In the sciences, Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) have made incredible contributions. You may know of George Washington Carver (who did NOT invent peanut butter, by the way), but have you heard of heart researcher Marie M. Daly?
Browse these inspirational words from Carver, Daly and other BIPOC luminaries in the sciences–each of whose inventions touch our lives in ways large and small.
“Each man’s job is not just his job alone but a part of a greater job whose horizons we at present can only dimly imagine.”
Charles Richard Drew is the father of the blood bank–and the first Black person to earn a doctorate in medical science from Columbia University. Born in 1904, he pioneered blood collection and storage at New York’s Presbyterian Hospital in 1939. Blood-bank research was so close to Drew’s heart (no pun intended) that he named his daughter Bebe (a.k.a. BB).
“A lot of kids growing up today aren’t told that you can be whatever you want to be. There may be obstacles, but there are no limits.”
Mark E. Dean and an IBM colleague, Dennis Moeller, invented the ISA systems bus: the computer architecture that allows peripherals like printers to be connected to PCs. Later, he contributed to the development of the first color monitor. Dean, born in 1957, holds 3 of IBM’s original 9 patents and was named the company’s first-ever Black fellow in 1996.
“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”
George Washington Carver may not have invented peanut butter, as is often claimed–but he created hundreds of other food products from peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes. Born into slavery in 1864, Carver became the first Black person to earn a B.S. degree, at the age of 30. In addition to being a food inventor, Carver pioneered crop rotation: a farming method that boosts yields and improves soil quality.
“You learn courage by couraging.”
Marie M. Daly, the first Black American woman to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry, was instrumental in discovering something many of us now take for granted: that high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are bad for heart health. Born in 1921, Daly received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1947.
“To function efficiently in today’s world, you need math … a math background will let you go farther and faster.”
Mary Golda Ross, born in 1908, was one of the “Hidden Figures” who contributed to space and aeronautics research in the mid-20th century. A member of the Cherokee Nation–her great-great-grandfather was legendary Cherokee leader Chief John Ross–Ross was the only woman on Lockheed’s Skunk Works team. She later helped author NASA’s flight manuals to Mercury.
“I have had one goal in my life, that of playing some role in making life a little easier for the persons who come after me.”
Ever relied on hydrocortisone? You have Percy L. Julian to thank. His method for synthesizing hydrocortisone, developed in 1948, is still in use today. A groundbreaking chemist, Julian was also the first person to synthesize the anti-glaucoma drug physostigmine. Born in 1899 as a grandson of slaves, Julian fought discrimination throughout his career to become a multimillionaire.
“Look in the mirror and say ‘I am going to make a difference for the people around me’ and you will be rewarded.”
David Petite, a member of the Fond du Lac Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Nation, is a communications technology pioneer with more than 50 patents to his name. Born in 1956, Petite invented technologies that help power the smart grid. Petite also founded the Native American Inventors Association to uplift other Indigenous inventors.
Photo by CDC on Unsplash.