african american inventor

Janet Emerson Bashen

In January 2006, Ms. Bashen became the first African American female to hold a patent for a software invention. The patented software, LinkLine, is a web-based application for EEO claims intake and tracking, claims management, document management and numerous reports. Bashen will soon release the federal sector counterpart, EEOFedSoft, MD715Link and the web-based AAPSoft for building Affirmative Action Plans.

Janet Emerson Bashen was issued U.S. patent #6,985,922 on January 10 2006, for a “Method, Apparatus and System for Processing Compliance Actions over a Wide Area Network.”

USS George Washington Carver (SSBN 656), named after the African-American scientist, pioneer, and inventor. She served from 1966 to 1993, and underwent 73 patrols until 1991. (NavSource)

This month, we are highlighting #Navy ships named after heroic #AfricanAmericans throughout American history, both in the military and in civilian life. #blackhistorymonth #navalhistory #history

Marie Van Brittan Brown

While home security systems today are more advanced than ever, back in 1966 the idea for a home surveillance device seemed almost unthinkable. That was the year famous African-American inventor Marie Van Brittan Brown, and her partner Albert Brown, applied for an invention patent for a closed-circuit television security system – the forerunner to the modern home security system.

Brown’s system had a set of four peep holes and a camera that could slide up and down to look out each one. Anything the camera picked up would appear on a monitor. An additional feature of Brown’s invention was that a person also could unlock a door with a remote control.

A female black inventor far ahead of her time, Marie Van Brittan Brown created an invention that was the first in a long string of home-security inventions that continue to flood the market today.


Garret Morgan is a black inventor whose inventions continue to save millions of lives all over the world.



#repost  @businessinsider

In honor of #BlackHistoryMonth, we’re celebrating these African-American inventors who improved the world. Alexander Miles, Charles Richard Drew, Marie Van Brittan Brown, Shirley Ann Jackson, and Mark E. Dean are just a few notable black inventors. We live in a world with blood banks, automated elevators, caller ID, and color computer monitors because of their work.

#blackhistory #blackhistorymonth2017 #blackhistoryfacts #blackhistorymatters #inventions #science #health #technology #innovation

Black Inventors Day 4

Valerie Thomas - is an African-American scientist and inventor. She invented the illusion transmitter, for which she received a patent in 1980.

Thomas was interested in science as a child, learning at the age of 8 about electronics after reading The Boys First Book on Electronics. She wanted her father to help her work on projects involving electronics, but he failed to do so. She went to an all-girls school where she did not receive any training in the sciences. Implicit stereotypes contributed to this, as the girls school did not teach the students about math or science, so she had to educate herself about those subjects. Thomas would go on to attend Morgan State University, and was one of two women in majoring in physics.

From 1964 to 1995, Thomas worked in a variety of capacities for NASA where she developed real-time computer data systems, conducted large-scale experiments and managed various operations, projects and facilities. While managing a project for NASA’s image processing systems, Thomas’ team spearheaded the development of “Landsat,” the first satellite to send images from space.

In 1976, Thomas learned how concave mirrors can be set up to create the illusion of a 3-dimensional object. She believed this would be revolutionary if technology could be harnessed to transmit this illusion. With an eye to the future, Valerie Thomas began experimenting on an illusion transmitter in 1977. In 1980, she patented it. In operation, concave mirrors are set up on both ends of the transmission. The net effect of this is an optical illusion of a 3-dimensional image that looks real on the receiving end. This brilliant innovation placed Thomas among the most prominent black inventors of the 20th century.

Valerie Thomas continued working for NASA until 1995 when she retired. In addition to her work with the Illusion Transmitter she designed programs to research Halley’s comet and ozone holes. She received numerous awards for her service, including the GSFC Award of Merit and the NASA Equal Opportunity Medal. In her career, she showed that the magic of fascination can often lead to concrete scientific applications for real-world problem-solving.

NASA continues to use her technology and is exploring ways to use it in surgical tools and possibly television and video.

(Did you ever think of what it might be like if your television could project the on-screen image directly into your living room as a 3-Dimensional image? Maybe not, but if it happens, you’ll have African-American inventor Valerie Thomas to thank for it.)

Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. (March 4, 1877 - August 27, 1963) was an African American inventor who originated a respiratory protective hood (similar to the modern gas masks), credited with being the inventor of a type of traffic signal, and invented a hair-straightening preparation. He is renowned for a heroic rescue in which he used his hood to save workers trapped in a tunnel system filled with fumes. He is credited as the first African-American in Cleveland to own an automobile.


May 2nd 1844: Elijah McCoy born

On this day in 1844, the inventor Elijah McCoy was born in Ontario, Canada. McCoy’s parents were fugitive slaves from Kentucky who made their escape via the Underground Railroad. When he was three years old, the family returned to the United States and settled in Michigan. McCoy showed an early aptitude for mechanics, and was apprenticed to Scotland when he was fifteen, earning certification as a mechanical engineer. Despite his prodigious talents, McCoy struggled to find work in the face of racial discrimination, and ended taking a job as an oilman on the railroad. While working on trains he began designing inventions, and in 1872 invented a lubricating cup designed to distribute oil evenly over train engines. McCoy patented this design, which allowed trains to run for long periods of time without having to make maintenance stops. He continued to invent, ultimately receiving nearly sixty patents, which included an ironing board and lawn sprinkler.  Other inventors attempted to mimic his machines, but companies demanded ‘the real McCoy’, thus coining the famous phrase. McCoy’s name did not appear on many of his products, but in 1920 he formed a manufacturing company bearing his name. In 1922, McCoy and his wife were in a car accident, killing his wife and critically injuring him. Having never fully recovered from his wounds, Elijah McCoy died in 1929 aged eighty-five, and remains one of the most accomplished black inventors in American history.

It is unclear exactly what year John Standard the great African American inventor, was born, however it is clear that he lived in Newark, New Jersey, and received a patent on July 14, 1891 for his refrigerator design.

John Standard did not invent the very first refrigerator, however, every patent represents something that has not be done before and most utility patents are issued for what is called an “improvement.” patent. Improvements are the work of inventors and often it is the improved design that succeeds the original.

In his patent for the refrigerator John Standard declared, “this invention relates to improvements in refrigerators; and it consists of certain novel arrangements and combinations of parts.” He was the first to design a refrigerator that had two part in one, with a freezer on the top and a cooler on the bottom. That configuration is the “Standard” for most of the refrigerators sold around the world still today.

John Standard was saying that he had found a way to improve the design of refrigerators. A non-electrical and unpowered design, Standard’s refrigerator made in 1891 used a manually-filled ice chamber for chilling.

John Standard was also received U.S. patent #413,689 on October 29 1889 for an improved oil stove. John Standard’s oil stove was a space-saving design that he suggested could be used for buffet style meals on trains.

Dr. Shirley Jackson

Telecommunications Inventions

Dr. Shirley Jackson, a theoretical physicist and famous black inventor, has been credited with making many advances in science. She first developed an interest in science and mathematics during her childhood and conducted experiments and studies, such as those on the eating habits of honeybees. She followed this interest to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she received a bachelors, masters, and doctoral degree, all in the field of physics. In doing so she became the first African-American woman to acquire a Ph.D. from MIT.

Jackson started to conduct successful experiments in theoretical physics and then started to use her knowledge in physics to start making advances in telecommunications while working at Bell Laboratories. These inventions include developments in the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cell, and the fiber optic cables used to provide clarity in overseas telephone calls. She has also helped make possible Caller ID and Call Waiting.

Currently, Jackson is the president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, recently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s top 50 universities. The mission of the Rensselaer Plan calls for “apply[ing] science to the common purposes of life.” Dr. Jackson’s goal for Rensselaer is “to achieve prominence in the 21st century as a top-tier world-class technological research university, with global reach and global impact.”

Lewis Latimer (1848 – 1928)

What He Invented: The Carbon Filament For The Light Bulb.

Why It’s Important: Latimer is one of the greatest inventors of all time. Thomas Edison may have invented the electric lightbulb, but Latimer helped make it a common feature in American households. In 1881 he received a patent for inventing a method of producing carbon filaments, which made the bulbs longer-lasting, more efficient and cheaper.

