Too often I hear the uneducated proclaim “Black-people never invented anything! They never contributed ANYTHING to society or to THE WORLD!”
Since I have to explain things very simply for those people (in it’s most elementary form for them to understand) here is a SHORT list (they don’t have a very long attention span) of JUST 30 Black Inventors. There are PLENTY MORE out there—all of them with diverse backgrounds! Knowledge is Everything! Enjoy!

                             30 Black Inventors!

1. Elijay McCoy: Invented an oil-dripping cup for trains!


2. Lewis Latimer: Invented the carbon-filament for light-bulbs!


3. Garret Morgan: Invented the three-position traffic signal and the gas-mask!


4. Otis Boykin:  Invented an electronic control devices for guided missiles, IBM computers, and the pacemaker!


5. Dr. Patricia. E. Bath: Discovered and invented a new device and technique for cataract eye-surgery, known as Laserphaco!


6.Lonnie G. Johnson: Invented the world-famous watergun—the Supersoaker!


7.George Alcorn: Invented the Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer!


8. Benjamin Banneker: Invented the first striking clock!


9. Charles Richard Drew: Invented the first blood bank!


10. Frederick McKinley Jones: Invented portable air-cooling units for trucks carrying perishable goods!


11. Alfred L. Cralle: Invented the Ice Cream Scoop!


12. Alexander Miles: Invented an Electric Elevator Door!


13. George Carruthers: Invented the first Image Converter for Detecting Electromagnetic Radiation!


14. David Crosthwait: Invented Heating and Cooling Installations!


15. Henry Blair: Invented the Cotton Planter!


16. Benjamin Bradley: Invented the first working Steam-Engine for war ships!


17. Charles Brooks: Invented the Street-Sweeper!


18. John Lee Love: Invented the Portable Pencil Sharpener!


19. Bessie Blount Griffin: Invented the Electronic Feeding Tube!


20. Donald Cotton: Invented Propellants for Nuclear Reactors!


21. Rondal Demon: Invented the ‘Smart-Shoe’, whose cushion support automatically adjusts to the wearers foot!


22. Meredith C. Gourdine: Invented Electrogasdynamics Systems!


23. Norbert Rillieux: Invented the Sugar Processing Evaporator!


24. Henry Sampson: Invented a Gamma-Electrical Cell!


25. Jerry Shelby: Invented an Engine Protection System for Recoverable Rocket Boosters!


26. Rufus Stokes: Invented an Air Exhaust Purifier!


27. Joseph Winters: Invented the Fire Escape Latter!


28. Granville T. Woods: Invented the Auto Cut-Off Switch!


29. George Sampson: Invented the Dryer Machine!


30.Sarah Goode: Invented the Folding Cabinet bed!



(Black) Women’s History Month Challenge - Past/Present Common Links 6/31

Marie Van Brittan Brown + Janet Emerson Bashen

Common Link: Inventors with awarded patents

(Past) Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the closed-circuit television security system, which would birth the present-day home security market. The patent was granted in 1969. 

(Present) Janet Emerson Bashen was awarded a patent for her software invention and became the first African-American woman to receive a patent for a web-based EEO software invention, LinkLine. LinkLine, is a web-based application for EEO claims intake and tracking, claims management, document management and numerous reports. Bashen will soon release AAPLink, a web-based software for building affirmative action plans.

During the month of March, I will take it upon myself to published daily women who made history and women who are making history. I won’t offer explanations unless the woman is less known, which then I will put links or attempt to explain why I link them.

Here’s some news from Africa that will be of interest to all of the people waiting in line for gas to use in their generators after Hurricane Sandy.

Four teenage girls figured out a way to use a liter of urine as fuel to get six hours of electricity from their generator. Fourteen-year-olds Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, and Faleke Oluwatoyin, and 15-year-old Bello Eniola displayed their invention this week at Maker Faire Africa in Lagos, Nigeria, an annual event meant to showcase ingenuity.

Here’s how the urine-powered generator works, as explained by the blog on the makerfaireafrica.com website:

• Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen.

• The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, and then into a gas cylinder, which looks similar to the kind used for outdoor barbecue grills.

• The gas cylinder pushes the filtered hydrogen into another cylinder that contains liquid borax, in order to remove moisture from the gas. Borax is a natural mineral, commonly used in laundry detergent.

• The hydrogen is pushed into a power generator in the final step of the process.

A big drawback is that hydrogen poses an explosion risk. But the girls used one-way valves throughout the device as a safety measure.


Elias Howe, b. July 9 1819, patented the first practical sewing machine in 1846. Though he wasn’t the first to have the idea, his “lock stitch” machine was the first to be mass produced. Unfortunately, Howe’s machine didn’t sell very well, and it wasn’t until a guy named Singer (and another named Wilson) infringed on his patent and improved upon his design that the sewing machine really caught on.

Images above from a 1867 Howe step-feed sewing machine catalog.
We have plenty more sewing machine catalogs in our trade literature collection.


A replica of Leonardo Da Vinci’s mechanical lion.  Da Vinci build the lion for the King of France in 1515.


No Trains Required to Ride the Rails

It’s a fact of life: not everyone can afford a private train. Even if we could, the diesel bills and traffic jams would be horrendous. But that doesn’t mean the world’s railroad tracks have to be reserved for dictators, millionaires, and “big train.”

From bamboo carts, to bicycles, to VW camper vans, almost every vehicle imaginable has been modified to ride the rails at some point.  

We’ve rounded up the finest non-trains that ride the rails, over on Atlas Obscura…

3 reasons why we need more female inventors


During a visit to the Philippines, Ann Makosinski saw a problem she couldn’t ignore.

