The notion that brilliant minds are born only into privileged households is a fallacy…that has been debunked time and again throughout history. The story of humanity is replete with examples of individuals who overcame financial or societal obstacles to become game-changers in their respective fields. The adage “education is the great equalizer” has been used countless times, and for good reason. The transformative power of education is not only a modern-day belief, but it is something that people have been advocating for centuries.
There are also modern-day examples of individuals who have overcome financial obstacles to make significant contributions to society.
Perhaps one of the most inspiring examples of someone who overcame the odds to become one of the most influential people in history is Nelson Mandela. Born into a poor family in South Africa, Mandela was denied an education as a child because of the color of his skin. Despite this, he was determined to educate himself and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and then a law degree through correspondence courses while he was imprisoned on Robben Island. Through his education and leadership, he helped end apartheid and became the first black president of South Africa.
Another example of someone who defied the odds to become a major figure in history is Abraham Lincoln. Born into poverty in Kentucky, Lincoln had only one year of formal education. Despite this, he was an avid reader and taught himself law, eventually becoming a lawyer and serving as the 16th President of the United States. His education and hard work helped him to overcome the challenges he faced early in life and become one of the most influential leaders in American history.
The story of Frederick Douglass is another remarkable example of someone who overcame the barriers of slavery and illiteracy to become one of the most important figures of the abolitionist movement. Born into slavery, Douglass taught himself to read and write, eventually escaping to freedom and dedicating his life to fighting for the rights of slaves and promoting education for all. Douglass believed that education was the key to freedom and famously said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
However, access to education continues to be a major issue around the world, especially in developing countries. According to UNESCO, there are over 260 million children who are not enrolled in school, and over 750 million adults who are illiterate. The lack of access to education perpetuates poverty and limits the potential of millions of people around the world.
To address this issue, governments and non-profit organizations around the world are working to increase access to education for all. The United Nations has set a goal of ensuring that all children have access to quality education by 2030, and initiatives such as the Global Partnership for Education and the Malala Fund are working to make this goal a reality.
People like Mandela, Lincoln, Douglass, and Curie are a testament to the power of education and how the power of education and mentorship is undeniable. For centuries, individuals with the right education or mentor have achieved remarkable feats, overcoming great obstacles to accomplish incredible things. However, despite the many advancements made in education in recent years, many people still do not have access to the resources they need to unlock their full potential. This is particularly true when it comes to science and medicine, where groundbreaking discoveries and treatments are often the result of years of study and experimentation.
The question remains: what if the cure for cancer were stuck in the mind of someone who couldn’t afford an education?
To understand the true impact of education and mentorship, it is helpful to look at the lives of some of history’s most accomplished scientists and medical professionals. Take, for example, Marie Curie, who is credited with discovering radioactivity. Born in Poland in 1867, Curie faced a number of obstacles throughout her life, including discrimination against women in academia and the sciences. However, she persevered, earning degrees in both physics and mathematics before going on to make some of the most important discoveries in the history of science.
Another example is Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin in 1928. Fleming was born in Scotland in 1881 and faced a number of challenges throughout his life, including poverty and the loss of his father at a young age. Despite these obstacles, he went on to study medicine and eventually made the groundbreaking discovery that would go on to save millions of lives.
These are just two examples of individuals who were able to achieve great things through education and mentorship. But they are far from the only ones. In fact, a quick look at history reveals countless other stories of individuals who overcame great odds to make incredible contributions to science and medicine.
One such individual is Rosalind Franklin, who played a key role in the discovery of the structure of DNA. Born in England in 1920, Franklin faced discrimination throughout her career due to her gender. However, she persevered, earning a PhD in physical chemistry and going on to work on some of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century.
Another notable figure is James Watson, who, along with Francis Crick, is credited with discovering the double helix structure of DNA. Watson was born in the United States in 1928 and went on to earn a PhD in zoology before making the groundbreaking discovery that would revolutionize the field of genetics.
Note that access to education and mentorship has not always been equal throughout history. In many cases, individuals who were born into privilege or who had access to resources that others did not were able to achieve great things while others with just as much potential were left behind.
Despite these challenges, however, it is clear that education and mentorship can make a profound difference in the lives of individuals who are passionate about science and medicine. By providing access to the resources and support they need, we can help ensure that the next great breakthrough in the fight against cancer or any other disease comes from the mind of someone who would otherwise have been left behind.
- “Marie Curie – Biographical”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2021. Accessed March 13, 2023. https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1903/marie-curie/biographical/
- “Alexander Fleming – Biographical”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2021. Accessed March 13, 2023. https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/1945/fleming/biographical/