Black American Inventions

Open Heart Surgery, Blood transfusion,which was most important medical advance that saved soldiers’ lives during WWII , refrigerator cooling system,the stop light, Gas mask, the plan for Washington, D.C, Chicago,  folding chair Carbon,

Filament for light bulbs,

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.



Otis Boykin (1920 -1982)

What He Invented: The Artificial Heart Pacemaker Control Unit.

Why It’s Important: Although there were variations to the pacemaker before Boykin’s invention, the modern-day pacemaker would not exist without his work.


Henry Brown

What He Invented: The Modern-Day Fireproof Safe

Why It Is Important: When Henry Brown patented a “receptacle for storing and preserving papers on November 2, 1886″  This was a fire and accident safe container made of forged metal, which could be sealed with a lock and key. Anyone who has ever had important documents stored in a safe and saved in a fire can thank Brown.


Gerald A. Lawson (1940 -2011)

What He Invented: The Modern Home-Video Gaming Console.

Why It’s Important: Anyone who owns a Playstation, Wii or Xbox should know Lawson’s name. He created the first home video-game system that used interchangeable cartridges, offering gamers a chance to play a variety of games and giving video-game makers a way to earn profits by selling individual games, a business model that exists today.



Marc Hannah ( 1956-Present)

What He Invented: 3-D Graphics Technology Used in Films.

Why It’s Important: Anyone awed by the special effects in the films Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 and The Abyss should thank Chicago-native Marc Hannah. The computer scientist is one of the founders, in 1982, of the software firm Silicon Graphics (now SGI), where the special-effects genius developed 3-D graphics technology that would be used in many Hollywood movies


Garrett Morgan (1877-1963)

What He Invented: The Modern-Day Gas Mask.

Why It’s Important:  In 1916, Garrett Morgan made national news by using his gas mask to rescue 32 men trapped during an explosion in an underground tunnel 250 feet beneath Lake Erie. His invention has saved the lives of many firemen, police and soldiers across the world.



Lonnie Johnson (1949-Present)

What He Invented: The Super Soaker

Why It’s Important: The Super Soaker may have been a child’s toy, but it is a great example of an invention with a multimillion-dollar impact. The Super Soaker generated $200 million in annual retail sales and  turned  Mobile, Ala., native into a millionaire. He’s now using his fortune to develop energy technology.


George E. Alcorn (1949-Present)

What He Invented: The Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer

Why It’s Important: The Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer allowed scientists to examine materials that could not be broken down into smaller parts for study, revolutionizing the way NASA was able to conduct research. As a result of the significance of this work, in 1984 he was the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Inventor of the Year. Two years later he also developed an improved method of fabrication using laser drilling.


Percy L. Julian (1899-1975)

What He Invented: The Process Of Synthesis.

Why It’s Important: Synthesis was critical to the medical industry as it allowed scientists to create chemicals that were rare in nature. The chemist’s work led to the birth control pill and improvements in the production of cortisone. In 2007 the PBS Nova series created a documentary on Julian’s life called Forgotten Genius.


Frederick M. Jones (1892-1961)

What He Invented: Mobile Refrigeration

Why It’s Important: His invention allowed the transportation of perishable foods such as produce and meats, which changed eating habits across the country. Thermo King, the company he co-founded, became a leading manufacturer of refrigerated transportation. Jones also developed an air-conditioning unit for military field hospitals and a refrigerator for military field kitchens. Jones was awarded over 60 patents during his lifetime.



George R. Carruthers (1939-Present)

What He Invented: The Ultraviolet Camera Spectrograph.

Why It’s Important: The ultraviolet camera spectrograph was a device that traveled to the moon with Apollo 16 in 1972. The camera designed by this Cincinnati-native enabled researchers to study Earth’s atmosphere, providing crucial information on how the world works.


Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950)

What He Invented: The Blood Bank.

Why It’s Important: His research in the field of blood transfusions led to the development of improved techniques for blood storage. He applied his expert knowledge to the development of  large-scale blood banks early in World War II. His invention allowed medics to save thousands of lives of the Allied forces.

He directed the blood plasma programs of the United States and Great Britain in World War II, but resigned after a ruling that the blood of African-Americans would be segregated.


Alexander Miles (1838-1918)

What He Invented: The Modern-Day Elevator Design.

