Saturday, February 16, 2019

Day 16 - Otis Boykin - He Kept Hearts Beating

Otis Boykin

1920 - 1982

Who Was He?

Otis Boykin was born in Dallas, Texas. His mother was a maid and his father was a carptenter who later became a minister.

Otis was only a year old when his mother died of heart failure.

He graduated valedictorian from Booker T. Washington High School then went off to Fisk University in Illinois.

While at Fisk, he worked as an assistant in a nearby aerospace lab. In 1941, he got a job as a lab assistant testing automatic aircraft controls.

From those beginnings, he was hired by P.J. Nilsen's lab in Illinois. 

Boykin attempted to get a higher degree at the Illinois Institute of Technology, but (depending on the source you cite)  two years he either couldn't afford the tuition, or he left because he had a job opportunity too good to resist. 

He always meant to go back for that degree, but he never did. It wasn't too great a loss. Turns out he didn't need it.

What Did He Invent?

Boykin's work in the aerospace labs and with PJ Nilsen influenced the rest of his life. Boykin's thing was resistors in electronics.

Okay, let me see if I can explain this for the non-mechanical amongst us...I'm one of them.

The purpose of a resistor is to control a current of electricity. It can reduce the amount flowing through a circuit, split it, release the energy as heat energy to help cool things down, and anything else that would somehow change the current of electricity flowing through a circuit.

Boykin's contribution was to make very effective resistors that were cheap and easy to produce. His first patent for resistors was granted in 1959.

Why is this such a huge thing? Well, because every single electrical thing we have uses them. 
Every. Single. One.

Boykin's first resistors were excellent at splitting currents. These ended up in televisions and radios everywhere.

Two years later, in 1961, he created another resistor. This one was even cheaper to produce, very durable and could keep its efficacy despite huge changes in temperature, pressure and being thrown about and battered.

The Department of Defense put those resistors into their new generation of guided missiles and aircraft.

IBM put them into computers.

All of the nascent high tech industries of the day wanted Boykin's resistors.

In 1964, Boykin moved to Paris. He had a company called Boykin-Furth Inc. 


The most famous of Boykin's resistors is the one that is used in pacemakers.

This little device has saved millions of people's lives.

His Legacy?

The resistors he devised changed the world of electronics from war - military airplanes and guided missiles - to industry - IBM.

He contributed to the development of better radios and televisions.

Boykin created the resistors for a device that millions of people rely on to keep their heart regulated - the pacemaker.

This inventor saw great financial gain from his inventions and lived a comfortable life.

He died in Chicago in 1982...of heart failure. At the time of his demise, he'd accumulated twenty-six patents.

So, a big thank you to Otis Boykin for all of the hearts that are still beating that would have stopped.

Celebrate Black History!

Day 1 - The ABC's of Black History Month
Day 6 - Ernest Everett Just - Biologist, Zoologist, Cell man
Day 7 - Frederick McKinley Jones - The Coolest Man in Modern History
Day 8 - Sarah Goode - A Practical Bed For Small Spaces
Day 9 - William Henry Cling - Did He Invent The Hospital Bed Before Gatch?
Day 10 - Inez Beverly Prosser and Brown V.S. The Board of Education
Day 11 - Jan Ernst Mateliger - Mechanical Engineer/Sole Man
Day 12 - Samuel L. Kountz Jr. - Revolutionized Transplant Surgery
Day 13 - Lewis Howard Latimer - Incandescent Inventor
Day 14 - Marie Van Brittan Brown - Home Security
Day 15 - Norbert Rillieux - Sugar Man
Day 16 - Otis Boykin - He Kept Hearts Beating
Day 17 - Alice H. Parker - Heating It Up!
Day 18 - Lloyd Quarterman - Chemist and Atom Man
Day 19 - Robert F. Flemming Jr. - Guitar Man
Day 20 - Charles S. L. Baker - The Friction Radiator 
Day 21 - Granville T. Woods - The Black Edison
Day 22 - Alfred L. Cralle - Next Time You Have Ice Cream...
Day 23 - Ellen Elgin - Through The Wringer
Day 24 - Dr. Daniel Hale Williams - Holding A Heart In the Palm of His Hands
Day 25 - Benjamin Bradley - Steam Engine Dominance
Day 26 - Elijah McCoy - The Real One
Day 27 - Alexander Miles - Hold The Door, Please!

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