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Diversity in STEM

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month With These Inspiring Inventors

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 monthlong 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 learn the stories of five National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductees. These visionary Hispanic inventors have enhanced our world one breakthrough at a time.


Luis Walter Alvarez

Among the top physicists of the 20th century, Luis Alvarez made 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. Thanks to his curiosity and experimentation, considerable scientific progress in physics, geology and aviation has been made.


Miguel Ondetti

After earning his doctorate in chemistry from the Universidad de Buenos Aires in 1957, 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. Ondetti would later team up with co-inventor David Cushman to synthesize captopril, the first of a new class of lifesaving hypertension drugs known as angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved captopril for medial use in 1982. While originally approved to treat hypertension, Ondetti’s work with ACE inhibitors has since helped patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes, chronic renal insufficiency and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.


Julio Palmaz

Argentina native 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, and then moved 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. By 1991 the stent was approved by the FDA for peripheral arterial use and it was approved for coronary use in 1994. Palmaz’s invention has touched the lives of many patients, with more than 1 million people undergoing a stent procedure to repair arteries each year.


Alejandro Zaffaroni

Alejandro Zaffaroni, who was born in Uruguay and moved to the U.S. to pursue his doctorate at the University of Rochester, 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 in innovative drug delivery systems. Zaffaroni founded ALZA Corp. in 1968 to pursue his ideas for controlled drug delivery systems. The corporation brought more than 20 prescription products to market before being acquired by Johnson & Johnson. To date, the FDA has approved more than 40 transdermal products containing substances such as hormones, pain medications and antidepressants.


Luis von Ahn

Born in Guatemala, Luis von Ahn earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Duke University in 2000, then received his master’s and doctorate degrees in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University in 2003 and 2005, respectively. He was part of the team that created CAPTCHA – Completely Automated Public Turing test for telling Computers and Humans Apart. This test helped companies thwart bots – anonymous software programs that generate fake emails, bypass online queues and corrupt search results. Later, von Ahn developed reCAPTCHA to further this work while also harnessing the efforts of billions of internet users to transcribe archived books and newspapers. By 2011, von Ahn had switched focus, dedicating himself to advancing learning opportunities for people of all social classes with his co-founding of Duolingo – the world’s largest online language-learning platform that has helped educate millions of people thus far.


Nominate an Inventor

If you know of an inspiring inventor who holds a U.S. patent, consider visiting our website to nominate them for consideration in our future National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee classes! Nomination is a great opportunity to recognize and honor the achievements of those whose innovations have changed our world.

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