Self-described as half-Filipino and half-Polish—or “in other words, a fully blooded Canadian”— the teen befriended another young girl in the village where her mother’s family lives. The girls kept up correspondence when Ann returned to her home in Victoria, British Columbia. Later, she was surprised to learn that her new friend failed an entire grade at school. She told Makosinski that after doing chores at home, it was too dark to study because she didn’t have any electricity in her village.

Makosinski wanted to help. She quickly realized that solar cells would be unreliable as a source of energy on cloudy days, but the constantly warm human body gave her an idea. “We are described as 100-watt walking lightbulbs,” she said in a TEDx talk. Ann set out to harness that human energy. Her invention, a flashlight that runs with the heat of your hand, won in her age group at the 2013 Google Science Fair when she was 15 years old. The flashlight uses Peltier tiles, which produce a small electric current when one side is heated and the other side cooled. The palm of your hand provides the heat on the outside of the light and the hollow-core design allows ambient air to cool the other side.

The project wasn’t easy. “It started off with me being very frustrated because I’m not an electrical engineer,” she said. But she turned to the Internet to figure it out. “That is a great resource… use the Internet, you guys.”

[Read more]


Beach Wagon Innovation

Tuning in the whitehouse Maker Faire today?  We have makers here at the National Archives too - presenting Helen Beach and her eponymous “Beach Wagon”:

Helen Beach was an archivist in the General Records Division, and she was frustrated with trying to manage double-shelved records with the carts then available. So she came up with her own design. Her suggestion was forwarded to the carpenter shop, where the design was refined.

From November 1946 to June of 1947, the proposal was sent around to various divisions for comment. On June 9, approval was granted for its construction. At the end of October, the prototype was built and delivered for testing. By July of 1948, various units had tried it out and submitted their impressions of the “Beach Wagon” (as it came to be called), and Assistant Archivist Robert H. Bahmer approved a $25 cash award for her idea.  And the story even made the papers!

Great ideas really are timeless. The staff at Archives I still use Miss Beach’s “wagon” to this day! When we support our innovators, great things are bound to happen.

This post comes via Alan Walker, archivist at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

Images from: 
Record Group 64, A1 155, Case Files for Employee Suggestions, 1944-1949. Case File 147-S4. National Archives Identifier: 7541348;
Record Group 64, P 75 “Press Releases, 1935-1964″;
Other photos by Marie Maxwell, National Archives.

via Inside Innovation » Trying Out the Beach Wagon

So, what brilliant ideas have you come up with lately?


Self-Feeding Device for Amputees

Bessie Virginia Blount lead a remarkable life that began in Hickory, Virginia, where she was born on November 24, 1914. She would go on to make significant breakthroughs in assistive technologies and forensic science, becoming a role model for women and African Americans for her pioneering work.

Young Blount moved from Virginia to New Jersey to attend Panzar College of Physical Education and later, Union Junior College. It was her goal to become a physical therapist. She completed her studies in Chicago.

She became a practicing physical therapist, and, after World War II ended, many soldiers returned from the frontlines as amputees. As part of her physical therapy work, Blount taught veterans who did not have use of their hands and feet new ways to perform basic tasks. One major challenge for people in this condition is eating. It was important to many of them to be able to feed themselves to gain a feeling of independence and self-esteem.

Blount came up with a device that that consisted of a tube that delivered individual bites of food to the patient at his or her own pace. All he or she needed to do was bite down on the tube for the next morsel to be delivered to the mouthpiece. An attached machine would deliver the next mouthful on cue. Later, while living in Newark, New Jersey, practicing physical therapy, and teaching at Bronx Hospital in New York, she also created a simpler device that employed a neck brace with built-in support for a food receptacle such as a bowl, cup or dish. For this, she received a patent under her married name, Bessie Griffin, in 1951.

Blount reportedly attempted to interest the American Veteran’s Association in these inventions, but she found it difficult to get much support, despite the devices’ potential benefit to thousands of people’s lives. She even appeared on a television show called “The Big Idea” where she demonstrated her ideas in 1953 (she was the first woman and the first African American to appear on the program). Instead, she found support in the French government, to whom she eventually donated rights to both her inventions. She was quoted as saying that she had proven “that a black woman can invent something for the benefit of humankind.”

Meanwhile, Blount cultivated a reputation among the inventor community: Among her closest friends was Theodore M. Edison, son of Thomas Alva Edison, with whom she discussed many ideas and projects. She continued to innovate, creating among other things a disposable cardboard emesis basin. This she fashioned by molding and baking a mixture made of flour, water, and newspaper. Once again, the American Veteran’s Administration Hospital was disinterested; she sold the idea to Belgium, which still uses a variation of her design in its hospitals nationwide.

A second career was in store for Blount in 1969, when she began working in law enforcement, conducting forensic science research for police departments in New Jersey and Virginia. She moved up quickly, and in 1977 was sent to train and work at Scotland Yard in England. Again, she was the first African American woman to be honored with such an opportunity. Next, she is said to have applied for a job with the FBI, but was turned down. Thus she began operating her own business, using her forensic training to examine pre-civil war documents and so-called “slave” papers. She operated the business until the age of 83.


Dr. Shirley Jackson is an American physicist.  She received her Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973, becoming the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT in nuclear physics. Currently, Jackson is the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

In addition to her academic achievements, she also has an impressive list of inventions to her credit. Her experiments with theoretical physics are responsible for many telecommunications developments, including the touch-tone telephone, the portable fax, caller ID, call waiting and the fiber-optic cable.