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Black Innovation



Author & Writer: Janice Fralin-Steele




There have been many African American inventors but there has been little information shared about the achievements of female African American inventors.  One such female African American Inventor is, Patricia Bath.  Her contributions in the area of medicine have changed the lives of millions of people.  Her patent and research have made vision possible to individuals who would otherwise live without sight. 


Patricia Bath was born in Harlem, New York. She graduated from Howard University School of medicine in 1968.  She also attended New York and Columbia University where she completed her specialty training in Ophthalmology and corneal transplant.   She was the founder and first president of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.  It is a little known black history fact that Dr Bath became the first African-American women surgeon at UCLA’s Medical Center. Its also a little known black history fact that  in 1985 she invented a specialized tool and procedure for the removal of cataracts.  While practicing as an Ophthalmologist in Los Angeles she received her first patent.  In 1988 she received the probe patent.  This device was called The Laserphaco Probe.  This procedure would help surgeons accurately perform cataract surgery.  This ground breaking technology proved to be quicker and with less pain compared to tradition method.  This procedure made it possible to restore sight to patients who had been blind for thirdy years. 


Dr. Bath faced sexism, racism in her life time. Growing up in Harlem, her family faced economic challenges.  She grew up in a time when there were no female doctors.  Blacks were unable to attend many of the medical schools. There were no role models in the field of medicine she could look up to.  Through it all she overcame it to become the first African American female to receive a patent in medicine.  She dedicated her life to the prevention of blindness.  She believed everyone should have, “the right to sight”.