Based upon the non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly, the movie Hidden Figures tells the story of African American female mathematicians who worked at NASA in 1961. Although NASA’s first American astronaut in orbit and two-time US Senator John Glenn is the one who became a national hero, the mathematicians who helped put him in space, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, were virtually unknown until Hidden Figures revealed them to the world.
The more that I’ve researched the back story of many national heroes, sheroes, inventions and historical landmarks, the more I began to see this narrative of hidden figures as fundamental part of American History and its establishment of wealth. For example, consider how the Patent Act of 1793 and 1836 restricted enslaved Blacks from obtaining patents because we were not citizens. Because we were the property of others, whatever we invented was also the property of the slave masters who owned us. Although the U.S. government passed a patent law giving all American men, including Blacks, the right to patent their inventions, the lack of non-disclosure agreements, legal protection and basic capital to invent still created a scenario where Blacks become hidden uncompensated figures behind some of America’s greatest heroes, sheroes, inventions and historical landmarks.
I recently had the privilege of interviewing one of our more contemporary hidden figures by the name of Terry Lee Hamilton; a self-taught Scientist/Inventor from Western New York who designed the antennae and coupler interface system for Stico Industries that resolved Homeland Security’s communications issues on 9/11 and was used during Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy and other disasters in the U.S. While employed at a company named Nanodynamics he was also responsible for helping design the fuel cell technology to sustain and stabilize jet propulsion packs. I had the pleasure of having Terry Lee Hamilton on Atlantis Build Talk Radio.
Hamilton was born and raised in Niagara Falls, NY and began his formal journey into science at Trott Vocational High School in the electronics trade. I say “formal” because his earliest memories of scientific investigation began at the age of 4 and continued through adolescence. He recalled an experience with his father teaching him to tell the time and him realizing a sequence in the numbers that added up to twelve. Hamilton also shared that he would often ask his father questions such as, “If a car is driving at sixty miles per hour and a fly is flying around inside of the car while it’s moving why doesn’t it hit the walls?” Once he entered high school he was able to direct his sense of curiosity into a vocational program that offered him an opportunity to grow and develop.
After graduation Hamilton continued his education at various institutions of higher learning such as the Ohio Institute of Technology, Niagara University, Erie Community College and the University of Buffalo where he studied everything from electrical and mechanical engineering, biochemistry, physics and chemistry.
It was after this formal journey that Hamilton became employed with the above tech companies where he made his initial mark as a hidden figure. Although Stico Industries and Nanodynamics gave him an opportunity to share his knowledge and gain experience, upon accepting employment Hamilton signed a non-disclosure agreement similar to a rap artist record contract where the label owns his masters. Like other hidden figures of the past and present, his contributions to science and technology are the property of the companies he worked for.
While many would be discouraged by this, Hamilton continued in his journey and founded Hamilton & Eades; a genetic research and development company.
Through Hamilton & Eades, Hamilton has developed reliable methods to analyze nutrients, other dietary components and their metabolites in foods, body fluids and tissues. This involves the latest tools in nano-technology, biochemistry, physics, computer software development and electronics. Most recently, Hamilton has developed a series of Anusha serums designed from a molecular level for removing wrinkles, reversing the aging process, hair growth, balding, skin rashes, herpes 1 and 2 and shingles.
Hamilton, like many others who came before him and present today, represents some of the greatest stories never told. At a time when youth were taught by American parents that college or the military were their only options towards living a successful life, Hamilton chose an uncharted path by not finishing his formal college career.
Yes, he experienced challenges and adversity being a self-taught scientist with experience credentials, yet he also represents the morning star of a millennial movement that no longer views college and the military as its narrow options. With the proliferation of technology and the expansion of the World Wide Web via social media, now more than ever before we are seeing young people seeking entrepreneurialism, skilled trades, professional development and company branding as a means to control their intellectual property and creative rights.
If it wasn’t for the sacrifices and lessons learned by trailblazers like Hamilton, the paved way that we see today would still be uncharted.
Saladin Allah is an Author [S. Quanaah], Preschool Teacher, Human Rights Commissioner in the City of Niagara Falls and Founder of the Atlantis School For Gifted Youngsters.