Dr. Charles R. Drew
Father of Blood Bank
Dr. Charles Richard Drew was a physician, researcher, and surgeon. He developed a method for storing blood in plasma form; the technique, which is still in use today, has saved untold numbers of lives. He organized the first large scale blood bank in the U.S. In 1939, Dr. Drew met Minnie Lenore Robbins a home econo mics professor at Spelman College. They would marry later in 1939 and would go on to have three daughters and one son.
After attending Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he was an All-American football player, he taught biology for a time at Morgan College in Baltimore, Maryland. With the money he saved, he entered McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and earned his medical degree. In 1935, he joined the faculty of Howard University in Washington, DC where he taught pathology. He left Howard for Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, New York. His dissertation for his Ph.D. at Columbia focused on a method of storing blood as plasma-that is, without red and white blood cells. He supervised the blood-plasma division of New York’s Blood Transfusion Association, and was named director of the blood bank for the National Research Council in 1941. In that position, he was responsible for the armed forces’ blood supply during World War II. Dismayed by the government policy of segregating the blood supply based on a donor’s race, Drew chose to resign and returned to Howard University to serve as chief surgeon at Freedman’s Hospital. In 1944, he was promoted to chief of staff and medical director. He died in an automobile accident on the way to a medical conference in 1950. He was honored on a 35-cent United States postage stamp by the United States Postal Service in their 1980 to 1985 “Great Americans” series.
Dr. James E. West
Electret Microphone Inventor
Dr. James E. West was born in Born in Farmville, Virginia. As a child, he was intrigued by how things worked and enjoyed taking apart appliances. “If I had a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, anything that could be opened was in danger,” West would later recollect. “I had this need to know what was inside.” After an accident with a radio he had tinkered with, West became enthralled with the concept of electricity. West’s interest in electricity resulted from his work with his cousin to put electrical wiring into homes in rural Virginia when he was twelve years old.
In 1953, West attended Temple University in Philadelphia and worked during the summers as an intern for the Acoustics Research Department at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1957, and was hired for a full-time position as an acoustical scientist by Bell.
During the second year of his doctorate program, West and a colleague, Gerhard Sessler, constructed a small microphone that did not require the use of a battery. This electret microphone replaced the carbon microphone and revolutionized communications technology. West’s invention was used in such devices as hearing aids and space technology. Even in 2011, 90% of microphone technology had its foundation in West’s development of the electret microphone. In addition to his research, West co-founded the Association of Black Laboratories Employees (ABLE) at Bell Labs in 1970. West retired from Lucent Technologies as a Bell Laboratories Fellow in 2001. He has continued to do research, joining the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University in 2002.