Did You Know? Celebrating African American History!


As African Americans, most of us take great pride in teaching our children and youth about our history all year round.  In America, February has been chosen as the height of this celebration of the rich contribution that we have made to not only America, but the entire world.  However, there is a sadness that grabs me when I think about even the above title….African-American History Month.  Why not simply African History?  We have a rich history before the Americas as well.  A history of being educators, agricultural experts and inventors of things made to aid our journey into outer space as well as much needed health inventions and procedures.

We know about many great contributors and have taught our children about greats such as George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King, Jr., Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, and so many others that would fill pages and pages.  Being that I come from a discipline in healthcare, I want to take you on a journey with me to educate about some unsung heroes in the healthcare industry who have made a huge impact on our lives.

dr-patricia-era-bath-e1476281303884Dr. Patricia Bath          (Photo credit: Scholastic, Teacher’s Activity Guide)          

Did You Know…..Dr. Bath was born in Harlem, New York in 1942 and earned her medical degree from Harvard University followed by a fellowship in Opthalmology at Columbia University.  She had an interest in science from an early age.  In 1981, she invented the Laserphaco Probe which made her famous.  She patented the device in 1988 after years spent perfecting it.  She was the first African American female to physician to secure a medical patent.  This device was used for cataract correction during eye surgery and was less invasive, more precise and had less risk associated with it than other devices.  It has been used world-wide.  Bath also co-founded the American Institute for the prevention of blindness and the first woman to chair an ophthalmology residency program in the US.  She is an example of what it is to work tirelessly for improvement of health for all.


                (Photo credit:  Celebrating Black History Month, Triocountysentry)

Otis Boykin

Did You Know…..Otis Boykin is best known in the medical field for improving the pacemaker.  In addition to this, he made devices that we use on a daily more effecient and affordable, such as the television and computers.  Boykin was born in Dallas, Texas and attended Fisk College in Nashville, Tennessee.  He went on to the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago to further his education.

Boykin began to study electronics and learned about resistors.  He found that resistors allow a safe amount of currency to flow through a device because you can slow the electrical flow.  He patented a “wire precision resistor” in 1959 which allowed specific amounts of electrical currents to flow for a specific purpose.  If that wasn’t magnificent enough, he came back with an improved version that could withstand   shifts in temperature and air pressure.  This breakthrough allowed devices to be made even cheaper and more reliable than what had ever been seen before.  His resistors were even used in military missiles.  His invention for the control unit for the pacemaker, which was a device that was implanted in the body to help the heart beat normally, was a great invention that allowed the pacemaker to be regulated more precisely.  He is a true legend.


(Photo credit:  google photos)

Garrett Morgan

Did You Know…….Garrett Morgan was born in 1877 in Paris and passed in 1963.  He is most known for  inventing an early version of the gas mask and a new form of the traffic signal.  If that was not amazing enough, he also invented the “safety hood” in 1914, which made polluted air safer to breath.  It was used in World War I to protect soldiers from poisonous gases.  In 1916 in Ohio, during the drilling of a tunnel being drilled under Lake Erie that tragically collapsed, 32 workers were trapped and while firemen could not rescue the men due to gases and fumes, Morgan and other men used his safety hood to reach the trapped men and rescue others also.

Oh, but wait, there is more!  What we are all probably more familiar with is his invention and patent for the traffic signal in 1923.  His traffic signal was the first to use 3 instead of 2 commands which made traffic flow more efficiently.  He sold the patent rights for a whopping $40K to G.E., which was more like a cool $1/2 million now.

To these 2 heroes and heroin as well as many others that gave of their time, sweat and hard work and made this world a better place to live.  Here is also to the up and coming Baths, Boykins, and Morgans of our day and time.  Keep pushing forward, breaking open doors and leaving them open for others to come after you.   Thank you for your contributions.



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