Black Inventors

I started following Daily Black History Facts on Facebook a while back. Last week a post popped up about Alfred Cralle (1866-1919) inventor of the predecessor of the modern ice cream scoop. He patented the Ice Cream Mold and Disher in 1897. Mr. Cralle worked as a porter at a drugstore and noticed it took several tools and both hands to get ice cream on a cone. He came up with one tool that used one hand. Sadly, despite the device’s wide use, he never profited from his invention. Who doesn’t love an ice cream cone? Thank you Mr. Cralle for this piece of ingeniuty!

This got me to wondering about Black Inventors so I did a little research and found these notable inventors:

  • Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922-1999) a nurse who was concerned about the crime in her neighborhood in 1966, rigged a camera that would record her entryway and project the image on a TV monitor. The predecessor of the modern home security system.
  • Madam CJ Walker (1867-1919) one of America’s first self-made millionaires invented hair products for black women because she suffered from hair loss. Great movie about her life — Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.
  • Thomas L. Jennings (1791-1856) First African American to receive a patent in 1821 for a dry cleaning process.
  • Alexander Miles (1838-1918) received a patent in 1867 to automate the doors on elevators. Before his invention riders had to manually open two sets of doors upon entering and exiting elevators.
  • Dr. Patricia Bath (1942-2019) first female African American to obtain a medical patent in 1986 for the Laserphaco Probe to treat cataracts.
  • Percy Julian (1899-1975) chemist who pioneered a chemical process to synthesize medicinal drugs like cortisone, steroids and birth control pills.
  • Elijah McCoy (1844-1929) received 57 patents in his lifetime, known for inventing the ironing board. He came up with idea because his wife complained about having an uneven surface to iron on. What greater motivation to invent something great than an unhappy wife!! He is also credited for inventing the lawn sprinkler. I love a man who looks around and finds ways to make our life easier!
  • Sarah Boone (1832-1904) in 1892 improved on Elijah’s ironing board invention to make it easier to iron sleeves and women’s bodices.
  • Alice Parker (1895-1920) patented the central natural gas heater for the home. She came up with idea because she was unhappy with the efficiency of the fireplace to heat her home in the cold New Jersey winters.
  • Frederick McKinley Jones (1893-1961) developed automated refrigeration equipment for long haul trucks which greatly impacted the expansion of food markets for grocery stores. It also was used to transport blood starting in WWII.
  • Garrett Morgan (1877-1963) prolific inventor that came up with products like hair straightening, the gas mask, revamped sewing machine and improved traffic signal.
  • Granville T. Woods (1856-1910) known as the “Black Edison” made key contributions to the telephone, streetcars and more.
  • Sarah E. Goode (1850-1905) first female African American to receive a patent. Sarah moved to Chicago after the Civil War and worked at a furniture store. She invented a folding cabinet bed because their apartment was so small. We know her invention as the Murphy Bed.

These people and so many others have blazed a trail to make our lives better. I’m so grateful for their perseverance and use of the gifts God gave them, especially when many of them were discriminated against and unvalued. We value them today, and look back on them, with gratitude, as great contributors to our way of life today

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