In spite of the suffering and pain that they went through, during a time when blacks were legally discriminated against, not given a right to a proper education or professional employment, there were those with the conviction to reach new heights. Though their names are not as popular as many other white inventors, their contributions to the technological and social sphere of life cannot be overlooked. Here are 10 most famous black inventors and their inventions.
1. Elijah McCoy (1844-1929)
Invented: Lubrication Devices
One of the earliest African-American inventors was Elijah McCoy, who in spite of his training as a mechanical engineer from Scotland, invented lubrication devices that smoothened and made train travel more efficient. Unable to find professional employment in his field, McCoy had no choice but to take up a job as firearm and oiler for the Michigan Central Railroad. Here McCoy invented a lubrication cup that would evenly distribute oil on the train’s engine parts allowing it to travel continuously without stopping for maintenance. Apart from this Elijah acquired 60 patents during his lifetime inventing the ironing board, lawn sprinkler and other machines. In 1920, he established the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company for the production of lubricators that bore his name.
2. Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928)
Invented: Water Closet for Railroad Cars
Although we all remember Graham Bell for the telephone and Thomas Edison for the light bulb, most of us are not familiar with the third person who had a significant contribution to both these revolutionary inventions. This person was Lewis Latimer who invented the electric lamp and carbon filament for light bulbs in 1881 and helped Bell draft the patent design for the telephone. In addition to this, Latimer is known for inventing an improved version of the railroad car bathroom and an early version of the air conditioner.
3. Granville Tailor Woods (1856-1910)
Invented: The Trolley Wheel
Often referred to as ‘Black Edison’ (because Thomas Edison bought the patent of the telephone transmitter from him), Granville Woods was an African-American who made multiple inventions through his company which he established to develop electrical apparatus. Woods was responsible for invented an improved steam boiler furnace, other electrical devices, the telephone transmitter, and the ‘Troller’ (later known as trolley wheel) which was basically a grooved wheel that enabled street cars to gather electric power from overhead wires. Woods registered close to 60 patents during his lifetime.
4. Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919)
Invented: Hair products for African-American hair
One of the very first African-American females to acquire the status of a self-made millionaire, Sarah Breedlove, later known as Madame C.J. Walker invented a line a hair-care products specifically for African-American hair type in 1905. The invention was inspired by her own scalp disease that caused massive hair loss. Through her hard work, she soon established Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company and developed and marketed an entire range of hair and beauty products for black women.
5. Garrett Morgan (1877-1963)
Invented: A protective respiratory hood (gas mask)
Inventor and publisher, Garrett Morgan is began his journey as a sewing machine mechanic where he invented a revamped version of it. He also invented a hair straightening chemical product and an improved traffic signal. organ’s most important invention was the breathing device that was heavily used during World War I as a gas mask. He was the first frican-American in Ohio to own an automobile.
6. Frederick McKinley Jones (1892-1961)
Invented: Refrigeration system for long-haul trucks
One of the most prolific black inventors who received more than 60 patents for various inventions was Frederick McKinley Jones. In 1935, Jones invented a roof-mounted cooling device for automatic refrigeration in long-haul trucks: an invention that had a great impact on eliminating the risk of food spoilage in long-distance shipments of perishable items. Apart from this, Jones is also regarded for inventing a self-starting gas engine and devices for movie projectors including silent movie projectors for talking films and a box office that automatically delivered tickets and change. He also developed an air conditioning unit for military on-field hospitals and a refrigerator for military kitchens.
7. David Nelson Crosthwait Jr. (1898-1976)
Invented: Heating system for Radio City Music Hall
Mechanical engineer, inventor and journalist, David Crosthwait made many significant inventions in the field of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) most important of which was his first: designing a heating system for Radio City Music Hall. He had a phenomenal career and held 39 patents in the United States and 80 international patents. His accomplishments won him a medal from National Technological Association, and the first African-American inductee in the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers in 1971.
8. Percy Julian (1899-1975)
Invented: Medicinal Drugs
Most well-regarded as the foremost influential chemist in American history, Percy Julian is famous for synthesizing chemicals of medicinal drugs such as birth control pills, steroids and cortisone. Though he was not permitted to even attend high school, Julian earned himself a Ph.D and research into the corporate and academic spheres that led him to make such inventions that could cure diseases such as arthritis and glaucoma. He received over 130 patents for chemicals during his lifetime.
9. James Edward West (1931- )
Invented: Foil Electret Microphone
Scientist, writer and acoustician, James West made an important invention in 1962 with the electret transducer technology that is today used in 90 per cent of microphones such as telephones, audio recording devices and camcorders. He went on to acquire 250 patents and taught at John Hopkins University.
10. George Robert Carruthers (1939 – )
Known to make the greatest contribution that would ever benefit the space program was George Carruthers’ ultraviolet camera or spectrograph that helped resolve the mysteries of space and the Earth’s atmosphere. It was used by ASA in Apollo flight to the moon. He is a Ph.D in astronautical and aeronautical engineering and his telescope and image converter was used to identify molecular hydrogen in space. Carruthers now teaches at Howard