For the first time, Black women will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the organization’s nearly 50-year history. Engineer Marian Croak and ophthalmologist Dr. Patricia Bath are the first Black female inventors to receive this honor, which has been bestowed on some 600 other innovators both living and dead, NPR reported.
Croak and Bath are among the 29 inductees who make up the 2022 class. Croak is being honored for her work on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), the technology behind audio and video conferencing. With more than 200 patents to her name, she currently leads Google’s Research Center for Responsible AI and Human Centered Technology.
She is also behind the “text-to-donate” system for charities, which raised $130,000 following New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina and $43 million after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, according to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
“I have always been motivated by the desire to change the world, and to do that I try to change the world that I’m currently in,” Croak told Google. “What I mean by that is I work on problems that I am aware of, and that I can tackle within the world that surrounds me.”
Croak, who has also led a team bringing broadband to developing countries in Africa and Asia, was inducted into the Women in Technology International (WITI) hall of fame in 2013.
Bath received five medical patents. Among many firsts, Bath was the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology and the first African-American female doctor to receive a medical patent. Her first patent was for the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment which she received a patent for in 1988.
Born in Harlem, New York, on November 4, 1942, Bath continued to improve the Laserphaco Probe device and successfully restored vision to people who have been unable to see for decades. Among her many roles in the medical field, Bath was a strong advocate of telemedicine, using technology to provide medical services in remote areas.
“I was not seeking to be the first, I was only attempting to do my thing,” the ophthalmologist told TIME Magazine in 2017 about her invention. “It’s only when history looks back that you realize you were the first.”
Bath, who was the first woman to chair an ophthalmology residency program, passed away in 2019 from cancer complications at age 76.
The National Inventors Hall of Fame will honor the class of 2022 at back-to-back ceremonies in Alexandria, Va., and Washington, D.C., in early May, according to NPR.
“Innovation drives the worldwide economy forward and improves our quality of life. This is especially apparent given what we have experienced over the past 18 months,” Michael Oister, the National Inventors Hall of Fame’s CEO, said in a statement. “It’s why at the National Inventors Hall of Fame we are privileged to honor our country’s most significant inventors, who are giving the next generation the inspiration to innovate, create, and solve current and future problems.”