Today’s Feature honors a few of the many Black scientists and innovators who have added so much to the quality of life for all people. I wanted to highlight names less “obvious” than George Washington Carver or Booker T. Washington. So, over the past month, I’ve been collecting stories from Facebook posts that intrigued me.
My own career as an editor in the STEM field has been a source of pride and honor for me. Like many little kids, I dreamed at various times of being a doctor or a psychologist—or even an astronaut. But I did not have the wherewithall to become either. However, my gift for language and love of science enabled me to combine two loves into one and, in my own small way, to contribute to the communication of scientific knowledge.
For nearly 38 years, I prepared scientific articles for publication in academic/research science journals, ensuring that grammar and spelling were correct, that sentences were complete and made sense, and that citations of reference works and artwork in the articles were accurate. The work also entailed providing typesetting commands (fonts, column settings, placement of artwork, etc.) for the printing of the articles according to the specifications of the particular publication.
For a number of years, I also trained new editors in the art of scientific editing.
I learned more than I ever could have dreamed about different branches of science—ophthalmology, immunology, neuroscience, to name a few—and I worked with many great researchers from around the globe in my “small” capacity.
The following is a brief list of links to some of the amazing stories I collected this past month. I hope you will explore them more thoroughly and that they will begin to open your eyes to the wealth of talent, strength, perseverance, tenacity, and intelligence of Black Americans.
Black STEM Innovators
This link is a compendium of Black innovations improving everday life, from the home security system to potato chips, ice cream scoops, and even seedless lemonade; and from the imaging x-ray spectrometer to the traffic light and the fountain pen.
Vivien Thomas was a Black surgical technician. Through his work with Dr. Alfred Blalock at both Vanderbilt University and Johns Hopkins University, the causes of hemorrhagic and traumatic shock were uncovered, saving the lives of thousands of soldiers in World War II. Ultimately, Thomas and Blalock specialized in cardiac surgery, successfully treating “blue baby syndrome” (a heart defect). Although Vivien Thomas was not credited in the medical literature for his critical contributions to Blalock’s work, he was, nonetheless, the first Black non-doctor to perform cardiac surgery on a white person.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Edward_Chinn; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_61.html
Dr. May Edward Chinn, a physician of Black and Native American heritage, was the first Black woman to graduate from Bellevue Hospital Medical College and the first Black woman to intern at Harlem Hospital. She worked with Dr. George Papanicolaou to develop the pap smear (named after Papnicolaou) and continued to work in the field of cancer prevention throughout her career.
Dr. Percy Julian was a research chemist whose work laid the foundation for the production of synthetic steroids such as corticosterone so that they could be used to treat hormonal deficiencies.
Black Americans have contributed so much to the founding, the building, and the continuation of this nation. And our history should be shared and taught every day of every month of the year.