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EnchantedLearning.com
Zoom Inventors and Inventions
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African-American Inventors
A Sampling of African-American Inventors and Their Inventions

BLOOD BANK
The idea of a blood bank was pioneered by Dr. Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950). Dr. Drew was an American medical doctor and surgeon who started the idea of a blood bank and a system for the long term preservation of blood plasma (he found that plasma kept longer than whole blood). His ideas revolutionized the medical profession and saved many, many lives. Dr. Drew set up and operated the blood plasma bank at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, NY. Drew's project was the model for the Red Cross' system of blood banks, of which he became the first director.
CARVER, GEORGE WASHINGTON
George Washington Carver (1865?-1943) was an American scientist, educator, humanitarian, and former slave. Carver developed hundreds of products from peanuts, sweet potatoes, pecans, and soybeans; his discoveries greatly improved the agricultural output and the health of Southern farmers. Before this, the only main crop in the South was cotton. The products that Carver invented included a rubber substitute, adhesives, foodstuffs, dyes, pigments, and many other products.

For more information on Carver, click here. For a cloze (fill-in-the-blank) activity on Carver, click here.

CRUM, GEORGE
The potato chip was invented in 1853 by George Crum. Crum was a Native American/African American chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, USA. French fries were popular at the restaurant and one day a diner complained that the fries were too thick. Although Crum made a thinner batch, the customer was still unsatisfied. Crum finally made fries that were too thin to eat with a fork, hoping to annoy the extremely fussy customer. The customer, surprisingly enough, was happy - and potato chips were invented!

For more information on George Crum and potato chips, click here.

DORTICUS, CLATONIA JOAQUIN
Clatonia Joaquin Dorticus was an African-American inventor who received many patents. He invented an apparatus for applying dyes to the sides of the soles and heels of shoes (patent # 535,820, March 19, 1895), a machine for embossing (contouring the paper of) photographs (patent # 537,442, April 16, 1895), a device that helped develop photographs (patent # 537,968, April 23, 1895), and a leak stopper for hoses (patent # 629,315, July 18, 1899).
DOWNING, PHILIP B.
The street letter drop mailbox with a hinged door that closed to protect the mail was invented by Philip B. Downing. Downing, an African-American inventor, patented his new device on October 27, 1891 (US Patent # 462,093).
DREW, CHARLES RICHARD
Dr. Charles Richard DrewDr. Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950) was an American medical doctor and surgeon who started the idea of a blood bank and a system for the long-term preservation of blood plasma (he found that plasma kept longer than whole blood). His ideas revolutionized the medical profession and have saved many, many lives.

For more information on Dr, C. R. Drew, click here.

GAS MASK
The gas mask was invented by Garrett Morgan, an African-American inventor. Morgan used his gas mask (patent No. 1,090,936, 1914) to rescue miners who were trapped underground in a noxious mine. Soon after, Morgan was asked to produce gas masks for the US Army. For more information on Garrett Morgan, click here.
GOODE, SARAH S.
Sarah E. Goode was a businesswoman and inventor. Goode invented the folding cabinet bed, a space-saver that folded up against the wall into a cabinet. When folded up, it could be used as a desk, complete with compartments for stationery and writing supplies. Goode owned a furniture store in Chicago, Illinois, and invented the bed for people living in small apartments. Goode's patent was the first one obtained by an African-American woman inventor (patent #322,177, approved on July 14, 1885).
LATIMER, LEWIS H.
Light BulbLewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928) was an African-American inventor who was a member of Edison's research team, which was called "Edison's Pioneers." Latimer improved the newly-invented incandescent light bulb by inventing a carbon filament (which he patented in 1881).

For more information on Lewis Howard Latimer, click here.

MAILBOX
The street letter drop mailbox with a hinged door that closed to protect the mail was invented by Philip B. Downing. Downing, an African-American inventor, patented his new device on October 27, 1891 (US Patent # 462,093).
McCOY, ELIJAH
Elijah McCoy (1843 or 1844-1929) was a mechanical engineer and inventor. McCoy's high-quality industrial inventions (especially his steam engine lubricator) were the basis for the expression "the real McCoy," meaning the real, authentic, or high-quality thing.

For more information on Elijah McCoy, click here. For a cloze activity on McCoy, click here.

MORGAN, GARRETT
MorganGarrett Augustus Morgan (March 4, 1877 - August 27, 1963), was an African-American inventor and businessman. He was the first person to patent a traffic signal. He also developed the gas mask (and many other inventions). Morgan used his gas mask (patent No. 1,090,936, 1914) to rescue miners who were trapped underground in a noxious mine. Soon after, Morgan was asked to produce gas masks for the US Army.

For more information on Morgan, click here.

POTATO CHIPS
The potato chip was invented in 1853 by George Crum. Crum was a Native American/African American chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, USA. French fries were popular at the restaurant and one day a diner complained that the fries were too thick. Although Crum made a thinner batch, the customer was still unsatisfied. Crum finally made fries that were too thin to eat with a fork, hoping to annoy the extremely fussy customer. The customer, surprisingly enough, was happy - and potato chips were invented!

For more information on George Crum and potato chips, click here.

RILLIEUX, NORBERT
Norbert Rillieux (March 17, 1806-October 8, 1894) was an African-American inventor and engineer who invented a device that revolutionized sugar processing. Rillieux's multiple effect vacuum sugar evaporator (patented in 1864) made the processing of sugar more efficient, faster, and much safer. The resulting sugar was also superior. His apparatus was eventually adopted by sugar processing plants all around the world.

For more information on Rillieux, click here.

TRAFFIC SIGNAL
MorganGarrett Augustus Morgan (March 4, 1877 - August 27, 1963), was an African-American inventor and businessman. He was the first person to patent a traffic signal. He also developed the gas mask (and many other inventions). Morgan used his gas mask (patent No. 1,090,936, 1914) to rescue miners who were trapped underground in a noxious mine. Soon after, Morgan was asked to produce gas masks for the US Army.

For more information on Morgan, click here.

WALKER, MADAME C. J.
Madame C. J. WalkerMadam C. J. Walker (December 23, 1867 - May 25, 1919) was an inventor, businesswoman and self-made millionaire. Sarah Breedlove McWilliams C. J. Walker was an African-American who developed many beauty and hair care products that were extremely popular. Madam Walker started her cosmetics business in 1905. Her first product was a scalp treatment that used petrolatum and sulphur. She added Madam to her name and began selling her new "Walker System" door-to-door. Walker soon added new cosmetic products to her line. The products were very successful and she soon had many saleswomen, called "Walker Agents," who sold her products door to door and to beauty salons.

For more information on Madame C. J. Walker, click here.

For more on African-American history, click here.

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
1300's and Earlier 1400's 1500's 1600's 1700's 1801-1850 1851-1900 1901-1950 1951-2000
Clothing Communication Food Fun Medicine Science/Industry Transportation Undersea
African-Americans Women British Isles China France Germany Greece Italy Scandinavia USA/Canada
Guidelines on Writing a Report on an Invention





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