James Forten invented a device which made it easier to
handle the large heavy sails of the big ships that sialed the seas before the
days of the steamship. As a boy he loved to go down to the docks along the
Delaware River and watch the ships maneuver up to the pier to unload their
cargo. He noticed how important the expert handling of the sails was in guiding
the ships. At the age of eight he began working in a Philadelphia sail loft with
his father, and some thirty years later bought the sailmaking shop from the
owner. During this time he not only invented and perfected his device, but also
learned all about the sailmaking business. Due partly to his invention, his sail
loft became one of the most proposerous in the city.
Up in Lynn, Massachusetts, near Boston, people in the shoe
business laughed at 25-year-old Jan Ernst Matzeliger when a word got out that
this former saiolr was secretly working on a machine that could automatically
make shoes, back in the 1870's. After all, the best brains in the shoe business
had invested thousands of dollars trying to develop such a machine, and they had
failed. "Couldn't be done," they said, as they continued to make only 40 to 50
pair of shoes per day, by hand. Finally, Jam, who was good at mechanical things
decided he had developed the kind of machine needed--a machine that could make
thousands of pairs of shoes in a day. In 1883, over ten years after he had
started developing his shoe machine, Matzeliger was granted a patent on it.
Patents for over 35 electrical inventions were granted
Granville T. Woods, of Columbus, Ohio. Many of this electrical engineer's
inventions were said to General Electric, Westinghouse, and the Bell Telephone
Companyies. While Woods, who was born in Columbus, Ohio, April 23, 1856,
invented more than a dozen devices to improve electric railway cars, and many
more for controlling the flow of electricity, his most noted invention was a
system for letting the engineer of a train know how close his train was to
others. This device helped to cut down accidents and collisions between trains.
Among his other top inventions were a steam boiler furnace and ab automatic air
brake used to slow or stop trains.
An engineer, Norbert Rillieux patented a sugar-refining
process in 1864 which revolutionized this industry. Son of a slave mother and of
the master of the plantation where he was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in
1806, Rillieux was educated in France. He also taught school there at the age of
24 ears. The sugar-refining process he developed greatly reduced the cost of
producing good sugar from sugar cane and from the sugar beet. He also published
papers on the uses of steam and on the steam engine. In 1854, because of
discriminatio in Louisiana, he left that state for goo, returning to France
where he again turned to engineering inventions.
Andrew Beard was born a slave on a plantation in Alabama.
Before he became an inventor he was a farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, a railroad
worker, and a businessman. In 1892 he patented his first invention, a special
kind of engine. It was while working in the railroad yards that he got his idea
for a device which would automatically hool railroad cars together. This device
was patented in 1897, and became known as the "Jenny Coupler." It eliminated the
dangerous job of hooking railroad cars together by hand, and probably saved
thousands of lives and limbs of railroad workers. He improved this device in
1899, and later received $50,000 for its patent rights.
Son of a runaway slave, Lewis Howard Latimer bacame an
electrical engineer who worked for Thomas A. Edison, inventor of the light bulb,
and Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone. Many of Latimer's ideas,
including the fine carbon wire which lights up, went into Edison's light bulb.
Latimer was the only African American, and one of the original 28 persons who
formed the "Edison Pioneers," a group dedicated to keeping alive Edison's
ideals. The Edison General Electric Company, for which Latimer worked, in 1892,
merged with a second firm and the new company became the present General
Electric Company. Latimer was also a noted patent expert, draftsman, author,
poet and musician.
A love of machines and tools led to a lifetime career and
the awarding of 57 patents to Elijah Mc Coy, son of former slaves who had fled
frm Kentucky to Canada in search of freedom. Until Mc Coy developed a device
which made possible the automatic oiling of machinery used in manufacturing,
companies using such machines had to stop the machines before oiling them.
Oiling of machinery reduces the wear and tear of friction. So popular did Mc
Coy's invention become that person inspecting new equipment generally asked if
it contained the "real Mc Coy," meaning Mc Coy's oiling device. Today, "real Mc
Coy" is an expression is in the American language meaning the "real thing.' In
all, Mc Coy invented 23 oiling devices as well as many other useful inventions.
