Famous African American inventors of the 19th and early 20th centuries (2023)

Tomas Jennings, born in 1791, is believed to be the first African-American inventor to receive a patent for an invention. He was 30 years old when he obtained a patent for a dry cleaning process. Jennings was a free trader who operated a dry cleaners in New York City. His income came primarily from his activities as a 19th-century American black activist. In 1831, he became undersecretary of the First Annual Convention of Colored People in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Slaves were prohibited from receiving patents for their inventions. Although free African American inventors could legally receive patents, most did not. Some feared that the recognition, and most likely the prejudice that would come with it, would destroy their livelihoods.

African American inventors

George Washington Murray was a teacher, farmer, and United States Congressman from South Carolina from 1893 to 1897. From his seat in the House of Representatives, Murray was in a unique position to highlight the achievements of a newly emancipated people. Speaking on behalf of proposed legislation for a Cotton States Exhibition to showcase the technological process of the South since the Civil War, Murray called for a separate space to be set aside to display some of the achievements of South African Americans. He explained the reasons why they should attend regional and national exhibitions, saying:

“Mr. President, the people of color in this country want an opportunity to show that progress, that civilization that is now admired throughout the world, that civilization that now leads the world, that civilization that all the nations of the world admire and imitate. - people of color, I say, want a chance to show that they, too, are an integral part of this great civilization." Hehe proceeded to read the names and inventions of 92 African-American inventors from the Congressional Record.

baker henry

What we know about early African American innovators comes primarily from the work ofbaker henry. He was an Assistant Patent Examiner at the United States Patent Office, dedicated to discovering and publicizing the contributions of African-American inventors.

Around 1900, the Patent Office conducted a survey to collect information about these inventors and their inventions. Letters were sent to patent attorneys, company presidents, newspaper editors, and prominent African-Americans. Henry Baker recorded the answers and followed the clues. Baker's research also provided the information used to select the inventions displayed at the Cotton Centennial in New Orleans, the World's Fair in Chicago and the Southern Exposition in Atlanta.

At the time of his death, Henry Baker had compiled four massive volumes.

First African American woman to patent

Judy W. Reed may not have known how to spell her name, but she patented a manual kneading and kneading machine. She's probably the first African-American woman to get a patent.Sara E. Goodeshe is believed to be the second African-American woman to have been granted a patent.

breed identification

henry blairhe was the only person identified in the Patent Office records as "a colored man". Blair was the second African-American inventor to issue a patent. Blair was born in Montgomery County, Maryland, about 1807. He received apatenton October 14, 1834, for a seed drill, and a patent in 1836 for a cotton drill.

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lewis latimer

Lewis Howard Latimerwas born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1848. He enlisted in the Union Navy at age 15, and upon completion of his military service, he returned to Massachusetts and was employed by a patent attorney, where he began to study writing. His talent for drawing and his creative genius led him to invent a method of making carbon filaments for the Maxim electric incandescent light bulb. In 1881 he supervised the installation of electric lights in New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, and London. Latimer was the original cartoonist for Thomas Edison, and as such was the primary witness in Edison's infringement proceedings. Latimer had many interests. He was a designer, engineer, author, poet, musician, and at the same time a dedicated family man and philanthropist.

Granville T. Woods

Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1856,Granville T. Woodshe dedicated his life to developing a variety of inventions related to the railway industry. He was known to some as the "black Edison." Woods invented more than a dozen devices to improve electric cars and many more to control the flow of electricity. His most notable invention was a system for the train driver to know how close his train was to others. This device helped reduce accidents and collisions between trains. Alexander Graham Bell's company bought Woods' telegraphy rights, allowing him to become a full-time inventor. Among his other important inventions are a steam boiler furnace and an automatic air brake used to slow or stop trains. Wood's electric car was powered by overhead wires. It was the third rail system to keep cars going.

The success led to lawsuits filed by Thomas Edison. Woods ended up winning, but Edison didn't give up easily when he wanted something. Trying to win over Woods and his inventions, Edison offered Woods a senior position in the engineering department of the Edison Electric Light Company in New York. Woods, preferring independence from him, refused.

