Medicine

Wilcie Elfe

Wilcie Elfe is the earliest known pharmacist.  He graduated from the Avery Normal Institute in Charleston.  Elfe worked at People’s Pharmacy, and his prescription logbook dates back to 1853.

Dr. Matthew Ricketts

Dr. Matthew Ricketts

Dr. Matthew Oliver Ricketts was the political leader of Omaha’s African Americans at the turn of the 20th century. Ricketts was born to an enslaved couple near New Castle, Kentucky in 1858. He later received a degree from Lincoln Institute at Jefferson City, Missouri, and three years later moved to Omaha.

When he arrived in Omaha in 1880, despite scarce resources, he was admitted to Omaha Medical College, where he worked as a janitor to pay his tuition. Elected to the state legislature for the sessions of 1892 and 1894, he became the first Nebraskan of African descent to sit in that body

Louis (or Lucas) Santomee

Louis was the first university-trained black physician, who after completing studies in Holland, practiced medicine in the colony of New Amsterdam (New York). In 1667 he received a land grant for his services.

 

Dr. Percy Lavon Julian

Dr. Percy Lavon Julian

Born in 1899 in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Percy Julian was one of the most famous Black scientists. Just as George Washington Carver demonstrated what could be done with the ordinary peanut, Dr. Julian took the soybean, which was until this time just another bean, and extracted from it an ingredient to relieve inflammatory arthritis. Until the late thirties Europe had a monopoly on the production of sterol, the basis of Dr. Julian’s research.

These sterol were extracted from the bile of animals at a cost of several hundreds of dollars a gram. Substituting sterol from the oil of soybean, Dr. Julian reduced the cost of sterol to less than twenty cents a gram, thus making cortisone, a sterol derivative, available to the needy at a reasonable cost. In 1954 he founded Julian Laboratory, Inc.  Continue reading

Robert Tanner Freeman

Robert Tanner Freeman
The First Black Dentist

Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman was the first African American dentist to receive a degree in the United States. He graduated from the Harvard University Dental School in 1869.  He and George Lewis Ruffin (Law School) share the distinction of being the first African Americans to graduate from Harvard University. Freeman was born in Washington, D.C. to former slaves from North Carolina, and as a young man was hired by a local dentist, Dr. Henry Bliss Noble.

He began as a clerk and became a dental assistant. Dr. Nobel encouraged him to pursue a career in dentistry as a way to help alleviate the sufferings of other blacks.Freeman applied to, and was rejected by, two colleges before he was accepted, in 1867, as one of the sixteen members of the inaugural class at the newly formed Harvard Dental School.

His fellow classmates included another African American, George Franklin Grant. Upon graduation in 1869 he returned to Washington, D.C. to set up private practice in the same building as his previous employer and mentor.Freeman died four years later.  Continue reading

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