Why It’s Important: Although Miles may not have invented the first elevator, his design was very important. Alexander Miles improved the method of the opening and closing of elevator doors; and he developed the closing of the elevator shaft when an elevator was not positioned at a floor. Miles created an automatic mechanism that closed access to the shaft.

His patent is still used for most elevators today because they still work under the basic principle of automated opening and closing doors. His life and his invention helped to break down racial barriers in many ways.

Shoemaking machine, Made 400 products from peanut butter, hair growing lotion, hair curler , a method of surgery that has helped many blind people see, Nerf ball, watergun, Coin Changer machine, ironing board, street sweeper, paper puncher, lawn mower, cabinet bed, hot comb, culing iron, (maybe) microphone, pancakes,


James E. West (1931-Present)

What He Invented: The Electroacoustic Transducer Electret Microphone.

Why It’s Important: Without James West, rappers wouldn’t be able to rock the mic. West, along with Gerhard M. Sessler, helped develop the electroacoustic transducer electret microphone, for which they received a patent in 1962. Their invention was acoustically accurate, lightweight and cost effective. Ninety percent of microphones in use today — including those in telephones, tape recorders and camcorders — are based on their original concept.



Jan Matzeliger  (1852-1889)

What He Invented: A Shoe-Lasting Machine.

Why It’s Important: Marzeliger, who was from Suriname, invented a shoe-lasting machine that increased the availability of shoes and decreased the price of footwear. Matzeliger’s shoe-lasting machine increased shoe production tremendously. The result was the employment of more unskilled workers and the proliferation of low-cost, high-quality footwear for people around the world.


Elijah McCoy (1844-1929)

What He Invented: A Railroad Lubrication Machine.

Why It’s Important: McCoy, who was from Canada, invented a lubrication device to make railroad operation more efficient. After studying the inefficiencies inherent in the existing system of oiling axles, McCoy invented a lubricating cup that distributed oil evenly over the engine’s moving parts. He obtained a patent for this invention in 1872, which allowed trains to run continuously for long periods of time without pausing for maintenanc

Dr. Shirley JacksonDr. Shirley Jackson

Marie Van Brittan Brown11

Marie Van Brittan Brown received a patent in 1969, making her the first person to develop a patent for closed- circuit television security. Brown’s system was designed with four peepholes and a motorized camera that could slide up and down to look at each one. Her invention became the framework for the modern closed-circuit television system that is widely used for surveillance, crime prevention and traffic monitoring.


Dr. Patricia Bath is an American ophthalmologist, inventor and academic.  She received a doctorate from Howard University College of Medicine and was also the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. In 1981 she received a patent for the Laserphaco Probe, which is used to treat cataracts. Dr. Bath’s laser probe made cataract surgery faster and more accurate, and she has been credited with saving thousands of people from losing their sight.

Dr. Betty Harris

Betty Harris received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Southern University and a master’s degree in chemistry from Atlanta University and earned a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico.

She worked extensively in the area of explosives and her research in this area led her to obtain a patent for her invention of a spot test for identifying explosives in a field environment. In 1999  she received the New Mexico Governor’s Trailblazer Award for her achievement.

Mary Kenner

Mildred Kenner joined her sister Mary Davidson in patenting many practical inventions. Neither of the sisters had any technical education, but that didn’t stop them from inventing the Sanitary Belt in 1956. Three years later, Kenner invented the mosture-resistant pocket for the belt. While disabled from multiple sclerosis, Kenner went on to invent The Walker and the toilet-tissue holder

Madame C J Walker

Sarah Breedlove,  known commonly as Madam C. J. Walker, was an  entrepreneur, philanthropist and the first self-made millionaire woman of any race in America. Walker made her fortune by developing and marketing a hugely successful line of beauty and hair products for black women under the company she founded, Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Co.

Sarah GoodeSarah Goode was an entrepreneur and inventor, who was the first African-American woman to receive a U.S. patent.  Goode invented a folding cabinet bed which provided people who lived in small spaces to utilize their space efficiently. When the bed was folded up, it looked like a desk. The desk was fully functional, with spaces for storage. She received a patent for it on July 14, 1885.Sarah Boone

Sarah Boone was an African-American inventor who on April 26, 1892, secured U.S. patent rights for her improvements to the ironing board. Boone’s upgrades to the ironing board helped to improve the quality of ironing sleeves and the bodies of women’s garments. The board was narrow, curved, and made of wood. The shape, design and structure made it easy to fit a sleeve and it was reversible, to allow for ironing both sides of the sleeve.

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