He finally set up his own manufacturing company to develop and sell his many
Garrett A. Morgan was a prize-winning inventor who
developed a safety helmet breathing device widely used by firemen in many
American cities in the early 1900's. His invention became popular after he and
his brother used it to rescue over two dozen men who were trapped under Lake
Erie, at Cleveland, Ohio, when an explosion occurred in a tunnel which was under
construction. He was awarded a hold medal by the City of Cleveland for his
heroic rescue. He later received a gold medal at the Second International
Exposition of Safety and Sanitation, in New York, in 1914. Morgan is best
remembered for his invention of the automatic stop sign. This invention, now
called the traffic or "stop light" controls the flow of vehicles through street
Probably the best known African American scientist and
inventor is George Washington Carver, who alone, nearly revolutionized
agriculture in the South. At a time when the South's major crop-cotton-was faced
with total destruction by the boll weevel beetle, Dr. Carver, through scientific
experiments showed the South that peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes (yams),
among other crops, should be planted, along with cotton. Thus, if on crop
failed, there would be others from which farmers could make money. Known as "The
Wizard of Tuskegee," Dr. carver developed hundreds of products from the peanut,
the soybean, the pecan nut, the sweet potato, and even the weeds. Today, there
are many schools and other institutions named in memory of Dr. Carver.
H.C. Webb invented a machine which cleared away palmettos,
an unwanted kind of growth found in the farm fields of the southeastern region
of the United States. The device looked something like a three-wheeled plow, and
was pulled by a thirty-horsepower engine. It helped farmers to clear away as
much unwanted groth in one day as it normally took ten men 10 days to clear
away-about ten acres. The Webb Palmetto Grubbing Machine was patented in 1917.
Webb also invented a barrel stave machine and a special kind of drill press but
lost the rights to them because he did not have them patented. But, during this
period, hundreds of other African American inventors developed labor-saving
devices for which they did not receive government patents.
Founder of a hospital whci still exists in Chicago,
medical physician Dr, Daniel H. Williams is credited with having performed the
first "open-heart" surgery July 9, 1893, long before this knid of surgery was
developed. Dr. Williams saved the life of a knofing victim by "sewing up his
heart." Working in a makeshift operating room too small for the six-man
operating team which helped him, he opened the patient's chest, exposed the
beating heart, and stitched the knife wound a fraction of an inch from the heart
without the aid of X-rays, blood transfusions or modern "miracle drugs." On
August 2, Dr. Williams operated again to remove some fluid from the chest
cavity. On August 30, the patient walked out of the hospital, and was known to
be alive and well 20 years later.
The first African American member of the American society
of Refrigeration Engineers, Frederick M. Jones held over 60 patents in a variety
of fields, 40 of them in refrigeration equioment. In 1912, he built a sound
system in a movie theater, and was then hired by a manufacturer of movie sound
systems. In 1939, he designed the first working truck refrigerator system, which
was patented in 1942. Today, such refrigerators carry fresh meats and some
vegetables across the country. Among his other inventions was the first portable
X-ray machine, a self-starting gasoline motor, and the standard refrigerator
design for all Army and Marine field kitchens. Many of the devices that deliver
tickets and spill out change at movie box offices are Jone's creations.
Carles H. Turner, who obtained a Ph.D. degree from the
University of Chicago in 1907, was noted for his knowledge of ants and bees. He
originated a way of watching and recording the habits of insects and small
animals, the way they act toward one another, and the way they reacted to things
that happened to them. A type of behavior in insects is now calles "Turner's
circling" after his detailed description. Through forty-seven research papers
which he published between 1892 and 1923, he showed how humans were a lot like
animals and insects, and helped the world better understand why man acts the way
Before her invention, African American women had to
straighten their hair by placing the hair on a flat surface and then pressing it
with a clothing iron. After her invention was introduced, Sarah Breedlove
Walker, who was known as Madame C.J. Walker, became one of the first American
women of any race to become a millionaire through her own efforts. Madame Walker
invented a hair softener and a special hair-straightening comb. Before her death
in 1919, Madame Walker could count over 2,000 agents who sold her ever-growing
line of Walker products and demonstrated the "Walker System" of treating hair.