Jorge Washington Carver

"When you can do the ordinary things of life in an unusual way, you will get the world's attention." --Jorge Washington Carver.

"He could have added fortune to fame, but, caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being useful to the world." George Washington Carver's epitaph sums up a lifetime of groundbreaking discoveries. A slave at birth, freed as a child, and curious throughout his life, Carver profoundly affected the lives of people across the country. He successfully shifted Southern agriculture from risky cotton, which depletes soil nutrients, to nitrate-producing crops like peanuts, peas, sweet potatoes, walnuts and soybeans. Farmers began rotating cotton crops one year and peanuts the next.

Carver spent her early childhood with a German couple who encouraged her early education and interest in plants. He received his first education from him in Missouri and Kansas. He was accepted to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, in 1877, and in 1891 transferred to Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University), where he received a Bachelor of Science in 1894 and a Master of Science in 1897. That year, Booker T Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute, convinced Carver to serve as the school's director of agriculture. From his lab in Tuskegee, Carver has developed 325 different uses for peanuts - until then considered an inferior hog feed - and 118 products from sweet potatoes. Other Carver innovations include synthetic marble from sawdust, plastics from wood chips, and writing paper from wisteria vines.

Carver only patented three of his many discoveries. "God gave them to me," he said, "how can I sell them to someone else?" After his death, Carver contributed from his savings to establish a research institute in Tuskegee. His birthplace was declared a national monument in 1953 and he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990.

Elias McCoy

So you want the "real McCoy"? That means he wants the "real thing," what he knows to be of the highest quality, not some inferior imitation. The saying may refer to a famous African-American inventor namedElias McCoy. He won more than 50 patents, but the most famous was for a metal or glass cup that fed oil to bearings through a small tube. Machinists and engineers who wanted genuine McCoy lubricators may have coined the term "the real McCoy."

McCoy was born in Ontario, Canada in 1843, the son of former slaves who fled from Kentucky. Educated in Scotland, he returned to the United States to take up a position in his field of mechanical engineering. The only job available to him was as a firefighter/locomotive tanker for the Michigan Central Railroad. Due to his training, he was able to identify and resolve engine lubrication and overheating problems. Rail and shipping lines began using McCoy's new lubricators, and Michigan Central promoted him to instructor in the use of his new inventions.

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McCoy later moved to Detroit, where he became a consultant to the railroad industry on patent matters. Unfortunately, success eluded McCoy and he died in an infirmary after suffering a financial, mental and physical collapse.

Jan Matzeliger

Jan Matzeligerwas born in Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana, in 1852. He immigrated to the United States at age 18 and went to work in a shoe factory in Philadelphia. The shoes were then made by hand, a slow and tedious process. Matzeliger helped revolutionize the shoe industry by developing a machine that bonded the sole to the shoe in one minute.

Matzeliger's "shoe length" machine fits the leather upper of the shoe snugly over the mold, places the leather under the sole and secures it in place with nails, while the sole is sewn to the upper of leather.

Matzeliger died poor, but his shares in the machine were quite valuable. He left it to his friends and to First Church of Christ in Lynn, Massachusetts.

garret morgan

garret morganwas born in Paris, Kentucky, in 1877. As an autodidact, he made an explosive entry into the field of technology. He invented a gas inhaler when he, his brother, and some volunteers were rescuing a group of men trapped in an explosion in a smoke-filled tunnel under Lake Erie. Although this rescue earned Morgan a gold medal from the City of Cleveland and the Second International Exposition on Safety and Sanitation in New York, he was unable to market his gas inhaler due to racial bias. However, the US Army used his device as a gas mask for combat troops during World War I. Today, firefighters can save lives because, by wearing a similar breathing device, they can enter burning buildings without being harmed by smoke or gases.

Morgan used his fame as a gas inhaler to sell his patented flag-type traffic signal to the General Electric Company for use at street junctions to control traffic flow.

lady walker

Sarah Breedlove McWilliams Walker, better known aslady walker, WithMarjorie Jonerimproved the hair care and cosmetics industry in the early 20th century.

