Inventions changed the way we live by making life more comfortable and inventors deserve huge credits for their contributions to humanity.
From electricity to the ironing board, inventors have improved efficiency tremendously. Most people are familiar with the inventors of the light bulb, iPhone, etc., but tend to overlook inventions that make our daily lives better.
Interestingly, many Black people are behind a large number of creative inventors that have made our lives easier.
1. The Three-Light Traffic Light, Invented by Garrett Morgan in 1923
Garrett Morgan only had an elementary school education and was the son of a slave, but he came up with several significant inventions.
Before inventing the three-light traffic system, he had created the improved sewing machine and the gas mask. As a result of his previous inventions, Garrett became the first black person in Cleveland, Ohio to own a car; but at the time, only two-light traffic lights were in existence.
As a motorist, he witnessed a severe car accident at an intersection in the city. In response, he decided to expand on the current traffic light by adding a "yield" component, warning oncoming drivers of an impending stop. He took out the patent for the creation in 1923, and it was granted to him the following year.
2. Refrigerated Trucks, Invented by Frederick McKinley Jones in 1940
Frederick McKinley Jones earned more than 60 patents throughout his life, including a license for the roof-mounted cooling system that's used to refrigerate goods on trucks. They invented the vehicles during the mid-1930s.
He received a patent for his invention in 1940 and co-founded the U.S. Thermo Control Company, later known as Thermo King. The company was critical during World War II, helping to preserve blood, food and supplies during the war.
3. Automatic Elevator Doors, Invented by Alexander Miles in 1887
Before the invention of automatic elevator doors, thanks to Alexander Miles, people had to shut both the shaft and elevator doors before riding manually.
People often forget to do so, and in most cases, the doors were not properly shut, leading to multiple casualties. When the daughter of African-American inventor Alexander Miles almost fatally fell down the shaft, he took it upon himself to develop a solution.
In 1887 he took out a patent for a mechanism that automatically opens and closes elevator shaft doors, and his designs are largely reflected in elevators used today.
4. Improved Ironing Board, Invented by Sarah Boone in 1892
Despite its importance, the ironing board is often an overlooked invention; but we cannot deny that the device has become an essential part of our daily lives.
Sarah Boone was one of the first Black women to receive a patent in the late 19th century after she improved the ironing board in 1892.
She expanded upon the original ironing board, which was mostly a horizontal wooden block initially patented in 1858. With Boone's 1892 additions, the board featured a narrower and curved design, making it easier to iron garments, mainly women's clothing. Boone's design would morph into the modern ironing board that we use today.
5. Home Security System, Co-Invented by Mary Van Brittan Brown in 1966
In 1966, an African-American nurse Mary Van Brittan Brown invented a system that uses a camera that could slide into and look through four peepholes in her front door. The camera's view would then appear on a monitor in her home so she could survey any potentially unwanted guests.
She added other features to the system, including a microphone to speak to anyone at the door, a button to unlock the door, and a button to contact the police. She and her husband took out a patent for the system in the same year, and they were awarded the patent three years later in 1969. Home security systems commonly used today took various elements from her design.
6. Electret Microphone, Co-Invented by James E. West in 1964
Along with his German colleague Gerhard Sessler, James E. West invented the foil electret microphone while working at Bell Labs in 1960.
It was considerably less expensive to produce than the typically used condenser microphones. Two years after it was invented, the final model of the microphone was developed in 1964.
The inventors patented the landmark invention, and four years later, the new microphone was in extensive production and was used in hearing aids, tape recorders, most telephones and baby monitors.
7. Carbon Light Bulb Filament, Invented by Lewis Latimer in 1881
Many people are aware, but the light bulb was invented by Thomas Edison. Still, not many know that the innovation used to create longer-lasting light bulbs with a carbon filament came from African-American inventor Lewis Latimer.
Latimer, the son of runaway slaves, began work in a patent law firm after serving in the military for the Union during the Civil War. He was recognized for his talent drafting patents and was promoted to head draftsman, where he co-invented an improved bathroom for railroad trains.
His successes would garner him further attention from the U.S. Electric Lighting Company, putting him at a company in direct competition with Edison, in 1880.
While there, Latimer patented a new filament for the light bulb, using carbon instead of more flammable materials, like bamboo, that was commonly used for filaments. The addition of the carbon filament increased the life span and practicality of light bulbs, which had previously died after just a few days. In 1884, he went on to work with Edison at the Edison Electric Light Company.
8. Colour IBM PC Monitor and Gigahertz Chip, Co-Invented by Mark Dean c. 1980 and 1999
Before the invention of flat screens and hi-definition LCD monitors, P.C. monitors were limited to filters with no colour that was tethered to computers with limited processing power.
Black inventor and engineer, Mark Dean began working for IBM as a chief engineer in the early 1980s, making up a team of 12 people who would develop the first IBM PC.
In addition to helping create IBM's original machine in his early years with the company, he also worked to develop the colour monitor. He led the team that developed the first gigahertz processor. The massive chip, built in 1999, would allow for higher processing rates at faster speeds within P.C.s.
9. Laserphaco Probe, Invented by Patricia Era Bath in 1981
Patricia Era Bath was an American ophthalmologist, inventor, humanitarian, and academic. She was an early pioneer of laser cataract surgery.
In 1981, Bath conceived of the invention for which she has become famous – the Laserphaco Probe, a surgical tool that uses a laser to vaporize cataracts via a small, 1-millimetre insertion into a patient's eye.
Today, the Laserphaco Probe is used on a global scale in hospitals all over the world. It has restored sight to many individuals who were deemed blind before this invention.
10. Seed Planter, Invented by Henry Blair in 1807
Henry Blair was the second African American inventor to receive a U.S. patent. He was born in Glen Ross, Maryland, the United States in 1807.
His first invention was the Seed-Planter, patented October 14, 1834, which allowed farmers to plant more corn using less labour and in a shorter time.
A successful farmer, Blair patented two inventions that helped him to boost his productivity. He received his first patent — for a corn planter — on October 14, 1834. The planter resembled a wheelbarrow, with a compartment to hold the seed and rakes dragging behind to cover them.
This device enabled farmers to plant their crops more efficiently and allow a higher total yield. Blair signed the patent with an "X," indicating that he was illiterate.
There are many more Black inventors who deserve recognition; you can name some in the comment sessions.