Patricia Bath died of cancer complications in May of 2019. [Credit: PR Newswire]
Patricia Bath died of cancer complications in May of 2019. [Credit: PR Newswire]

Two remarkable inventors who have been overlooked for far too long are finally getting their due — and making history in the process.

Marian Croak and Patricia Bath have become the first Black women to be inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which has recognized over 600 innovators since it started nearly half a century ago. Only one will be able to see her name engraved in the halls of the museum, which is located in Alexandria, Virginia.

Croak, an engineer who worked on Voice over Internet Protocol technologies, has made today’s Zoom calls possible. Bath, who died in 2019 at age 76, was an ophthalmologist who developed a device that reshaped the world of cataract surgery. 

They will be joined in the Class of 2022 inductees by Katalin Kariko, the scientist who made groundbreaking discoveries around mRNA that led to Pfizer’s Covid vaccine. Michael Oister, CEO of NIHF, made no mention of the historic nature of the announcement about the two women, who will join the ranks of Alexander Graham Bell and Steve Jobs when they are officially inducted next May.

But Bath’s daughter, Eraka Bath, said the honor was long overdue.

“Her incredible career path and her contributions to the study of ophthalmology cannot be understated,” Eraka Bath, who is a psychiatrist, said of her mother. “The NIHF distinction is an overdue recognition of her accomplishments.”

In its 48 years of existence, the Hall of Fame has inducted about 48 women and 30 Black people, NPR reported — but never any Black women.

Croak, currently Google’s vice president of engineering and head of its Research Center for Responsible AI and Human Centered Technology, has received over 200 U.S. patents. Not only did she make remote work possible, but it’s thanks to her that we are able to make donations in a matter of seconds through one text. After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, her technology allowed people to raise $130,000, and $43 million after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. She has also been honored in the Women in Technology Hall of Fame

Although Bath could not live to see this honor, she has been leaving her mark for well over five decades. She was recognized in 1961 as one of Mademoiselle Magazine’s Ten Young Women of the Year for cancer research, and went on to become the first Black resident of ophthalmology at New York University in the 1970s. She has been awarded five U.S. patents, according to an NIHF fact sheet.