, New York, choosing to live at home in order to save money.

Daly graduated with honors in 1942 and, to get around the fact that she didn't have much money for graduate school, landed work as a lab assistant at her old college as well as a hard-earned fellowship. Both were instrumental in helping her to cover the costs of getting a graduate degree in chemistry from New York University.

Daly didn't waste time in completing her studies. She finished her master's degree in just a year and then, in 1944, enrolled at Columbia University as a doctoral student. Aided by her own ambition and intelligence, Daly was further helped by timing. World War II was at its peak, and employers were looking for women to fill the jobs left by the scores of men who'd been sent overseas to fight. In addition, Columbia's chemistry program was being led by Dr. Mary L. Caldwell, a renowned scientist who helped blaze new trails for women in chemistry throughout her career.

Receives Ph.D.

At Columbia, Daly took to the lab, studying how the body's chemicals help digest food. She finished her doctorate—unknowingly making history as the first female African American to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States—in 1947. Fascinated by the human body's complicated inner workings, Daly landed a grant in 1948 from the American Cancer Society. This was the start of a seven-year research program at the Rockefeller Institute of Medicine, where Daly examined how proteins are constructed in the body.

Researcher and Activist

In 1955, Daly returned to Columbia, working closely with Dr. Quentin B. Deming on the causes of heart attacks. Their groundbreaking work, which was later relocated to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York, disclosed the relationship between high cholesterol and clogged arteries. That work opened up a new understanding of how foods and diet can affect the health of the heart and the circulatory system.

In addition to her research work at Einstein, Daly also taught biochemistry courses. Recognizing the importance of her own career path, Daly championed efforts to get students of color enrolled in medical schools and graduate science programs. In 1988 she started a scholarship, in honor of her father, for minority students who want to study science at Queens College.

Daly retired from Albert Einstein College in 1986. Her many honors included induction into Phi Beta Kappa as well as being tapped as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Daly, who married Vincent Clark in 1961 and whose full married name was Marie Maynard Daly Clark, died in New York City on October 28, 2003.

Source: biography.com | http://www.biography.com/people/marie-m-daly-604034

Percy Lavon Julian
Percy Lavon Julian

04.11.1899 – 04.19.1975

African-American chemist Percy Julian was a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs such as cortisone, steroids and birth control pills.

Synopsis

Born in Alabama in 1899, pioneering chemist Percy Julian was not allowed to attend high school but went on to earn his Ph.D. His research at academic and corporate institutions led to the chemical synthesis of drugs to treat glaucoma and arthritis, and although his race presented challenges at every turn, he is regarded as one of the most influential chemists in American history.

Famous Quote

"The right of a people to live where they want to, without fear, is more important than my science."

Early Life

Percy Lavon Julian was born April 11, 1899, in Montgomery, Alabama, the grandson of former slaves. He attended school through the eighth grade but there were no high schools open to black students. He applied to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he had to take high school-level classes in the evening to get him up to the academic level of his peers. In spite of this challenging beginning, he graduated first in his class, with Phi Beta Kappa honors.

Life in Academia

After college, Julian accepted a position as a chemistry instructor at Fisk University. He left in 1923 when he received a scholarship to attend Harvard University to finish his master’s degree, though the university would not allow him to pursue his doctorate. He traveled for several years, teaching at black colleges, before obtaining his Ph.D. at the University of Vienna in Austria in 1931.

With his doctorate in hand, he returned to DePauw to continue his research. In 1935 he earned international acclaim by synthesizing physostigmine from the calabar bean to create a drug treatment for glaucoma, but in spite of his success, the university refused to make him a full professor because of his race.

Later Career

Desiring to leave academia, Julian applied for jobs at prominent chemical companies, but was repeatedly rejected when hiring managers discovered that he was black. Ultimately, he obtained a position at Glidden Company as the lab director. There he invented Aero-Foam, a product that uses soy protein to put out oil and gas fires and was widely used in World War II, as well as other soybean-based inventions.

Julian continued his biomedical work as well, and discovered how to extract sterols from soybean oil and synthesize the hormones progesterone and testosterone. He was also lauded for his synthesis of cortisone, which became used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Julian left Glidden in 1953 and established his own laboratory, Julian Laboratories, in 1954. He sold the company in 1961, becoming one of the first black millionaires, before founding Julian Research Institute, a nonprofit organization that he ran for the rest of his life.

He died of liver cancer on April 19, 1975.

