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Heritage Month: Arab Americans as Inventors

posted on: Apr 6, 2016

BY: Sevan Araz/Contributing Writer

The Arab World has produced an array of technological advancements responsible for fundamental shifts in global innovation. From chess to guitars, descended from the Arabian oud, inventions produced by Arab innovators have transcended regional boundaries to alter the cultural dynamics of the international community.

Arab Americans have continued the legacy of their ancestors by inventing technologies that contributed to the modernization of the information technology, financial, and medical sectors.

For instance, Anthony Fadell, an Arab American inventor and entrepreneur from Michigan, was instrumental in the development of the iPod, a revolutionary technology, which fueled Apple’s rise into a household name. Fadell served on the iPod division at Apple and was subsequently dubbed one of the “fathers of the iPod.” The iPod was not only a corporate triumph, but also a cultural icon that expanded the role of technology in the everyday life of Americans.

In the medical field, the late Dr. Michael DeBakey is known as the pioneer in the development of the artificial heart, as he was the first to use the external heart pump successfully in a patient. As a U.S. veteran, DeBakey is also credited with constructing the mobile army hospital where he helped increase the survival rates of wounded soldiers significantly throughout his career.

Another notable inventor is Taher ElGamal, inventor of the ElGamal discrete log cryptosystem. The ElGamal encryption system is used in security and digital signing, among other uses. ElGamal’s invention was a foundation for cryptography that has inspired encryption variations from others. It’s the under-reported inventions such as ElGamal’s that deserve more recognition by Arab and non-Arab Americans.

One reason why Arab Americans have become successful inventors is from their history of immigration. By dropping all of their belonging to migrate to the U.S., Arab immigrants have created a community of risk takers who are unafraid of innovative concepts. Furthermore, the cultural emphasis on getting a quality education has propelled many Arab Americans into the fields where cognitive skills innovations have permanently changed the nation’s socio­economic landscape.

See all articles about National Arab American Heritage Month here.