List of African-American inventors and scientists

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(before 1890)
(1890–1945)
(1946–1991)
(after 1991)

This list of African-American inventors and scientists attempts to document many of the African Americans who have invented a multitude of items or made discoveries in the course of their lives. These have ranged from practical everyday devices to applications and scientific discoveries in diverse fields, including physics, biology, mathematics, plus the medical, nuclear and space sciences.

Among the earliest was George Washington Carver, whose reputation was based on his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, which aided in nutrition for farm families. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes using peanuts.[1] He also developed and promoted about 100 products made from peanuts that were useful for the house and farm.[citation needed] He received numerous honors for his work, including the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP.

A later renowned scientist was Percy Lavon Julian a research chemist and a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants. He was the first to synthesize the natural product physostigmine, and a pioneer in the industrial large-scale chemical synthesis of the human hormones, steroids, progesterone, and testosterone, from plant sterols such as stigmasterol and sitosterol. His work would lay the foundation for the steroid drug industry's production of cortisone, other corticosteroids, and birth control pills.

A contemporary example of a modern day inventor is Lonnie George Johnson, an engineer. Johnson invented the Super Soaker water gun, which was the top-selling toy in the United States in 1991 and 1992. In 1980 Johnson formed his own law firm and licensed the Super Soaker water gun to Larami Corporation. Two years later the Super Soaker generated over $200 million in retail sales and became the best selling toy in America. Larami Corporation was eventually purchased by Hasbro, the second largest toy manufacturer in the world. Over the years, Super Soaker sales have totaled close to one billion dollars. Johnson reinvested a majority of his earnings from the Super Soaker into research and development for his energy technology companies – "It's who I am, it's what I do."[2] Currently, Johnson holds over 80 patents, with over 20 more pending, and is the author of several publications on spacecraft power systems.[3][4]

Inventors and scientists[edit]

Note: this table is viewable as a timeline when clicking on the sort symbol next to 'Life'.
NameLifeOccupationInventions/AccomplishmentsRefs
Amos, Harold1918–2003MicrobiologistFirst African-American department chair at Harvard Medical School[5]
Alcorn, George Edward, Jr.1940–Physicist
Inventor
Invented a method of fabricating an imaging X-ray spectrometer[6][7]
Andrews, James J.1930–1998MathematicianPut forth the Andrews–Curtis conjecture in group theory with Morton L. Curtis, still unsolved[8]
Bailey, L.C.1890–1976InventorWind Powered Clothes Dryer.[9]
Ball, Alice Augusta1892–1916ChemistExtracted chaulmoogra oil for the treatment of Hansen's disease (leprosy).[10]
Banneker, Benjamin1731–1806Mathematician
Astronomer
Surveyor
Clockmaker
Author
Farmer
Wooden clock (1753). Assisted in survey of the original boundaries of the District of Columbia (1791). Authored almanac and ephemeris (1792–1797)[11]
Banyaga, Augustin1947–MathematicianWork on diffeomorphisms and symplectomorphisms[12]
Janet Bashen1957–Inventor
Entrepreneur
Professional
Consultant
First African-American woman to receive a patent for a web-based software invention. The invention, LinkLine, is an Equal Employment Opportunity case management and tracking software.[13]
Bath, Patricia1942–OphthalmologistFirst African-American female physician to receive a patent for a medical invention. Inventions relate to cataract surgery and include the Laserphaco Probe, which revolutionized the industry in the 1980s, and an ultrasound technique for treatment.[14][15][16]
Beard, Andrew1849–1921Farmer
Carpenter
Blacksmith
Railroad worker
Businessman
Inventor
Janney coupler improvements


Invented the car device#594,059 dated November 23, 1897
Rotary engine patent #478,271 dated July 5, 1892

[17]
Bell, Earl S.1977–Inventor
Entrepreneur
Architect
Industrial Designer
Invented Chair With Sliding Skin (2004), and the Quantitative Display Apparatus (2005)[18]

[19] [20]

Benjamin, Miriam1861–1947Inventor
Educator
Invented "Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels". Second African-American woman to receive a patent.[21]
Berry, Leonidas1902–1995GastroenterologistGastroscope pioneer[22]
Bharucha-Reid, Albert T.1927–1985Mathematician
Statistician
Probability theory and Markov chain theorist[23]
Black, Keith1957–NeurosurgeonBrain tumor surgery and research[24][25]
Blackwell, David1919–2010Mathematician
Statistician
First proposed the Blackwell channel model used in coding theory and information theory; one of the eponyms of the Rao–Blackwell theorem, which is a process that significantly improves crude statistical estimators.[26]
Blair, Henry1807–1860InventorSecond black inventor to issue a patent
Invented early spark plug
[27]

[28]

