Black History Month: Otis Boykin

Hilah Kohen

The television set you gazed at last night, the radio you heard on your way to school, and even the device on which you’re reading these words could not have been created without the innovative work of Otis Boykin. Boykin was born in 1920 in Dallas, Texas. After he graduated from Fisk College in 1941, the young engineer worked in multiple technology companies. He soon founded his own company with Dr. Hal F. Fruth and began making breakthroughs in the just-emerging field of electronic devices. In 1959, Boykin received his first patent for an electrical resistor that could be adjusted to apply certain levels of resistance. Two years later, Boykin improved the device’s ability to withstand extreme pressures and physical impacts. This new resistor was unusually effective and inexpensive to produce, and it was soon caught the attention of the U.S. military and electronics companies like IBM. Boykin continued to create new electronic components until the very end of his life. His best-known invention was a control unit used in pacemakers, which deliver a steady beat of electrical impulses to the heart. Unfortunately, the inventor himself died of heart failure in 1982.