Patricia E Bath

Date of Birth to Date of Death

November 4, 1942 to current

Field of Study



Laserphaco Probe used to treat cataracts, plus three related patents.

Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

When I decided to start this new section to my blog I started with a Wiki search of women in science. I came up with a really great list of women who have broken through barriers in science since ancient Egypt. But for my first piece I wanted it to be someone who really spoke to me.  Patricia Bath had such a great story, plus she’s still alive. Patricia E. Bath achieved many firsts in the field of science including becoming the first woman ophthalmologist in 1974, the first woman to chair an ophthalmology residency program in 1983, and 1986 she invented a new device and technique for cataract surgery.

Patricia Bath was born in Harlem, New York on November 4, 1942. Her father was the first black motorman for the New York City subway system and her mother was a housewife and domestic worker. As a girl Patricia was influenced by Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s work with lepers in Africa. In high school, Bath was selected for a summer program by the National Science Foundation where she was able to study under Dr. Robert Bernard and contributes to his work with her own findings. After high school, she completed her B.A in chemistry at Hunter College then she received her medical degree from Howard University. She returned home to intern at the Harlem Hospital Center as a Columbia University fellow and noticed that African Americans were twice as likely to suffer from blindness as other patients that she served and eight times as likely to develop glaucoma.

This understanding would be the foundation for Bath’s many future achievements, most importantly the laserphaco probe which would change the future of ophthalmology. In 1981 Dr. Bath had an idea for a laser probe to better treat and remove glaucoma but due to the lack of available equipment and biased culture she was forced to relocate to Berlin, Germany. In Berlin she was able to test her idea with the most advanced laser equipment and with support from colleagues. And in 1988 she received a patent for the laserphaco probe becoming the first African American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. She would go on to receive three more patents for medical devices related to ophthalmology.

bath2The laserphaco probe is currently used around the world in the treatment of glaucoma. The probe consists of an optical laser fiber surrounded by irrigation and aspiration (suction) tubes. The laser probe can be inserted in a tiny incision in the eye. Then the laser energy vaporizes the cataract and lens matter within a few minutes. The decomposed lens is extracted when liquid supplied by the irrigation line washes through and is sucked out through the aspiration tube, and a replacement lens is inserted.


Pat. No. 4,7443,60: Apparatus for ablating and removing cataract lenses, issued 17 May 1988.

Pat. No. 5,843,071: Method and apparatus for ablating and removing  cataract lenses, issued 1 December 1998

Pat. No. 5,919,186: Laser apparatus for surgery of cataractous lenses, issued 6 July 1999

Pat. No. 6,083,192: Pulsed ultrasound method for fragmenting/emulsifying  and removing cataractous lenses, issued 4 July 2000.


Patricia Bath. (2013). The Biography Channel website. Retrieved 09:41, Jul 22, 2013, from

Innovative Lives: The Right to Sight: Patricia Bath by Martha Davidson, July 22. Smithsonian Institution. from

Changing the face of Medicine: Dr. Patricia E Bath, July 27. National Library of Science. from

Inventor of the Week Archive: Patricia Bath. July 27. Lemelson-MIT. from



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