9 Black Inventors Who’ve Revolutionized Your Everyday Life

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For ages, Black people have been innovative. It’s in their DNA. Black people have developed countless innovations employing the tenacity found throughout our past, from making light shine to constructing more efficient procedures and various technologies that have revolutionized our way of life.

In the past, persistent injustice, a lack of representation, and pure brilliance have all combined to inspire the creation of things that did not exist before. Additionally, there have been occasions when our work has not received the required credit or acknowledgment. The current scarcity of Black innovators holding patents is the outcome of this systemic racism. History remembers some inventors who transformed our lives altogether despite setbacks and erasure.

Mark Dean 

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Mark Dean co-invented a microcomputer system with bus control mechanisms for peripheral processing devices with Dennis Moeller, another NIHF Inductee. This bus is the system’s foundation because it enables the computer to connect to peripherals like printers, displays, keyboards, and other devices. Known as the Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) extension bus, this technology is currently included in most computers.

In addition to being an emeritus professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Dean holds more than 40 patents.

Lewis Latimer

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Hall of Famer Lewis Latimer started as a self-taught draftsman after serving in the Union Navy during the Civil War. He created the designs for Alexander Graham Bell’s initial telephone patent application, which was granted to the NIHF Inductee. Then, in the 1880s, while employed by the United States Electric Lighting Co., he developed a process for making a more resilient carbon filament.

This invention helped customers find more practical and economical incandescent lighting and contributed to the nationwide widespread adoption of incandescent lightbulbs.

Valerie Thomas

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NASA employed Valerie Thomas, an African American scientist and inventor. She is credited with creating the illusion transmitter, which projects two concave mirrors outside each other to produce three-dimensional pictures. In 1980, Thomas received patent protection for her innovation, which has been used in various settings, including television and surgery.

Thomas worked for NASA for more than 30 years, having started in 1964. She contributed to creating the Landsat program, which uses satellite photography to study the Earth’s surface. In addition, she worked on the project team that created the first satellite to take pictures of the polar ice caps. Thomas paved the way for minority and female participation in science and engineering, and her achievements have influenced the area. Though she left NASA in 1995, her contributions motivate scientists and inventors today.

Frederick McKinley Jones

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Frederick Jones, an NIHF Inductee, transformed how food and other perishables are distributed by creating the first viable transportable refrigeration system. Fresh food could now be transported throughout the nation in trucks, train wagons, ships, and airplanes thanks to this compact, four-cylinder engine-powered device.

Jones established Thermo King Corp. with Joseph Numero, a business partner, to manufacture his transportable refrigeration technology. In 1991, he became the inaugural African American to win the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Thomas L. Jennings

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Thomas L. Jennings, the first African American to receive a U.S. patent, was a merchant and tailored in New York City when he developed the “dry-scouring” method for dry-cleaning delicate garments. After applying for a patent in 1820, Jennings was granted his historic patent the following year.

The former slave gave to abolitionist causes and purportedly liberated his enslaved family members with the money he made from his invention.

Alice H. Parker

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Natural gas was initially used to heat homes with Alice H. Parker’s central heating furnace concept, which was patented in December 1919.

The limited effectiveness of fireplaces (as well as the smoke and ash they create) during the chilly winters at her Morristown, New Jersey, home served as the impetus for her invention. Her innovation was a predecessor to the forced air heating system still used in many modern homes.

Marie van Brittan Brown

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Marie Van Brittan Brown, a resident of New York City, developed an early iteration of the contemporary home security system. The full-time nurse installed a motorized camera to record her house doorway and show images onto a TV monitor because she felt uncomfortable because of the high crime rate in her neighborhood.

Her arrangement also contained a panic button to alert authorities to any possible emergency and a two-way microphone so she could speak with guests without opening the door. Brown applied for a patent in 1966 for the closed-circuit TV security system, and in December 1969, she was granted one.

Alexander Miles

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Alexander Miles is credited with creating automatic doors in the stair alternative for everyone who has used a contemporary elevator. Before the patent for his concept was granted in 1867, passengers had to open physically and close two sets of doors to enter and depart elevator carriages.

Subsequent elevator users ran the danger of suffering a possibly lethal fall down the elevator shaft if a passenger failed to close one of the doors. Because necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, Miles devised a device that made both elevator doors close simultaneously, averting potentially disastrous situations.

Garrett Morgan

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Garrett Morgan was a well-known Black inventor who gave his family financial stability with an early sewing machine patent. The native of Kentucky cared for other people’s well-being as well. His 1914 invention of a “safety hood,” a breathing apparatus that screened out dangerous substances, served as the model for the gas mask used during World War I.

In addition, he added a warning light to the traffic signal, making it more advanced than what is already seen on roadways.

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