Throughout history, Black Canadians have made significant and lasting contributions to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Their achievements, often overlooked, have paved the way for future generations of innovators and researchers. This article highlights the remarkable stories of three such individuals: Elijah McCoy, an ingenious inventor whose name became synonymous with quality engineering; Dr. Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk, a pioneering nurse and healthcare leader whose work improved health standards and access for countless Canadians; and Dr. Charles Lightfoot Roman, a distinguished physician and advocate for public health and civil rights.

To begin, we turn our attention to Elijah McCoy, a trailblazing inventor whose ingenious designs revolutionized industrial lubrication systems. From a young age, McCoy always showed an interest in mechanics; he left his family in Georgia when he was only 15 to pursue a mechanical engineering degree all the way in Scotland! Due to the racism in this era, however, McCoy was unable to work as an engineer despite his qualifications, and worked as a fireman and oiler instead, where he was able to solve many common engine problems. Six years into his career, McCoy developed the oil-drip cup, which is used to distribute oil equally throughout an engine’s parts. This invention was extremely influential and spread rapidly after McCoy innovated it.

Next, we explore the inspiring journey of Dr. Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk, a pioneering nurse and healthcare leader. Dr. Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk was the first black graduate of the Novia Scotia Hospital School of Nursing. She also earned a post-graduate certificate in psychiatric nursing from them and a diploma in adult education from Saint Francis Xavier University. She went on to become the first ever black president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Nova Scotia and she founded the Black Community Development Organization and advocated for Cape Breton University to create a nursing degree program.

Finally, we delve into the remarkable achievements of Dr. Charles Lightfoot Roman, a distinguished physician and public health advocate. Dr. Charles Lightfoot Roman was the only known black person to serve with the Canadian General Hospital No. 3 after putting his medical studies aside to support them during the first World War. After the war, he became one of the first black people to graduate from McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Lightfoot Roman published many influential articles that advanced the field of occupational medicine.