Madame Walker was born in 1867 in a poor rural area of ​​Louisiana. Walker was the daughter of former slaves, she was orphaned at 7 and widowed at 20. After the death of her husband, the young widow immigrated to St. Louis. Louis, Missouri, in search of a better life for himself and his child. She supplemented her income as a laundress by selling her homemade beauty products door to door. Eventually, Walker's products formed the basis of a thriving national corporation that eventually employed more than 3,000 people. The Ella Walker System, which included a wide range of cosmetics, licensed Walker Agents, and Walker Schools, provided thousands of African-American women with meaningful employment and personal growth. Madame Walker's aggressive marketing strategy, combined with a relentless ambition of hers, led to her being labeled the first known African-American woman to become a millionaire.

An employee of Madame Walker's empire, Marjorie Joyner, invented a permanent wave machine. This device, patented in 1928, curled or "perfected" women's hair for a relatively long period of time. The wave machine was popular with black and white women, allowing for longer-lasting wavy hairstyles. Joyner became a leading figure in Madame Walker's industry, although she never directly benefited from her invention, as it was owned by the Walker Company.

(Video) 19th Century Black Discoveries

patricia bathroom

Dr. Patricia BañosA passionate dedication to the treatment and prevention of blindness led her to develop the Cataract Laserphaco probe. The probe, patented in 1988, was designed to use the power of a laser to quickly and painlessly vaporize cataracts from patients' eyes, replacing the more common method of using a drill-like device to remove the conditions. With another invention, Bath was able to restore sight to blind people for more than 30 years. Bath also holds patents for her invention in Japan, Canada and Europe.

Patricia Bath graduated from Howard University School of Medicine in 1968 and completed specialized training in ophthalmology and corneal transplantation at New York University and Columbia University. In 1975, Bath became the first African-American female surgeon at UCLA Medical Center and the first woman to serve on the faculty of the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA. She is the founder and first president of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. Patricia Bath was elected to the Hunter College Hall of Fame in 1988 and was elected a Howard University Pioneer in Academic Medicine in 1993.

Charles Drew - The Blood Bank

Carlos DrewA native of Washington, DC, he excelled in academics and sports during his graduate studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts. He was also an honorary student at the McGill University School of Medicine in Montreal, where he specialized in physiological anatomy. It was during his work at Columbia University in New York that he made his discoveries relating to the preservation of blood. By separating liquid red blood cells from quasi-solid plasma and freezing them separately, he discovered that blood could be preserved and then reconstituted. The British Army used this process extensively during World War II, establishing mobile blood banks to aid in the treatment of wounded soldiers on the front lines. After the war, Drew was named the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank. He received the Spingarn Medal in 1944 for his contributions. He died at age 46 from injuries sustained in a car accident in North Carolina.

Percy Julian - Synthesis of cortisone and physostigmine

percy juliansynthesized physostigmine for the treatment of glaucoma and cortisone for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. It is also known for a foam that extinguishes gasoline and oil fires. Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Julian had little education because Montgomery offered limited public education for African-Americans. However, he entered DePauw University as a "freshman" and graduated in 1920 as valedictorian. He later taught chemistry at Fisk University and, in 1923, earned an M.A. from Harvard University. In 1931 Julian received his Ph.D. from the University of Vienna.

Julian returned to DePauw University, where his reputation was established in 1935 by synthesizing physostigmine from calabar beans. Julian became a research director for the Glidden Company, a manufacturer of paints and varnishes. He developed a process to isolate and prepare soy protein, which could be used to coat and size paper, create cold-water inks, and size fabric. During World War II, Julian used a soy protein to make AeroFoam, which puts out gasoline and oil fires.

Julian was best known for his synthesis of cortisone from soybeans, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. His synthesis reduced the price of cortisone. Percy Julian was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990.

Meredith Groudine

Dr. Meredith Groudine was born in New Jersey in 1929 and grew up on the streets of Harlem and Brooklyn. He attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and received a Ph.D. in engineering sciences from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Groudine built a multi-billion dollar corporation based on his ideas in the field of electrodynamics (EGD). Using EGD principles, Groudine successfully converted natural gas into electricity for daily use. EGD applications include refrigeration, seawater desalination, and reduction of pollutants in smoke. He holds more than 40 patents for various inventions. In 1964, he served on the President's Panel on Energy.