In 1876, he worked with Alexander Graham Bell to draft the drawings required for the patent of Bell’s telephone.


St Elmo Brady

Getting a PHD is no easy task, but getting one in Chemistry is even more daunting. Now imagine you are an African American in 1916. Well that is when St Elmo Brady earned his PHD in Chemistry at the University of Illinois. He was the first African American to do so. He was also the first African American to be admitted to Phi Lambda Upsilon, Chemistry Honors society in 1914 and in 1915 was inducted into Sigma Xi. He was born 1884 in Louisville, Kentucky. He decided to delve into science and attended the University of Nashville in Tennessee. He earned a Bachelor of Science in 1908. Upon graduation he accepted a position at Tuskegee University known earlier as Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. He studied at the University of Illinois with an interest in Chemistry in 1912. He earned a Masters degree in 1914 and later a Doctorate in 1916. Brady found his niche in Organic acids. He took a position as a teacher in the chemistry department of Howard University. He also taught at Tugaloo College. At the University of Illinois; Brady started a training program for teaching faculty from all colleges. This program focused on infrared Spectroscopy which recognizes a variety of components in compounds. Brady published several articles and abstracts in Science from 1914 to 1915. He also published, as collaboration with collaborated with Professor George Beal,“The Hydrochloride Method for the Determination of Alkaloids.” in Journal of Industrial Engineering Chemistry .Brady retired from a teaching career in 1952. He was a gift to the world of Chemistry. How fitting is it that St Elmo Brady passed away on December 25th, Christmas day, 1966.

Dr. Herbert Smitherman was a pioneering executive and professional chemist at Proctor & Gamble who led the way for other African-Americans at the prestigious company in the 1960s. He was the first black person with a doctorate hired at Proctor & Gamble. 
With a Ph.D in physical organic chemistry, Dr. Smitherman developed a number of incredibly popular patents, including Crest toothpaste, Safeguard soap, Bounce fabric softeners, Biz, Folgers Coffee and Crush soda, to name a few. Not only are they still on the shelves, but many of them are on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center in the featured exhibit, “America I AM: The African-American Imprint.”
Nicknamed the “Jackie Robinson of Proctor & Gamble,” Dr. Smitherman spent 29 years there before turning in his labcoat to work as a professor at Wilberforce University. But after serving at the historically black college, Smitherman turned his attention to starting a high school called the Western Hills Design Technology School to help black students perform better in math and science. 
A child of the south, Dr. Smitherman’s family lived in Birmingham, Alabama, where his father served as a reverend. A young Smitherman would see his father’s church burn down twice during their push for voting registration and voting rights. 

He died this year on Oct. 9.

Dr. Smitherman’s legacy was left in his association with HBCUs, specifically his alma mater, Tuskegee Institute, where he met his wife of 51 years; Howard University, where he got his PH.D, and Wilberforce University, where he enlightened many students on his world of historical innovation. 

John Henry Thompson

Computer Programming and Software Inventions

Even in high school, John Henry Thompson was interested in computer programming languages. He taught himself several programming languages such as FORTRAN, PLI, COBOL and JCL while working in a New York research facility. Thompson’s goal was to absorb as much knowledge as possible so he could invent his own computer language.

After graduating from High School, he attended MIT where he obtained a degree in Computer Science and a minor in Visual Arts. By combining these two seemingly disparate disciplines, Thompson wanted to bridge the gap between art and technology. Four years later as a chief scientist at Macromedia™, he was able to make progress towards this goal. He developed a number of products, many of them based on his most famous invention, Lingo programming: a scripting language that helps render visuals in computer programs. Thompson used Lingo in one of his better-known computer inventions, Macromedia™ Director. Macromedia™ Director is able to incorporate different graphic formats (such as BMP, AVI, JPEG, QuickTime, PNG, RealVideo and vector graphics) to create multi-media content and applications, thus combining computer programming language with visual art.

Lingo is now used with many programs that have interactive simulations with graphics, animation, sound, and video. Along with Macromedia™ Director, Thompson has helped develop MediaMaker, Actions, VideoWorks Accelerator, and Video Works II. Lingo has also been used to create flash and shockwave programs that now are prevalent in video games, web design, animation, and graphics.