In light of Black History Month we wanted to highlight eight African American inventors that helped make technology and engineering industries what they are today. From the creation of video games to home security systems, this impressive list will leave you speechless!
African American Inventors: The Men
Gerald A. Lawson
Big fan of video games? You have this guy to thank for that! Gerald Lawson was a self-taught engineer that is credited with creating the first home video game system with interchangeable game cartridges. Before Lawson came along, home systems could only play games that were built into the actual machines. This invention allowed for additional forms of revenue through game purchases, as well as the consoles themselves.
Granville T. Woods
It’s hard to pick just one tech invention to highlight when talking about this African American engineer. Often called the “Black Edison”, Woods’ invention list includes: a modern telephone transmitter, multiplex telegraph and an improved air-brake system for electric-powered transits. When Woods passed away in 1910, he had nearly 60 patents to his name and had revolutionized the technology that we still use today.
Named an IBM fellow in 1996, made this Computer Programmer the first African American to receive this high honor. Mark Dean is known for helping to develop the color PC monitor, first gigahertz chip, the ISA bus and the technology that allows for computer plug-ins such as printers. While Dean might not be as well-known as someone like Steve Jobs, we are excited to see how many more patents he will add to his already impressive 20!
No African American inventors of technology list would be complete without the mention of George Carruthers. Credited with helping to invent the ultraviolet camera and the spectrograph, Carruthers’ work brought to light the once unknown realms of space and Earth’s atmosphere. The Cincinnati, Ohio native’s invention was ultimately used by the crew aboard Apollo 16 during a crucial mission to the moon.
African American Inventors: The Women
We kick off the second half of our list by recognizing a few of the African American women that contributed to technology and engineering. First up is Valerie Thomas, an inventor and scientist best known for creating the illusion transmitter, a crucial device used by NASA, as well as surgical centers and television. While her contributions to NASA and space are pretty impressive, the mentoring program that she created through the National Technical Association and Science Mathematics Aerospace Research and Technology, Inc., is by far her greatest achievement to the field!
This next African American legend has many firsts attached to her name. She was the first African American to complete a residency program in ophthalmology and the first African American female doctor to ever receive a medical patent for her invention. During the early years of her medical practice, Bath noticed that the current eye surgery practice was extremely painful and not very precise for patients. So, she invented the Laserphaco Probe which utilized laser technology making the treatment of cataracts more precise, less painful and safer.
Shirley A. Jackson
The next tech inventor on our list has been credited with many advancements in science. Focusing on telecommunications, Jackson’s experiments allowed for others to create fiber optic cables, portable fax machines and the technology behind call waiting and caller ID. As President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Jackson helped usher in the prominent ranking from U.S. News and World Report as being one of the nation’s top 50 technical universities.
Marie Van Britton Brown
World-renowned inventor, Marie Van Britton Brown, along with her husband, are credited with creating what is known in modern terms as the home security system. Unsatisfied with the standard ‘peep hole’ system that was in place at that time, the couple set out to create a new way of viewing visitors at the door by installing four small cameras. Brown took the system a step further by creating an alarm function that could warn the authorities of any suspicious individuals that the cameras recorded.
Whether they contributed to technology or engineering, these innovators made a long-lasting impact in their fields. Who are some of your favorite contributors?