10 Black Scientists and Physicians Who Changed History With Their Groundbreaking Achievements


Benjamin Banneker (Nov. 9, 1731 – Oct. 9, 1806)

Banneker was an astronomer, mathematician and author who constructed America’s first functional clock. In the early days of the U.S., Banneker was a prominent abolitionist working with Thomas Jefferson on improving the lives of Black people in this nation. He was also one of the few people to help survey the borders of Washington, D.C.


Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (Jan. 18, 1858 – Aug. 4, 1931)

Williams performed the first prototype open-heart surgery. He also was the second surgeon to perform a pericardium surgery to repair a wound. In 1891, he created one of the first non-segregated hospitals in the U.S. He called it Provident Hospital and it was located in Chicago.

11 African-American Medical Pioneers Who Will Make You Proud

As African-American advancements are continuously brought to the forefront, Black people in the medical field are hailed and admired for their accomplishments. They often achieved great success in the face of great adversity.

Dr. Ben Carson

Revolutionized Neurosurgery

Dr. Ben Carson is one of the most famous and respected doctors in the world. Since the 1980s, his surgeries to separate conjoined twins have made international headlines, and his pioneering techniques have revolutionized the field of neurosurgery. Carson also has become a role model for people of all ages, especially children. He went from the inner-city streets of Detroit to the halls of Yale University, to director of pediatric neurosurgery at one of the most prestigious hospitals in the United States. In 2004, Carson was awarded the Healthcare Humanitarian Award because he has “enhanced the quality of human lives … and has influenced the course of history through ongoing contributions to health care and medicine.”

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Dr. Charles Drew

Plasma Researcher

Dr. Charles Drew, a physician, researcher and surgeon, forged a new understanding of blood plasma that allowed blood to be stored for transfusions. As World War II began, Drew received a telegram request: “Secure 5,000 ampules of dried plasma for transfusion.” That was more than the total world supply. Drew met that challenge and found himself at the head of the Red Cross blood bank — and up against a narrow-minded policy of segregating blood supplies based on a donor’s race.

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Dr. Regina Benjamin

First Black Woman to be Elected to the Medical Association of the State of Alabama

After Dr. Regina Benjamin received her medical degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she returned to her Gulf Coast hometown, Bayou la Batre, and opened a small rural health clinic; for 13 years, she was the town’s only doctor. In 1995, at the age of 39, Benjamin became the first Black woman, and the first person under the age of 40, to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees, and in 2002, she became the first Black female president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. She was chosen “Person of the Week” by ABC World News Tonight, and “Woman of the Year” by both CBS This Morning and People magazine. Benjamin won a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” award in 2008, and was appointed the 18th surgeon general by President Barack Obama in 2009.