Henry Green Park Jr.

The aroma of sausage and junk cooking in the kitchens of America's East Coast made it a little easier for the kids to wake up in the morning. With hurried steps to the breakfast table, families enjoy the fruits of Henry Green ParksJr's diligence and hard work. He founded Parks Sausage Company in 1951 using distinctive and flavorful Southern recipes that he developed for sausages and other products.

Parks has registered several trademarks, but the child-voiced TV and radio commercial demanding "More Parks sausages, Mom" ​​is probably the most famous. After consumer complaints about the young man's perceived disrespect, Parks added the word "please" to his tagline.

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The company, with modest beginnings in an abandoned dairy in Baltimore, Maryland, and two employees, has grown into a multi-million dollar operation with more than 240 employees and annual sales of more than $14 million. Black Enterprise continually quoted H.G. Parks, Inc., as one of the top 100 African-American companies in the country.

Parks sold his interest in the company for $1.58 million in 1977, but remained on the board of directors until 1980. He also served on the corporate boards of Magnavox, First Penn Corp., Warner Lambert Co., and served on the board of administration of Goucher College in Baltimore. He died on April 14, 1989, at age 72.

dean brand

Mark Dean and his co-inventor, Dennis Moeller, created a microcomputer system with bus control means to process peripheral devices. His invention paved the way for the growth of the information technology industry, allowing us to connect peripherals such as disk drives, video equipment, speakers, and scanners to our computers. Dean was born in Jefferson City, Tennessee, on March 2, 1957. He received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, his MSEE from Florida Atlantic University, and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Early in his IBM career, Dean was a senior engineer working on IBM personal computers. The IBM PS/2 70 and 80 models and color graphics adapter are among his early work. He owns three of IBM's nine original PC patents.

As vice president of performance for the RS/6000 division, Dean was named to IBM in 1996 and in 1997 received the Black Engineer of the Year President award. Dean holds more than 20 patents and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1997.

James West

dr.James WestHe is a fellow at Bell Laboratories at Lucent Technologies, where he specializes in electroacoustics, physics, and architectural acoustics. His research in the early 1960s led to the development of electret reed transducers for sound recording and voice communication that are used in 90% of all microphones built today and at the heart of most telephones. new ones being manufactured.

West holds 47 US and more than 200 foreign patents on microphones and techniques for fabricating polymer sheet electrets. He is the author of more than 100 articles and has contributed to books on acoustics, solid state physics, and materials science. West has received numerous awards, including the 1998 Golden Torch Award, sponsored by the National Society of Black Engineers, the 1989 Lewis Howard Latimer Light Switch and Socket Award, and was named New Jersey Inventor of the Year in 1995.

Dennis Weatherby

While working for Procter & Gamble, Dennis Weatherby developed and received a patent for the automatic dishwashing detergent known by the trade name Cascade. He received his Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton in 1984. Cascade is a registered trademark of the Procter & Gamble Company.

franco crossley

Frank Crossley, Ph.D., is a pioneer in the field of titanium metallurgy. He began his metalwork at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago after earning a BS in metallurgical engineering. In the 1950s, few African Americans were visible in engineering fields, but Crossley excelled in his field. He received seven patents, five on titanium-based alloys that greatly improved the aerospace and aircraft industry.

Miguel Molar

Originally from Haiti, Michel Molaire became a Research Associate in Eastman Kodak's Office Imaging Research and Development Group. He can thank you for some of his most precious Kodak moments.

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Molaire received his BS in Chemistry, MS in Chemical Engineering, and MBA from the University of Rochester. He has been with Kodak since 1974. After receiving more than 20 patents, Molaire was inducted into Eastman Kodak's Gallery of Distinguished Inventors in 1994.

Valeria Thomas

In addition to a long and distinguished career at NASA, Valerie Thomas is also an inventor and patent holder for an illusion transmitter. Thomas' invention transmits a three-dimensional image in real time by wire or electromagnetic means: NASA adopted the technology. She has received numerous awards from NASA, including the Goddard Space Flight Center Award of Merit and the NASA Equal Opportunity Medal.


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