It may fascinate people to learn how interdependent inventions truly are, how inventions evolve over time, and how inventors build upon each other’s work. It is often the “improved” version of an invention which is the most important and not the first.

Just a note 

To anyone considering similar research just a word of caution. Because some one received a patent does not mean that the patented item was actually made or manufactured.  For instance, the first patent for a typewriter was issued in the late 18th century but was never manufactured.  It also does not mean that it was the only patent for that type of device.  For example W.B. Purvis obtained a patent for a fountain pen as did a dozen or more people both before and after him.  Inventors by their very nature improve on one another’s finds until the developed designs become the items or goods that we take for granted today.  Garret Morgan was paid a substantial sum of money for the patent for his traffic signal that was used extensively in Canada and the USA but it was not the traffic lights that we know today. It was a manually operated mechanical traffic signal using arms and levers. There are numerous examples on Black History internet sites of half truths which if quoted as fact could invite ridicule rather than respect.  We don’t need such claims anyway.  Black people have achieved many great things over historical time and one of the main contributing factors for their efforts being obscured is, more often than not, they do not have African names.

Early Black Inventors

What we know about early black inventors comes mostly from the work of Henry Baker. He was an assistant patent examiner at the U.S. Patent Office who was dedicated to uncovering and publicizing the contributions of Black inventors.

Around 1900, the Patent Office conducted a survey to gather information about black inventors and their inventions. Letters were sent to patent attorneys, company presidents, newspaper editors, and prominent African Americans. Henry Baker recorded the replies and followed-up on leads. Baker’s research also provided the information used to select Black inventions exhibited at the Cotton Centennial in New Orleans, the World’s Fair in Chicago, and the Southern Exposition in Atlanta. By the time of his death, Henry Baker had compiled four massive volumes.

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists

University of Cambridge Researchers Shaping the Future

Andrew Beard invented plows and the Jenny Coupler that hooks railway carriages together

Henry Blair invented seed planters

John Albert Burr improved the mechanism of the hand push lawnmower to stop grass clogging up the blades

Dr. George Carruthers Principle scientist that developed the Apollo 16 Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph.

John B. Christian For example some of John’s greases were used as a replacement to the more viscous oils that leaked from shot-out helicopter fuel lines, saving countless U.S. military lives in the Vietnam War.

David Crosthwait Air conditioning pioneer.Some of his greatest accomplishments were for creating the heating systems for the Rockefeller Center and New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

Philip Emeagwali There’s quite a bit controversy around Philip Emeagwali and people dispute some of his claims about what he has achieved, but there’s no disputing that he received the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize for an application of the CM-2 massively-parallel computer.

Meredith Gourdine was an African-American physicist and engineer, became an expert in electrogasdynamics and developed commercial uses for the technology, first, as an employee at a research-and-development firm and later as head of two companies. During his career he received more than 30 patents.

Frederick Gregory was not only a test pilot – he tested the cockpit of the Space shuttle.  He has also made a new model of the Space Shuttle’s cockpit.

Frederick McKinley Jones designed the first practical portable refrigeration system in the world, the design was patented in 1942.

Dr Ben O Latigo

Lewis Howard Latimer The very first electric light bulb was invented by Thomas Edison.  But Edison’s bulb had serious problems.  It burned out quickly and was easily damaged.  Lewis Latimer, a Black American, invented the first long life bulb.  Latimer patented it in 1881.  Later Edison asked Latimer to join the team of inventors known as “The Edison Pioneers.”

Jan Matzeliger invented the first machine that could make an entire shoe. 

William B Purvis invented the fountain pen.

Elijah McCoy designed the “Drip Cup“, which lubricated the machine while moving.

Garrett Augustus Morgan invented the Smoke Hood to protect rescuers such as firemen from smoke in their eyes and provide cleaner air. Main invention was Traffic Signal system.

Dr Lloyd Quarterman worked with scientists like Einstein in the production of the atomic bomb in WWII.

William Northover designed glass fibre that can carry information over 10 miles.

Norbert Rilleux invented the multiple-effect evaporation systems to refine sugar.

John Lewis Temple “The Temple Toggle” in 1926 was described as, “The most important single invention in the whole history of whaling.”

Granville Wood To the world, he was known as the “Black Thomas Edison,” and his numerous inventions and improvements to existing technology seem to support that characterisation.

James West‘s research in the early 1960s led to the development of foil-eclectic transducers for sound recording and voice communication that are used in 90% of all microphones built today and at the heart of most new telephones being manufactured.