Scientist and physician William Augustus Hinton’s contributions will forever be embedded in the evolution of the STEM industry. Hinton, who made history at Harvard Medical School by becoming its first Black tenured professor nearly a century ago, will be posthumously honored by the Ivy League institution. According to The Harvard Crimson, the Harvard Medical School’s Holmes Society is being renamed after Hinton.
The society—which is one of five that Harvard Medical School or Harvard School of Dental Medicine students are assigned to upon enrollment—was originally named after physician and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes who graduated from Harvard in 1829. After Holmes’ racist past was unearthed, two medical students petitioned to have his name removed. The petition, which garnered over 1,000 signatures, was supported by current students, alumni and faculty.
Despite the racial barriers that Hinton endured along his journey, he was able to hit several milestones in his academic and professional careers. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1905 with a Bachelor of Science degree and went on to earn his MD with honors. Determined to change the landscape of medicine, he became an expert in bacteriology and immunology and developed a new blood test diagnosing syphilis that the U.S. Public Health Service later implemented.
Hinton’s legacy has inspired generations of health professionals. “Hinton wasn’t allowed to be a surgeon as he wanted to be, they wouldn’t take him on at Mass General,” said student Jalen A. Benson, who spearheaded the petition. Benson is a member of the Hinton Society. “So to see Harvard recognize contributions from people of color, especially Black people, means so much to me, because I can look and say I’m proud to be in Hinton, following the legacy of an exceptional provider, and especially an exceptional Black provider.”
News about Harvard Medical School’s decision to rename one of their academic societies after William Augustus Hinton comes after the Harvard Business School announced it would rename one of its campus buildings after James I. Cash, the institution’s first Black tenured professor.