Her efforts laid the fooundation for the cosmetics industry among African
An outstanding research biologist, Dr. Ernest E. Just
devoted a lifetime of study and function of the cell(cytology), the smallest
unit of the body. His studies included how eggs are fertilized, how babies are
born, and how the cells of animals function. In 1915, he won the Spingarn Medal,
the highest award given by the NAACP to the person having done the most during
the year to advance the process of African Ameericann people. He wrote two major
books and more than sixty scientific papers in his field. His book, The Biologu
of the Cell Surface, which was used in many colleges, represented his lifetime
of research, and was published in 1939, just two years before he died.
A physician and surgeon, Dr. Louis T. Wright originated a
method of operating on fractures about the knee joint, a brace for fractures of
the spine, and a vaccination against smallpox, and supervised the first test of
a miracle drug(aureomycin) on humans. He also advanced a new theory on the
treatment of skull fractures and engaged in early cancer research. Graduating
with highest honors from the Harvard Medical School in 1915, he was commissioned
a 1st Lieutenant in the Medical Section of the Officers Reserve Corps in 1917,
and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army during World War I.
In 191, he became the first African American to be appointed to a New York City
Municipal Hospital(Harlem Hospital) wherer he helped lower the death rate and
increase the professional standards.
A specialist in the study and development of medicines to
fight diseases, Dr. William A. Hinton is best known for the Hinton-Davies test
used to detect the venereal disease, syphilis. In 1936, he wrote a text book on
his studies, and became recognized as one of the worlds foremost authorities on
the diagnosis and treatment of syphilis. Only three years after getting his
doctor's degree from Harvard Medical School in 1912, he was made an instructor
in preventive medicine and hygiene at his fortune university. It is said that he
could have made a fortune in private practice, but he chose to serve humanity by
working in the field of public health.
Finding a remedy for arthiritis led to fame and fortune
for Dr. Percy Julian, a noted chemical scientist. But, more important was the
fact that his discovery made the medicine for this painful disease available to
everyone at a much more reasonable price. Dr. Jui=lian developed a way of making
the medicine from the inexpensive American soybean instead of from the costly
ingredient found in certain parts of animals and produced in Europe. At one
time, he was president of two companies which he formed to produce this
medicine. He later sold one of the companied to a leading medicine-making
(pharmaceutical) firm for several million dollars.
Dr. Theodore K. Lawless was a skin specialist
(dermatologist) who became a millionaire form his studies, practice adn
development of medicines. He also contributed to the better understanding of
syphilis, a venereal disease; and leprosy, a disease which wastes away the
muscles of the body. Setting up his ofices in the heart of Chicago's Black
community, he established one of the largest and best known skin clinics in the
city. For many years, men and women and children, both balack and white, crowded
his waiting room from morning until night. But he still found time to teach at
Northwestern University, work with the staff of Chicago's Provident Hospital,
and share his knowledge with other doctors. In 1954, he was awarded th NAACP's
head of his own manufacturing firm in New Jersy, Meredtih
Gourdine, an engineering scientist , found a way to make high-voltage
electricity from gas. He and the other engineers in his company believe there
are many uses for this discovery in our everyday life. Some of them are:
refrigeration for preserving foods, supplying cheap power for heat and light in
homes, burning coal more efficiently, making sea water drinkable by taking the
salt out of it, making painting and coating processes easier, and reducing the
amount of pollutants in smoke. His company has already made an exhaust purifying
device for automobiles, devices for measuring air pollution, and generators for
A mathematician, physicist and engineer, J. Ernest WIlkins, Jr. contributed his skills mainly to the study and development of atomic power. As a teenager, Wilkins attracted nationwide attention when he finished college at 17, earned a masters degree on year later, and received his doctorate degree from the University of Chicago at the age of 19. For a time, he taught college mathemataics, and later worked in the University of Chicago's mettalurgical laboratory. As a relatively young man of 23, he was supplying the mathematical formulas for the production of special space-probing telescopes. By the time he was 27 he was part-owner of a firm which designed and developed nuclear reactors for creating atomic power.,br>
People who have breathing problems may, in the future,
give credit to Rufus Stokes for helping to ease their problem. In 1968, Mr.
