by Adam De Gree
Charles R. Drew was born in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 1904. By the time of his death just 45 years later, he had become the ‘father of the blood bank’ and one of the great scientists of the 20th century. Along the way, he pioneered new medical techniques, broke down racial barriers, and saved thousands of lives. As a black man born in a time when segregation was still practiced all over the United States, his achievements stood as an example of the great potential of African-American doctors and researchers. Yet despite his laboratory success, his early life was marked more by sports greatness than academic excellence.
Drew was not a good student until well into his university years. However, his natural athleticism earned him a scholarship to Amherst College for football and track and field. It was there that he developed an interest in medicine. After graduating, he chose to attend medical school at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, where his academic pursuits finally took center stage. Drew earned the annual scholarship in neuroanatomy and won multiple awards on his way to graduating 2nd in a class of 127 students.
After graduating from McGill with honors, Drew began his work with transfusion at Montreal Hospital. There, he worked with bacteriology professor John Beattie to develop treatments for shock. Drew hoped to pursue transfusion therapy studies at the Mayo Clinic, but racial prejudice against African-Americans barred him from joining the organization. However, he was admitted to doctorate studies at Columbia University, where he studied with John Scudder and aided in the establishment of an experimental blood bank.
At Columbia, Drew overcame racist treatment to successfully complete his award-winning dissertation, “Banked Blood: A Study in Blood Preservation.” His research brought significant progress to the growing field of transfusion. Drew’s understanding of fluid balance, shock therapy, and the processing and storage of blood samples allowed him to develop new and safer ways to collect and store blood. This earned him a post at the head of the Blood for Britain Project. Thanks to his work, thousands of liters of blood were sent to Britain as it bled in World War II.
When the United States joined World War II there was a great need for blood donations. Naturally, Drew was the man for the job. He was named assistant director of the National Blood Donor Service, where he pioneered the invention of ‘bloodmobiles’ – blood donation trucks with refrigerators.
Yet even though Drew was an African-American, the Red Cross did not allow blacks to donate blood. This meant that Drew could not donate to his own program. Eventually, this policy changed to one of segregation, where the blood of black donors could only be used by black recipients. Drew called this “unscientific and insulting to African Americans.” He resigned after a few months.
Drew spent the rest of his career at Howard University, where he had taught on and off in between other assignments. He headed the Department of Surgery and sought to “train young African American surgeons who would meet the most rigorous standards in any surgical specialty.” In addition to training surgeons, Drew campaigned relentlessly for the inclusion of black doctors in local and national medical associations.
On April 1, 1950, Charles Drew fell asleep at the wheel on the way to a medical conference. He died despite being given a blood transfusion at an all-white hospital nearby. In less than half a century, Drew earned numerous awards and appointments unique for his age and his race. His work on blood transfusion has undoubtedly saved the lives of millions of people. Today, he is remembered as one of the greatest medical scientists of the last century. He is also remembered for powerful words such as these:
“So much of our energy is spent in overcoming the constricting environment in which we live that little energy is left for creating new ideas or things. Whenever, however, one breaks out of this rather high-walled prison of the "Negro problem" by virtue of some worthwhile contribution, not only is he himself allowed more freedom, but part of the wall crumbles. And so it should be the aim of every student in science to knock down at least one or two bricks of that wall by virtue of his own accomplishment.”
By Adam De Gree
Martha Washington, or “Lady Washington,” as she was later called, was born Martha Dandridge on June 2, 1731. She is best remembered today for her second marriage and her role as America’s first ‘First Lady.’ Yet, most people don’t know that Martha was a widow when she and George Washington were married in 1759. While she enjoyed great wealth throughout her life, Martha Washington also suffered greatly. Today, she stands as an example to all American First Ladies.
As with many Virginia colonists, Martha was born into a large family. Yet unlike most women, she learned to read and write, and enjoyed doing so. When she turned 18, she married Daniel Parke Custis. Custis was about 20 years older than Martha, and very rich. They had four children together, but within several years, Daniel Custis and two of their children were dead. At the young age of 25, Martha oversaw 17,500 acres of land, 300 slaves, and numerous investments, alone.
In 1759, Martha Custis married a young George Washington. Washington was neither older nor richer than Martha, and most historians think they had a good marriage. The couple lived together in Mount Vernon in Virginia. While they had no children together, they cared for Martha’s two remaining children from her first marriage, Martha (“Patsy”) and John (“Jacky”). Tragically, Patsy died during an epileptic seizure as a teenager.
Shortly after Martha’s second marriage, the French and Indian War broke out. George Washington fought on the British side against the French. During the war, Martha oversaw the family’s estates capably. George Washington returned home to her at the end of the conflict.
In 1775, the Washingtons were brought away from Mount Vernon once more, this time by the American Revolution. When George Washington was named Commander of the Continental Army, he and Martha began their years of service to the United States of America. Martha would leave her home each winter to live in army camps with George. Even though she preferred a quiet life at home, she entertained the officer’s wives and foreign dignitaries at Valley Forge and other encampments. Her son, Jacky, served in the Continental Army and died of camp fever.
At the end of war, the Washingtons retired to Mount Vernon to enjoy some peace. However, not a decade would go by before they were called to duty once again. George Washington was elected President of the United States in 1789, and Martha went with him to New York, the nation’s first capital. There, she mindfully set a precedent for future First Ladies. Despite her private nature, she arranged social events and parties, held public receptions each Friday, and oversaw household affairs.
After George Washington’s second term in office was complete, the Washingtons returned to Mount Vernon. There, they lived a peaceful life until George’s death in 1799. George Washington released his slaves upon his death; Martha did not approve of this. She was heartbroken by his death, shut up their bed chamber, and lived on the third floor of their mansion until her death in 1802. Shortly before she died, she burned almost all of her letters to George.
Copyright ©2017 by The Classical Historian. All Rights Reserved. www.classicalhistorian.com
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
Receive Articles and Coupons in Your Email