Recognition

Julian was the first black chemist elected to the National Academy of the Sciences, in 1973. In 1990 he was elected to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and in 1999 his synthesis of physostigmine was recognized by the American Chemical Society as “one of the top 25 achievements in the history of American chemistry.”

Personal Life

Julian met his wife, Anna Roselle, while employed at Howard University, and the two were accused of having an affair while she was married to one of his colleagues. A scandal ensued and Julian was fired, but he and Anna married in 1935 and had two children.

In 1950, Julian and his family moved to Oak Park, Illinois. After they purchased their home but before they moved in, the house was firebombed on Thanksgiving Day. It was attacked again in June, 1951.

Julian’s life was the subject of a documentary film made for PBS’s Nova series, entitled Forgotten Genius.

Source: biography.com | http://www.biography.com/people/percy-julian-9359018

Daniel Hale Williams
Daniel Hale Williams

1.18.1858 – 08.04.1931

Daniel Hale Williams was one of the first physicians to perform open-heart surgery in the United States and founded a hospital with an interracial staff.

Synopsis

Born on January 18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, Daniel Hale Williams pursued a pioneering career in medicine. An African-American doctor, in 1893 Williams opened Provident Hospital, the first medical facility to have an interracial staff. He was also one of the first physicians to successfully complete pericardial surgery on a patient. Williams later became chief surgeon of the Freedmen’s Hospital.

Early Life

Daniel Hale Williams III was born on January 18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, to Sarah Price Williams and Daniel Hale Williams II. The couple had several children, with the elder Daniel H. Williams inheriting a barber business. He also worked with the Equal Rights League, a black civil rights organization active during the Reconstruction era.

After the elder Williams died, a 10-year-old Daniel was sent to live in Baltimore, Maryland, with family friends. He became a shoemaker’s apprentice but disliked the work and decided to return to his family, who had moved to Illinois. Like his father, he took up barbering, but ultimately decided he wanted to pursue his education. He worked as an apprentice with Dr. Henry Palmer, a highly accomplished surgeon, and then completed further training at Chicago Medical College.

Opens the First Interracial Hospital

Williams set up his own practice in Chicago’s South Side and taught anatomy at his alma mater, also becoming the first African-American physician to work for the city’s street railway system. Williams—who was called Dr. Dan by patients— adopted sterilization procedures for his office informed by the recent findings on germ transmission and prevention from Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister.

Due to the discrimination of the day, African-American citizens were still barred from being admitted to hospitals and black doctors were refused staff positions. Firmly believing this needed to change, in May 1891, Williams opened Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, the nation’s first hospital with a nursing and intern program that had a racially integrated staff. The facility, where Williams worked as a surgeon, was publicly championed by famed abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass.

Completes Open-Heart Surgery

In 1893, Williams continued to make history when he operated on James Cornish, a man with a severe stab wound to his chest who was brought to Provident. Without the benefits of a blood transfusion or modern surgical procedures, Williams successfully sutured Cornish’s pericardium, the membranous sac enclosing the heart, thus becoming one of the first people to perform open-heart surgery. (Physicians Francisco Romero and Henry Dalton had previously performed pericardial operations.) Cornish lived for many years after the operation.

In 1894, Williams moved to Washington, D.C., where he was appointed the chief surgeon of the Freedmen’s Hospital, which provided care for formerly enslaved African Americans. The facility had fallen into neglect and had a high mortality rate. Williams worked diligently on revitalization, improving surgical procedures, increasing specialization, launching ambulance services and continuing to provide opportunities for black medical professionals, among other feats. In 1895, he co-founded the National Medical Association, a professional organization for black medical practitioners, as an alternative to the American Medical Association, which didn’t allow African-American membership.

Marriage and Later Career

Williams left Freedmen’s Hospital in 1898. He married Alice Johnson, and the newlyweds moved to Chicago, where Williams returned to his work at Provident. Soon after the turn of the century, he worked at Cook County Hospital and later at St. Luke’s, a large medical institution with ample resources.

Beginning in 1899, Williams also made annual trips to Nashville, Tennessee, where he was a voluntary visiting clinical professor at Meharry Medical College for more than two decades. He became a charter member of the American College of Surgeons in 1913.

Death and Legacy

Daniel Hale Williams experienced a debilitating stroke in 1926 and died five years later, on August 4, 1931, in Idlewild, Michigan.

Today, Williams's work as a pioneering physician and advocate for an African-American presence in medicine continues to be honored by institutions worldwide.

