James Clemens acknowledges African-American contributions to science

James Clemens students have researched notable African-Americans during Black History Month.  (CONTRIBUTED)
James Clemens students have researched notable African-Americans during Black History Month. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – During the week of Feb. 18, science teachers at James Clemens High School acknowledged contributions by African-American scientists.

In observance of Black History Month, different departments at James Clemens have taken one week each to credit influences by African-American educators, writers, vocalists and other personalities.

Carol Bohatch’s chemistry class documented the work of African-American female chemists.

In physical science classes, Lynn Owens and her students learned about Williams Kumkwambe, 26, an inventor and author from Malawi. Kumkwambe earned notoriety in 2002 for building a windmill to run appliances in his family’s home. “He used blue gum trees, bicycle parts and scrapyard materials,” Owens said. They researched online with websites like wikipedia.com.

In recent years, Kumkwambe constructed a water pump powered by solar energy that serves as his village’s source of drinking water. This windmill is 39 feet tall. “William is now inspired to build more windmills, one for Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital,” Owens said.

In biology class, Patricia Williams led discussion about Daniel Hale Williams. “My students were intrigued to understand that Daniel Hale Williams was the first person to perform open-heart surgery. They couldn’t believe that it was possible for an African-American to be productive and successful during the 1800s,” Williams said.

Patricia Williams’ students created a PowerPoint presentation to display to the James Clemens staff, students and faculty.

Daniel Hale Williams graduated from Chicago Medical College in 1883. During this time period, Chicago hospitals prohibited black doctors from practicing on staff. “As a result, in 1891 Daniel Hale Williams started his own hospital called Provident Hospital and training school for nurses in Chicago — established mostly for African-American citizens,” Patricia Williams said.

In 1893, Daniel Hale Williams completed cardiac surgery to a patient’s pericardium. The patient, James Cornish, had been wounded in a knife fight. Williams performed surgery on without using penicillin or a blood transfusion, Patricia Williams said.

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