For many African-Americans and Africans across the world the idea of being a business owner, entrepreneur or inventor is something we’ve always dreamed of. Learning about George Washington Carver invention of peanut butter and Madam C. J. Walker inventor of beauty products who became a self-made millionaire in America. However, there are so many other great Black inventors that go unnoticed. Here are 10 Black inventors you probably haven’t heard about.
1. Lonnie G. Johnson – Lonnie Johnson is a inventor and engineer who invented the Super Soaker water gun, which has been among the world’s bestselling toys every year since its release in 1990. Before Johnson becoming a toymaker he was a Aerospace Engineer for NASA.
2. Thomas L. Jennings – Thomas Jennings was the first African-American person to receive a patent in the United States, making the way for future Black inventors to gain exclusive rights to their inventions. Jennings invented an early method of dry cleaning called “dry scouring” and patented it in 1821—four years before Paris tailor Jean Baptiste Jolly refined his own chemical technique and established what many people claim was history’s first dry cleaning business.
3. Marie Van Brittan Brown – Marie Van Brittan Brown was a nurse and inventor who invented a precursor to the modern home TV security system. Living in a New York City neighborhood during the late 50’s and early 60’s local police didn’t always respond to emergencies. To feel a little more at ease, Brown and her husband developed a way for a motorized camera to peer through a set of peepholes and project images onto a TV monitor. The device also included a two-way microphone to speak with a person outside, and an emergency alarm button to notify the police.
4. Marian R. Croak – Marian Croak is an SVP at AT&T, serves as a mentor for women in AT&T labs, and sits on the board for the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Center. Croak holds over 135 patents, mainly in voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP).
5. Philip Emeagwali – Philip Emeagwali often refereed to as “The Bill Gates of Africa” used 65,000 processes to invent the world’s first super computer — able to perform 3.1 billion calculations per second.
6. Elijah McCoy – Elijah McCoy is one of the most famous black inventors in history who is credited for 50 inventions over his lifetime. McCoy devised a method to improve efficiency and eliminate the frequent stopping necessary for lubricating trains. In 1872 he developed a “lubricating cup” that could automatically drip oil when and where needed — vital in avoiding sticking to the track.
7. Garrett Morgan – Garrett Morgan first invented the “safety hood” to help firefighters navigate smokey buildings and later modified to carry it’s own air supply. Therefore creating the world’s first effective gas masks. Morgan also had the wherewithal to add a third position to the traffic signal.
8. Mary and Mildred Davidson – Mary Davidson and Mildred Davidson were sisters who never had technical education, but they were both phenomenal at fining ways to make peoples’ lives better. Together the Davidson sisters invented the sanitary belt. Later, Mary invented the moisture-resistant pocket for the belt. Even after being disabled from multiple sclerosis, Mary still was able to invent the walker and the toilet-tissue holder.
9. Alfred L. Cralle – Alfred L. Cralle was born in 1866 shortly after the end of the Civil War. While working at a hotel, Cralle noticed ice cream servers having difficulty scooping ice cream having to use two utensils to get the ice cream from sticking to the utensil. Cralle then came up with the “Ice Cream Molder and Disher,” which was designed to keep ice cream and other foods from sticking. He patented his idea in 1897 and the invention spread all across the United States.
10. Philip Downing – Philip Downing born in the late 1800’s, Downing had a major influence on many important inventions that still impacts society today. In 1891, Downing patented a device he called a “street letter box.” It would protect mail from theft and poor weather conditions and expand the postal system, allowing people to mail letters without having to walk to the post office.
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