Boahen, Kwabena19xx–BioengineerSilicon retina able to process images in the same manner as a living retina[29][30]
Boone, Sarah1832–1905
InventorIroning board allowing sleeves of women's garments to be ironed more easily[31][32][33]
Bouchet, Edward1852–1918PhysicistFirst African-American to receive a Ph.D. in any subject. Received physics doctorate from Yale University in 1876.
Bowman, James1923–2011PhysicianPathologist and geneticist; Professor Emeritus Pritzker School of Medicine; first tenured African-American professor at the University of Chicago Division of Biological Sciences.[34][35]
Boykin, Otis1920–1982Inventor
Engineer
Artificial heart pacemaker control unit.[36][37][38]
Brady, St. Elmo1884–1966ChemistPublished three scholarly abstracts in Science and also collaborated on a paper published in Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry.[39]
Branson, Herman1914–1995Physicist
Educator
Protein structure research[40][41]
Brooks, Charles1865– ?Inventor[citation needed]Street sweeper truck and a type of paper punch[citation needed]
Brooks, Phil19xx–Inventor[citation needed]First U.S. Patent for a disposable syringe[citation needed]
Henry Brown1832– ?InventorInvented fire safe[42]
Burr, John Albert18xx– ?InventorRotary-blade lawn mower patent[43]
Cardozo, P. William1905–1962PediatricianSickle cell anemia studies. In October 1937, he published "Immunologic Studies in Sickle Cell Anemia" in the Archives of Internal Medicine; many of the findings are still valid today.
Carson, Ben1951–Pediatric NeurosurgeonPediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University
First surgeon to successfully separate craniopagus twins
[44]
Carver, George Washington1865–1943Botanical researcherDiscovered hundreds of uses for previously useless vegetables and fruits, principally the peanut[45][46][47][48]
Chappelle, Charles Ward Charles W. Chappelle (1872-1941)1872-1941electrician, construction, international businessman, and aviation pioneerDesigned long distance flight airplane. C.W. Chappelle was the only African-American to invent and display the airplane at the 1911 First Industrial Air Show held in conjunction with the Auto Show at Grand Central Palace in Manhattan in New York City. C.W. Chappelle was also the president of the African Union Company, Inc.,[49][50][51]
Chappelle, Emmett1925–Scientist and researcherValuable contributions to several fields: medicine, biology, food science, and astrochemistry
Clark, Mamie1914–2005PsychologistConducted 1940s experiments using dolls to study children's attitudes about race.
Clark, Kenneth1917–1983PsychologistFirst Black president of the American Psychological Association[52]
Crosthwait, David, Jr.1898–1976Research engineerHeating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
Received some 40 U.S. patents relating to HVAC systems.
Dabiri, John1980-BiophysicistExpert on jellyfish hydrodynamics and designer of a vertical-axis wind farm adapted from schooling fish.
Daly, Marie Maynard1921–2003ChemistFirst black American woman with a Ph.D. in chemistry.
Dean, Mark1957–Computer scientistLed the team that developed the ISA bus, and led the design team responsible for creating the first one-gigahertz computer processor chip.[53][54][55]
Drew, Charles1904–1950Medical researcherDeveloped improved techniques for blood storage
Du Chaillu, Paul1831–1903Zoologist
Explorer
Anthropologist
Explorer who was the first modern European outsider to confirm the existence of gorillas, and later the Pygmy people of central Africa. Identified as white throughout life, but his mother was a Réunionnais mulatto. Settled in America and considered it his country by adoption. The full aspects of his ancestry were not uncovered until 1979, and are still little known today.
Easley, Annie1933–2011[56]Computer scientistWork at the Lewis Research Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics[57][58]
Ejeta, Gebisa1950-GeneticistWon the World Food Prize in 2009 for his major contributions in the production of sorghum.
Ejigu, Kitaw1948–2006Systems engineerWorked for NASA as a system engineer and space research scientist[59][dead link]
Ellis, Skip (Clarence)1943–Computer scientistFirst African American with a Ph.D. in Computer Science
Software inventor including OfficeTalk at Xerox PARC
[60][61]
Ezerioha, Bisi1972–Automotive engineerDrag racing engineer and driver
Ferguson, Lloyd Noel1918–2011Chemist
Educator
Chemistry doctorate, first received (1943, University of California, Berkeley)[62][63][64]
Fryer, Roland G., Jr.1977–Economist
Social scientist
Statistician
Inequality studies
Gates, Sylvester James1950–Theoretical physicistWork on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory[65][66]
Goode, Sarah E.1855–1905InventorCabinet bed invention
First African-American woman to receive a patent in the United States
[67][68]
Gilbert, Juan E.1969–Computer scientistAwarded the first Presidential Endowed Chair at Clemson University in honor of his accomplishments
Graves, Joseph L.1955–Evolutionary biologist[69][70][71]
Greenaugh, Kevin1956–Nuclear engineer[72]
Griffin, Bessie Blount1914–2009Physical therapist
Inventor
Amputee self-feeding device[73][74]
Hall, Lloyd1894–1971Chemist
