Black inventors have paved the way for many entrepreneurs and business people alike. This Black History Month, we want to highlight the great work that has been done. Some of these individuals do not get the recognition they deserve and are considered hidden figures. Please enjoy the list we have compiled and remember those that have come before us.
- Marie Van Brittan Brown
Created the first home security system in 1966. This was the first closed-circuit television security system. These are the same systems that keep us safe today. Marie was a nurse who was home alone at odd hours of the day when her husband was working. She felt unsafe at times which lead her and her husband to create the first at home security system. Their system was a camera that could look through four peep holes, all for different height visitors. This camera was connected to a television in her room where she could either let the person in or sound an alarm.
- George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver was a botanist, chemist, scientist, and inventor. He was born into slavery but eventually went on to become one of the most influential scientists of his time. He discovered over 100 different ways that peanuts could be used. These include plastics, gasoline, dyes, and most famous of all, peanut butter. The reason he did so much work with peanuts is because he wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops that had many different uses. Carver also did work with sweet potatoes similar to that with peanuts.
- Charles Richard Drew
Dr. Drew was a physician, surgeon, and searcher who was most well known for doing research on blood transfusions. This research lead to him creating the first large scale Blood Bank. These locations where donors could go to give blood saved thousands of lives during World War II while continuing to save lives today.
- Kenneth J. Dunkley
Kenneth J. Dunkley is most known for his invention of the Three-Dimensional Viewing Glasses. He created these by discovering that by blocking two points in a persons peripheral vision, this will cause an ordinary Two-Dimensional photo to appear as it is Three-Dimensional. He filed a patent in 1986 for his 3 DVG and has also been a pioneer in various visual experiments. His invention is a catalyst in the way we use technology to view movies today.
- Frederick McKinley Jones
Jones was an inventor who created the first portable air-conditioning unit for trucks. He received his patent on July 12th, 1940 for his product that could carry perishable foods for long distances while keeping them fresh. Jones received 61 patents in his lifetime including ticket dispensing machines, portable X-ray machines, and the two-cycle gasoline engine.
- Garrett A. Morgan
Morgan invented a safety hood that would be later known as the gas mask in order to help firefighters who were suffering from the smoke they encountered. His original design had air tubes that dangled below the smoke that rose to the ceiling. He then added a wet sponge to the mask to filter out the pollution from any smoke that did get into the system. He also developed later models that carried their own supply of fresh air that would last the individual wearing the mask about 15 minutes.
Morgan also had another very influential invention on the way we travel. He received a patent for the traffic signal that we use today. His idea of adding a third position other than stop and go reduced the number of accidents that were between pedestrians and automobiles.
- James E. West
West is a professor and inventor who in 1962 created the technology that we use today in over 90 percent of contemporary microphones today. This technology was an inexpensive, compact, highly sensitive microphone that used electric transducers. Today, this technology is used in everyday products such as telephones, hearing aids, and camcorders. Throughout his career he has received over 250 patents for his work on microphones.
- Otis Boykin
Otis Boykin was an inventor who received a patent in 1959 for a resistor that controlled the amount of electricity that flowed into a component. This technology is used in many products including heat seeking missiles, household appliances, and even computers. Amongst all of these contributions, his most important was a version of his resistor that is used in a pacemaker. The pacemaker keeps a heart beating at a normal rate by using electrical pulses. This device has saved millions of lives.
- Lonnie Johnson
Lonnie Johnson is an inventor and a NASA employee who created the SuperSoaker as well as the Nerf line of toys. He has generated over $200 million in retail sales between the two lines. His SuperSoaker line of toys was eventually purchased by Hasbro who is a leader in the toy industry. According to Hasbro, the SuperSoaker line has generated close to $1 billion in sales. It has also been named as one of the world’s top 20 best-selling toys since its release. Lonnie Johnson also holds over 80 patents.
- Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political activists. First millionaire. She created the first line of specialized hair products for African American hair. She had the idea when she lost her own hair from a scalp ailment. Her product was marketed by her traveling around the country giving workshops on how the product worked. She would go on to create Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories to manufacture the products. Walker was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire.