Ophthalmologist Patricia Bath, MD, selected for posthumous induction into National Inventors Hall of Fame
Patricia E. Bath, MD, will join six other innovation pioneers whose inventions range from the Super Soaker to the modern automobile will be honored as part of the latest class of National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) Inductees.
Bath, who passed away in 2019, is the first African-American woman to be inducted into the NIHF.
In partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the NIHF will honor Bath and the rest of the Class of 2022.
“As a nation, we innovate and we grow. Advancing innovation and entrepreneurship is critical to the future of our country, and the National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees inspire a culture of invention,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “The Department of Commerce congratulates, and celebrates, NIHF’s 2022 class of Inductees.”
Bath was the first African-American to complete an ophthalmology residency at New York University (1973), first African-American woman appointed to UCLA Medical Center’s surgical staff (1975) and the first woman to lead a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology.
In 1986, Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe for treating cataracts, one of the most important surgical tools in the history of ophthalmology, in which she used the Excimer Laser to develop a device and method for minimally invasive cataract surgery.
In 1988, Bath became the first African-American woman to receive a medical patent [U.S. Patent No. 4,744,360]. Over the years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has singled out Dr. Bath’s achievement several times. In a 2014 news release, the office noted that her work had “helped restore or improve vision to millions of patients worldwide.”
During her career, Bath was awarded five U.S. patents.
Bath’s method has helped eye surgeons restore or improve vision for millions of patients worldwide. Of the 20 million cataract surgeries performed worldwide annually, Bath’s Laserphaco technique is used in more than 1 million of them. Today, the Laserphaco method is semi- automated by computers, software, and robotics.
In 1976, Bath co-founded the American Institute for Prevention of Blindness to address vision inequities.
Bath received a degree in chemistry from Manhattan’s Hunter College in 1964 and her medical degree, with honors, from Howard University College of Medicine in 1968. She served her residency in ophthalmology at New York University, the first African American to do so.
After a fellowship program at Columbia University, which focused on corneal transplantation and keratoprosthesis surgery, Bath relocated to Los Angeles to join the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the UCLA and the Charles R. Drew University as the first woman ophthalmologist on the faculty.
In 1993, she retired from UCLA, which subsequently elected her the first woman on its honorary staff.
Born on November 4, 1942, in Harlem, New York, Bath, passed away on May 30, 2019, at the age of 76.
In addition to Bath, the Class of 2022 includes:
• Marian Croak: VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) Technology
Engineer Marian Croak has worked on advancing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technologies, converting voice data into digital signals that can be easily transmitted over the internet. Her work has allowed VoIP to become a practical reality by enabling reliability and high quality. Today, VoIP technology is vital for remote work and conferencing, as well as personal communications.
• Lonnie Johnson: Super Soaker
Engineer and entrepreneur Lonnie Johnson is the inventor of the Super Soaker, which became a best-selling toy generating well over $1 billion in sales over its lifetime. Johnson’s longtime research focuses on energy technology, and his work today includes advances in rechargeable battery technology and thermodynamic technology to convert thermal energy to electrical energy.
• Katalin Karikó, PhD, and Drew Weissman, MD, PhD,: Modified mRNA Technology Used in COVID-19 Vaccines
Fundamental research by biochemist Katalin Karikó and immunologist Drew Weissman laid a critical piece of the foundation for the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The mRNA vaccines have been crucial in the fight against the COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV 2, a new coronavirus discovered in 2019. Nearly 1 billion mRNA vaccine doses have been administered worldwide since December 2020.
• Carl Benz: Modern Automobile (Posthumous)
German engineer Carl Benz was the first to design a car around the internal combustion engine rather than adding an engine to an existing wagon or carriage, a critical insight in auto evolution. By integrating the engine, chassis and drive into a single entity, Benz set the standard for all future automotive design and engineering.
• James Buchanan Eads: American Infrastructure and Defense (Posthumous)
James Buchanan Eads created a series of inventions during the 1800s that improved transportation and the military defense of the Mississippi River region. His widespread innovations were crucial to river salvage, the success of the Union Navy during the Civil War, and infrastructure and engineering that enabled major advances in commerce.