Each year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated across the United States.
First observed as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, the commemoration has expanded to a month-long event honoring the histories, cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. The Sept. 15 start date signifies the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The subsequent independence days for Mexico and Chile are celebrated on Sept. 16 and 18, respectively.
As Hispanic Heritage Month begins, it is important to understand the value of the diverse perspectives that enrich our nation. Continue reading to find out more about visionary Hispanic inventors who have enhanced our world one breakthrough at a time.
Luis Walter Alvarez
Among the top physicists of the 20th century, National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductee Luis Alvarez left a major impact on his field. In addition to his work as a professor and his contributions to the study of nuclear energy, Alvarez invented a radio distance and direction indicator during World War II. His invention provided a landing system for aircraft and a radar system for locating planes, improving military safety and detection. Alvarez was an avid reader and excelled at studying fields outside of his specialty. Thanks to his curiosity and experimentation, considerable scientific progress in physics, geology and aviation has been made.
After earning his Ph.D. from the Universidad de Buenos Aires in 1957, NIHF Inductee Miguel Ondetti began working at the Squibb Institute for Medical Research in Argentina. Three years later, he was offered a job at Squibb’s New Jersey laboratory and immediately accepted. Ondetti would later team up with NIHF Inductee David Cushman and the two scientists would spend years attempting to synthesize captopril, the first of a new class of hypertension drug known as angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. They found success in 1974 and captopril became the first medical treatment to establish the angiotensin hormone’s role in hypertension, launching a new field of medical research into ACE inhibition. Ondetti’s discovery has helped reduce death rates in patients with congestive heart failure and postpone kidney failure in diabetics.
Argentina native and NIHF Inductee Julio Palmaz transformed cardiovascular medicine with his invention of the intravascular stent. After earning his medical degree in 1971, Palmaz practiced vascular radiology at San Martin University Hospital in La Plata, Argentina, before moving to the University of Texas Health and Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA). He developed the first balloon-expandable stent between 1978 and 1985 at UTHSCSA after attending a presentation by Andreas Gruentzig – a renowned cardiologist who completed the first balloon angioplasty procedure on a coronary artery. The presentation inspired him to develop a scaffold that would hold blood vessels open. Palmaz’ invention has touched the lives of countless patients, with more than a million people undergoing a stent procedure to repair arteries each year.
As an Uruguayan native, NIHF Inductee Alejandro Zaffaroni wanted to play soccer – the country’s most popular sport. However, when his asthma prevented him from participating at more competitive levels, he committed himself to his education and the study of science. Years later, Zaffaroni moved to the U.S. to pursue his Ph.D. and became one of the premier biochemists for drug discovery and development. His early work with controlled drug delivery methods, particularly his early concepts for transdermal patches, has led to extensive research of innovative drug delivery systems. This research involves everything from determining what drugs can be absorbed through the skin to those that can be inhaled or ingested. Glaucoma treatments, progesterone contraceptive devices and patches for motion sickness were among the numerous products Zaffaroni helped create for patients across the globe.
Nominate an Inductee
Nominations for the 2021 Class of Inductees are now being accepted! If you know of an inspiring inventor who holds a patent, please visit our nomination page and consider making a submission. Nomination is the opportunity to recognize and honor the achievements of those whose passion and perseverance have changed our world.