100 Black Innovators in 10 Days (DAY 10: Inventors)
Welcome to 100 Black Innovators in 10 Days, a campaign aiming to showcase the work, voices, and impact that these innovators have had throughout history. Today we are featuring 10 Black Inventors. The creativity and ingenuity of these bright minds produced brand new ideas that brought immeasurable benefits across the globe.
Madam C.J. Walker (1867 - 1919)
Madam C.J. Walker invented a line of African American hair products after suffering from a scalp ailment that resulted in her own hair loss. She promoted her products by traveling around the country giving lecture-demonstrations and eventually established Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories to manufacture cosmetics and train sales beauticians. Her business acumen led her to be one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. She was also known for her philanthropic endeavors, including a donation toward the construction of an Indianapolis YMCA in 1913.
Garrett Morgan (1877 - 1963)
On November 20, 1923, the U.S. Patent Office grants Patent No. 1,475,074 to 46-year-old inventor and newspaperman Garrett Morgan for his three-position traffic signal. Though Morgan’s was not the first traffic signal (that one had been installed in London in 1868), it was an important innovation nonetheless: By having a third position besides just “Stop” and “Go,” it regulated crossing vehicles more safely than earlier signals had.
Lonnie Johnson (1982 - )
Lonnie Johnson is president and founder of Johnson Research and Development Co., Inc., a technology development company, and its spin-off companies, Excellatron Solid State, LLC; Johnson Electro- Mechanical Systems, LLC; and Johnson Real Estate Investments, LLC. In 1989, Johnson formed his own engineering firm and licensed his most famous invention, the Super Soaker® water gun, to Larami Corporation. Two years later, the Super Soaker®, generated over $200 million in retail sales and became the number one selling toy in America.
George Edward Alcorn (1940 - )
Not many inventors have resumes as impressive as George Edward Alcorn's. Alcorn worked for the likes of Philco-Ford, Perkin-Elmer, IBM and NASA, created over 20 different inventions and was granted eight patents. Alcorn is probably most famous for his innovation of the imaging x-ray spectrometer – a device that helps scientists better understand what materials are composed of when they cannot be broken down.
Janet Emerson Bashen (1957 - )
Janet Emerson Bashen is the founder, President and CEO of Bashen Corporation, a leading human resources consulting firm that pioneered end-to-end EEO compliance administration services. Janet Emerson Bashen is the first African American female to hold a patent for a software invention. Her software, LinkLine, is a web-based application for EEO claims intake and tracking, claims management, document management and numerous reports.
Philip Emeagwali (1954 - )
Due to cost, Philip Emeagwali was forced to drop out of school at age 14. But this didn’t stop him from becoming one of the greatest computer pioneers of our time...As an adult, Emeagwali began studying nature, specifically bees. The construction of the honeycombed inspired him to rethink computer processing. In 1989, he put this idea to work, using 65,000 processes to invent the world’s first supercomputer — able to perform 3.1 billion calculations per second.
George Crum (1824 - 1914)
Crum, a chef and restaurateur, is said to have unintentionally created the potato chip during the summer of 1853. They were made in response to a customer who sent back their fried potatoes after complaining they were too thick. The crisps were an instant hit, and though Crum never patented the creations, chips are arguably now one of the world's favorite snacks.
Lisa Gelobter (1986 - )
Gelobter was closely involved with the 1995 creation of Shockwave as a software engineer, the technology that helped to develop web animation. (Think all those GIFs we know and love). She also helped launch Hulu and served on the senior management team.
Thomas Elkins (1818 - 1900)
Thomas Elkins designed a device that helped with the task of preserving perishable foods by way of refrigeration. Elkins patented this refrigerated apparatus on November 4, 1879. and had previously patented a chamber commode in 1872 and a dining, ironing table and quilting frame combined in 1.
Lewis Latimer (1948 - 1928)
Latimer's design produced a carbon filament that was more durable and longer-lasting than earlier filaments. As a result, incandescent light bulbs became affordable to more consumers. Safer than gas lamps, and less harsh than arc lights, incandescent bulbs transformed the average American home after nightfall.
Want to learn more? Stay tuned as we highlight 100 black innovators from a wide range of fields. We hope you feel inspired by the accomplishments of these immensely talented individuals.
In case you missed it, check out the other innovators we have highlighted so far: