The story of how George Washington Carver invented peanut butter is very familiar to many. Others know the story of Madam C. J. Walker, inventor of beauty products, and the first woman to become a self- made millionaire in America.
African Americans and other black inventor have contributed to various industries over the decades. This Black History month, X102.3 is highlighting the things we share from the contributions of black inventors.
Dr. Shirley Jackson
Dr. Shirley Jackson was the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate in nuclear physics at MIT. Her experiments with theoretical physics paved the way for numerous developments in the telecommunication space including the touch-tone telephone, the portable fax, caller ID, call waiting, and the fiber-optic cable.
Inventor and engineer Lewis Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on September 4, 1848. He collaborated with science greats Hiram Maxim and Thomas Edison. One of Lewis Latimer’s greatest inventions was the carbon filament, a vital component of the light bulb. His inventions didn’t stop there, working with Alexander Graham Bell, Latimer helped draft the patent for Bell’s design of the telephone. This genius also designed an improved railroad car bathroom and an early air conditioning unit. So the next time you’re escaping a hot day inside your cool house, don’t forget to thank Lewis Latimer.
Marie Van Brittan Brown
Marie Van Brittan Brown, a full-time nurse, recognized the security threats to her home and devised a system that would alert her of strangers at her door and contact relevant authorities as quickly as possible.
Her original invention consisted of peepholes, a camera, monitors, and a two-way microphone. The final addition was an alarm button that would immediately contact the police if pressed. Her patent laid the groundwork for the modern closed-circuit television system that is widely used for surveillance, home security systems, push-button alarm triggers, crime prevention, and traffic monitoring.
Otis Boykin’s most notable contribution to science was likely the circuit improvements he made to pacemakers after losing his mother to heart failure, a contribution that has saved countless lives since. This single improvement was among a long list of achievements. Boykin had 26 patents in his name, is credited with developing of IBM computers, burglarproof cash register, chemical air filters, and an electronic resistor used in controlled missiles and other devices.
Lonnie G. Johnson
You ever enjoy water gun fights as a kid? Well, meet Lonnie Johnson, the man that gave us the most famous water gun — the Super Soaker. Lonnie wasn’t a toymaker, he was actually an Aerospace Engineer for NASA with a resume boasting a stint with the US Air Force, work on the Galileo Jupiter probe and Mars Observer project, and more than 40 patents. Yes, he is also working on the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter (JTEC) which converts heat directly into electricity — but it’s the squirt gun he created that has given us all the most joy.
Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Thanks to Charles Drew, that blood is available. Drew was a physician, surgeon, and medical researcher who worked with a team at Red Cross on groundbreaking discoveries around blood transfusions. In World War II, he played a major role in developing the first large-scale blood banks and blood plasma programs. He also invented blood mobiles refrigerated trucks designed to transport stored blood.
Marian R. Croak
Croak holds over 135 patents, primarily in voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP), some in other areas. She has another 100 patents currently under review. Today, Marian is an SVP at AT&T, serves as a mentor for women in AT&T labs, and sits on the board for the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Center.
If you ever enjoyed an animated Gif on the web, like this one amazing clip of a kitten scared by an iguana, then you have Lisa Gelobter to thank.