Stokes was granted a patent on an air purification device which reduced the
gases and ashes in smoke to a non-dangerous and invisible level. This not only
helps people, but also improves the health of plants and animals as well as
improving the appearance and durability of buildings, cars and other things
exposed to the air. After building and successfully testing several models of
his machine, Mr. Stokes, in 1973, constructed a small domestic model and a large
mobile model to show that his invention could be used in many ways.
An electronic scientist and inventor, Otis Boykin devised
the control unit in artificial heart stimulators, invented a variable resistor
device used in many guided missiles, small components such as thick-film
resistors used in IBM computers, and many other devices including a burgular-proof
cah register and a chemical air filter. Starting as an assistant in a
laaboratory testing airplane automatic controls, Boykin was soon developing a
type of resistor now used in many computers, radios, television sets and other
electronically controlled devices. Many products made from his discoveries are
manufactured in Paris and throughout Western Europe. One of his products was
approved for use in military hardware for the Common Market.
As a Colonel and surgeon in the Air Force, Dr. Marchbanks
designed a gas mask testing device, and discovered a method of measuring fatigue
in pilots who had been involved in aircraft accidents. He also did important
research in the control of noise in carious types of airplanes. Before the first
U.S. space shot (Project Mercury) he was appointed project head physician, and
was responsible for determining teh effects of space flight on man, and for
collecting medical information on the astronauts before, during and after their
flight. In the 1960's as chief of environmental health services with United
Aircraft Corporation, he assisted in the designing of space suits and monitoring
systems for the Apollo moon shot.
As a materials research engineer for the Air FOrce, John
Christian developed and patented a variety of revolutionary lubricants that
saved pilots' lives in combat and contributed to the success of the astronaut's
mission on the moon. The lubricants, resembling cake frosting more than oil,
could withstand temperatures ranging from minus 50 to 600 degrees. In Vietnam,
when the helicopters' oil lines were punctured by ground fire, the "soap"
lubricants enabled them toe return to their base. They were also used in the
astronaut's back-pack life support systems, without which there could have been
no moon landing, and were used in the four-wheel drive of the "moon-buggy"
making it possible to extend their moon exploration by 36 hours.
Astro-physicist Dr. George Carruthers was the principal
scientist responsible for the development of a special camera that made the trip
to the moon aboard the Apollo 16 in 1972. Called the "far-ultra-violet camera/spectograph,"
the 50-pound, gol-plated unit was designed to study the earth's upper atmosphere
and other interplanetary conditions. More than 200 frames of pictures were made
of eleven selected targets. In 1973, another model of the camera was made for
the Skylab 4 to take pictures of a comet speeding toward the sun. Carruthers was
interested in science as a child and built his own telescope at the age of ten.
From the age of 25, he made significant contributions to the field of electronic
imaging and space astronomy.
A scientist and educator, Dr. Charles Buggs, of Brunswick,
Georgia, conducted special research on why some bacteria (germs) do not react to
certain medicines. In several articles, he presented his ideas on penicillin and
skin grafting, and the value of chemicals in treating bone fractures. In 1944,
he contributed some of the results of his research to the world through 12
studies he helped to write. Three years later he wrote an important article on
how to use ger-killing chemicals (antibiotics) to prevent and cure certain
diseases. he also taught college biology, and made studies and suggestions on
premedical education for African Americans. Dr. Buggs' research and teaching
contributed to a better understanding of health and of the human body.
The storing of human blood until it is needed to save someone's life was the major contribution of Dr. Charles Drew to science and medicine. He researched the nature of human blood and created what has become known as "blood banks," places where blood is kept in a special form (plasma) until needed by injured patients. In 1940, during World War II, the British asked Dr. Drew to establish a blood bank program for their country. After the war, he was appointed the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank, supplying plasma to the United States armed forces. He also bacme recognized as an outstanding surgeon, teacher and public servant, and in 1944 was awarded the Spingarn Medal.
|I am originally from Florida's Treasure Coast.
I have a Masters Degree in Human Relations from the
University of Oklahoma and a Bachelor of Science Degree in
Criminal Justice with a minor in Military Science from Troy State
Thank God for "Family and Friends."
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