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National Inventors Hall of Fame Welcomes Patricia Bath, Marian Croak: 1st Black Female Members

PhenomenalMAG Staff  |  SiSTEM Pioneers

Black women have not previously been represented in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, despite its existence for close to 50 years.

As part of the upcoming class of inductees, the late ophthalmologist Patricia Bath and engineer Marian Croak will go down in history, the nonprofit organization said this past week. They are the first Black female inventors to be awarded this honor, which has gone to more than 600 other inventors, both living and deceased.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame has 30 Black and 48 female entrants, according to a spokeswoman who talked with NPR by email (NIHF).

"Our quality of life is enhanced through innovation, which propels the global economy forward. Given all we have gone through over the last 18 months, this is especially obvious "In a statement, NIHF CEO Michael Oister remarked. It is for this reason that the National Inventors Hall of Fame is honored to recognize the most notable inventors in our nation, who are inspiring the next generation to develop, create, and find solutions to both present-day and upcoming challenges.

The 2022 class of the hall of fame consists of Croak and Bath in addition to the honorees who were named last year. Beginning in early May, ceremonies in Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., were held back-to-back to honor to induct them all.

Highlights of these two trailblazers’ wonderful achievements are listed below.

Patricia Bath: An innovative ophthalmologist whose work changed how cataract surgery was done

Bath, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 76, was no stranger to history-making.

According to the NIHF, she was the first Black woman to graduate from New York University's ophthalmology residency program and the first woman to chair the King-Drew-UCLA Ophthalmology Residency Program, to name a few of her accomplishments. She was also the first Black woman to receive a medical patent.

Bath created the laserphaco procedure, a minimally invasive tool and method that completes every step of cataract removal, including making the incision, shattering the lens, and sucking away the broken bits.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame biography for Bath states that she developed the concept in 1981, published her first paper in 1987, and was awarded her first U.S. patent for the invention in 1988. By 2000, it was utilized in Europe and Asia.

In a press release, it is said that "Bath's procedure employed a speedier technique and provided the groundwork for eye surgeons to use lasers to restore or improve eyesight for millions of patients suffering from cataracts worldwide."

Throughout her career, Bath was awarded five patents. In particular among ethnic minorities, she promoted the use of public health strategies to end preventable blindness.

When she was a young intern working at both Harlem Hospital and Columbia University, she discovered that only a small percentage of patients at Columbia's eye clinic were blind or visually handicapped, compared to more than half at Harlem's eye clinic. According to her biography at the National Library of Medicine, she looked into this and came to the conclusion that Black people's low access to ophthalmic care was to blame for their high rate of blindness.

She proposed the field of community ophthalmology in 1976, which blends clinical, daycare, and public health activities to provide eye care to marginalized groups.

Co-founding the UCLA Ophthalmic Assistant Training Program and the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, both of whose alumni have contributed to the fight against blindness, respectively

According to her daughter, Dr. Eraka Bath, the National Inventors Hall of Fame distinction is "an overdue recognition" of her mother's accomplishments. "To know that my mother is part of the 2022 class of National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees is an unbelievable honor," Dr. Bath said in a statement.

Marian Croak: Tech pioneer who contributed to the viability of remote employment

With more than 200 patents under her belt, Croak is the director of Google's Research Center for Responsible AI and Human Centered Technology.

According to her profile, her work on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) focuses on transforming voice data into digital signals that can be communicated over the internet as opposed to phone lines, and it has improved the capabilities of audio- and videoconferencing.

Today, remote work and video conferencing require technology.

Before joining Google, Croak and her colleagues developed a text-to-donate platform for charity contributions that helped raise $130,000 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and $43 million in the wake of the horrific earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. She has also been in charge of a team that has brought broadband to developing nations in Asia and Africa.

The NIHF biography also states that Croak works on racial equity initiatives at Google and inspires women and girls to pursue engineering.

Croak revealed in a recent interview with Google that she first became interested in the industry when she was around 5 or 6 years old and would follow plumbers and engineers around her home to observe how they fixed things.

Several decades later, in the late 1990s, Croak was working at AT&T and developing VoIP. Her team eventually made such significant progress that AT&T started using it for its core network, an accomplishment she found even more exciting because of all the doubts and criticism she had faced along the way. She said detractors believed no one would ever use the "toy like" technology, which at first wasn't very reliable. However, she said the technology was initially unreliable and wasn't very reliable.

Croak advises budding innovators to persevere and pay attention to criticism, noting how much that affected her own career. She expressed her gratitude and humility at being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, particularly in the class that includes the organization's first Black women.

She said on Google's blog, "I feel that it encourages people when they see someone that looks like them on some level, and I'm pleased to offer that form of representation. People are motivated to achieve their goals when they realize that I'm just like them and that I'm a normal person. I want people to realize that while it could be challenging, they can face challenges and that the effort will be well worth it."

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