Badass Scientist of the Week: Dr. Benjamin Carson

Dr. Benjamin Carson (1951—) is an internationally acclaimed neurosurgeon, author, public speaker and surgical pioneer. He came from humble origins, raised in Detroit by a single mother, Sonya, who worked several jobs to keep her family afloat. Sonya had dropped out of school in third grade, but she was dedicated to helping her two young sons become successful—thanks to her, the unwilling Carson became a voracious reader and rose from the bottom to the top of his class. He attended Yale on a scholarship, where he completed a degree in Psychology, but in medical school his interests switched from psychiatry to neurosurgery—his ability to visualize the brain in three dimensions and his excellent hand-eye coordination made him an ideal surgeon. He soon became the first African American accepted into the residency program at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital. After a time in Perth, Australia, as chief neurosurgical resident at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Carson returned to the US and was named director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins—the youngest doctor ever to receive the honour, at age 33. He still holds this position today. He quickly became renowned as a skilful surgeon who would take on risky or hopeless cases, combining surgical skills and knowledge with new technology. Carson is particularly well known for his work on conjoined twins, and he made medical history in 1987 by separating a pair of Siamese twins joined at the back of the head. He’s also revived a procedure called a hemispherectomy to treat patients who suffer from chronic seizures, developed a method to treat brain-stem tumours, was the first doctor to operate on a fetus in the womb, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Carson currently operates on 300 children a year, and is in high demand as a public speaker—he’s dedicated to helping young people realise than anything is possible, no matter who you are.