Source: biography.com | http://www.biography.com/people/daniel-hale-williams-9532269

Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson

08.26.1918 –

One of NASA's human 'computers,' Katherine G. Johnson performed the complex calculations that enabled humans to successfully achieve space flight.

Synopsis

Born in 1918 in West Virginia, Katherine G. Johnson made the most of limited educational opportunities for African Americans, graduating from college at age 18. She began working in aeronautics as a "computer" in 1952, and after the formation of NASA, she performed the calculations that sent astronauts into orbit in the early 1960s and to the moon in 1969. Johnson was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, and saw her story brought to light through a book and feature film the following year.

Early Years and Education

Katherine G. Johnson was born Katherine Coleman on August 26, 1918, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. A bright child with a gift for numbers, she breezed through her classes and completed the eighth grade by age 10. Although her town didn’t offer classes for African Americans after that point, her father, Joshua, drove the family 120 miles to Institute, West Virginia, where they lived while she attended high school.

Johnson enrolled at West Virginia State College (now West Virginia State University) in Institute, West Virginia, where she encountered a hands-on faculty. One particularly engaged professor was Dr. William W. Schieffelin Claytor, the third African American to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics, who was determined to prepare Johnson to become a research mathematician. At age 18, she graduated summa cum laude with degrees in mathematics and French.

The following year, Johnson became one of three students to desegregate West Virginia University's graduate school in Morgantown. However, she found the environment less welcoming than it had been in Institute, and never completed her program there.

The 'Computer'

Beginning in the late 1930s, Johnson taught math and French at schools in Virginia and West Virginia. In 1939, she married James Francis Goble, with whom she had three daughters: Joylette, Katherine and Constance.

In 1952, Johnson learned that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was hiring African-American women to serve as "computers"; namely, people who performed and checked calculations for technological developments. Johnson applied, and the following year she was accepted for a position at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Johnson not only proved adept at her calculations, she displayed a curiosity and assertiveness that caught her superiors by surprise. "The women did what they were told to do,” she recalled. “They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why."

After only two weeks, Johnson was transferred from the African-American computing pool to Langley's flight research division, where she talked her way into meetings and earned additional responsibilities. She achieved success despite difficulties at home: In 1956, her husband died of a brain tumor.

NASA Pioneer

In 1958, after NACA was reformulated into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Johnson was among the people charged with determining how to get a human into space and back. The following year she remarried, to decorated Navy and Army officer James A. Johnson.

For Johnson, calculating space flight came down to the basics of geometry: "The early trajectory was a parabola, and it was easy to predict where it would be at any point," she said. "Early on, when they said they wanted the capsule to come down at a certain place, they were trying to compute when it should start. I said, 'Let me do it. You tell me when you want it and where you want it to land, and I'll do it backwards and tell you when to take off.' " As a result, the task of plotting the path for Alan Shepard's 1961 journey to space, the first in American history, fell on her shoulders.

The next challenge was to send a man in orbit around Earth. This involved far more difficult calculations, to account for the gravitational pulls of celestial bodies, and by then NASA had begun using electronic computers. Yet, the job wasn't considered complete until Johnson was summoned to check the work of the machines, providing the go-ahead to propel John Glenn into successful orbit in 1962.

While the work of electronic computers took on increased importance at NASA, Johnson remained highly valuable for her unwavering accuracy. She performed calculations for the historic 1969 Apollo 11 trip to the moon, and the following year, when Apollo 13 experienced a malfunction in space, her contributions to contingency procedures helped ensure its safe return.

Johnson continued to serve as a key asset for NASA, helping to develop its Space Shuttle program and Earth Resources Satellite, until her retirement in 1986.

Awards and Legacy

Johnson has been honored with an array of awards for her groundbreaking work. Among them are the 1967 NASA Lunar Orbiter Spacecraft and Operations team award, and the National Technical Association’s designation as its 1997 Mathematician of the Year. Additionally, she has earned honorary degrees from SUNY Farmingdale, Maryland's Capitol College, Virginia's Old Dominion University and West Virginia University.

In November 2015, Johnson was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama. The following May, NASA opened the new $30 million, 40,000-square-foot Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility at Langley.

In September 2016, the little-known story of Johnson and her fellow African-American computers was published in Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures. It was also turned into a feature film, slated for a late 2016 release, with acclaimed actress Taraji P. Henson starring as Johnson.

Source: biography.com | http://www.biography.com/people/katherine-g-johnson-101016