Thursday, May 5, 2011

Colombia Needs More Salomon Hakims!

Salomon Hakim, 1922-2011
Salomon Hakim, perhaps Colombia's most renowned researcher, died today at age 88. A descendent of Colombia's tiny Lebanese immigrant community, Hakim studied and worked hard and described a new neurological disease now called NPH - despite being told by a prominent 'expert' that there was nothing new to discover in the field.

Not satisfied, Hakim also invented a valve which became a revolutionary treatment for the condition and which carries his name. His son Carlos now continues his father's work.

Salomon Hakim deserves Colombian's pride and recognition - much moreso than the football stars and pop singers who grab headlines and draw crowds. If Colombia means to grow its economy and its place on the world stage, it needs to give brainpower higher priority than muscular legs and sexy hips.

The World Bank recently reported that between 2003 and '07 Germans patented an average of 10,000 new inventions per year and South Koreans 5,000. Colombians patented 10. Hakim alone filed about two dozen patents.

There's a reason why Korea produced Samsung and Mitsubishi and Germany Bayer and Siemens, and I don't think it's because their people are any smarter than Colombians. But those nations have low levels of corruption and put lots of emphasis on education.

Let's hope that more Salomon Hakims are growing up among us.

Future scientists? Students on a field trip in La Plaza del Chorro. 
Read about Luis Parada, a cancer researcher and member of the U.S. Academy of Science. And another about Manuel Elkin Patarroyo, who has tried to develop synthetic vaccines.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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