Haile, Sossina M.1966-EngineerWork on fuel cells
Haile-Selassie, Yohannes1961-PaleoanthropologistCodiscoverer of the Australopithecus garhi and Ardipithecus kadabba species, as well as the Ardi and Kadanuumuu remains. One of the world's foremost authorities on early hominins. Immigrant from Ethiopia.
Harris, James A.1932–2000Co-discovered Rutherfordium (element 104) and Hafnium (element 105) at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory[75]
Hawkins, Walter Lincoln1911–1992ScientistInventor at Bell Laboratories[76]
Hodge, John E.1914–1996Chemist
Holley, Kerrie1954–Research computer scientist at IBMCo-creator of Service-Oriented Modeling and Architecture, SOMA and the Service Integration Maturity Model (SIMM)
Jarvis, Erich19xx–NeurobiologistDuke University neuroscience bird songs studies.[77][78][79]
Johnson, Isaac18xx– ?InventorHeld patent for improvements to the bicycle frame, specifically so it could be taken apart for compact storage.[80]
Johnson, Lonnie1949–Mechanical engineerNuclear engineer
Inventor
Invented Super Soaker while researching thermal energy transfer engines; worked with NASA. Holder of over 80 patents[4][81]
[82][83]
Jones, Frederick McKinley1893–1961InventorInvented refrigerated truck systems[84]
Julian, Percy1899–1975ChemistFirst to synthesize the natural product physostigmine; earned 130 chemical patents; lauded for humanitarian achievements.[85][86][87][88]
Just, Ernest1883–1941Woods Hole Marine Biology Institute BiologistProvided basic and initial descriptions of the structure–function–property relationship of the plasma membrane of biological cells.[89][90][91]
Kittles, Rick1967–GeneticistWork in tracing the ancestry of African Americans via DNA testing[92][93]
Kountz, Samuel L.1930–1981Transplant surgeon
Researcher
Organ transplantation pioneer, particularly renal transplant research and surgery.
Author or co-author of 172 articles in scientific publications.
[94][95][96][97]
Latimer, Lewis1848–1928Inventor
Draftsman
Expert witness
Worked as a draftsman for both Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. He became a member of Edison's Pioneers and served as an expert witness in many light bulb litigation lawsuits. Invention of the Water closet is also said to be invented by Lewis.[98][99][100][101]
Lawson, Jerry1940–2011Computer engineerDesigner of Fairchild Channel F, the first programmable ROM cartridge-based video game console[6][102]
Lee, Raphael1949–Surgeon
Biomedical engineer[citation needed]
Paul and Aileen Russell Professor, Pritzker School of Medicine; MacArthur Fellow, Searle Scholar, Founder and Chairman, Avocet Polymer Technologies, Inc.; Founder and Chairman, Renacyte BioMolecular Technologies, Inc; Discovered use of surfactant copolymers as molecular chaperones to augment endogenous injury repair mechanisms of living cells. Holder of many patents covering scar treatment therapies, tissue engineered ligaments, brain trauma therapies, protective garments.[citation needed]http://www.blackinventions101.com/blackinventors.html
Lynk, Beebe Steven1872–1948ChemistTeacher at West Tennessee University
Matzeliger, Jan1852–1889InventorShoe assembly Machine[103][104]
McBay, Henry1914–1995ChemistHis discoveries allowed chemists around the world to create inexpensive peroxide compounds[105][106]
McCoy, Elijah1844–1929InventorInvented a version of the automatic lubricator for steam engines,McCoy learned a great deal of his skills from a mechanical apprenticeship when he was age fifteen .[107][108]
McLurkin, James1972–Roboticist[109]
McWhorter, John1965–LinguistSpecializes in the study of creole language formation
Montgomery, Benjamin1819–1877InventorDesigned a steam operated propeller to provide propulsion to boats in shallow water
Moore, Willie Hobbs1934-1994PhysicistWillie Hobbs Moore was the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in Physics (University of Michigan Ann Arbor 1972) on vibrational analysis of secondary chlorides.[110]
Morgan, Garrett1877–1963InventorInvented the first gas mask and the first traffic signal[111]
Nmezi, Murphy1955–Physician/BiostatisticianAdvances in Path Analysis and Structural Equation Modeling
Nriagu, Jerome1944–GeochemistStudies toxic metals in the environment. Originator of the lead poisoning thesis of the decline of the Roman Empire
Ogbu, John Uzo1939–2003AnthropologistEthnic studies in education and economics[112][113]
Olukotun, Kunle19xx–Computer scientistEarly advocate and researcher of multi-core processors
Oyekan, Soni1946–Chemical engineerInventions in oil refining
Poindexter, Hildrus1901–1987Bacteriologist
Epidemiologist
Work on the epidemiology of tropical diseases including malaria
Petters, Arlie1964–PhysicistWork on the mathematical physics of gravitational lensing
Quarterman, Lloyd Albert1918–1982Scientist
Fluoride Chemist
Manhattan Project, worked with Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi
Renfroe, Earl1907–2000Orthodontist[114][115]
Rillieux, Norbert1806–1894Engineer
Inventor
Inventor of the multiple-effect evaporator[116]
Robinson, Larry1957–Environmental chemistInvestigated possible role of arsenic in the death of Zachary Taylor. Interim president of Florida A&M University.
Russell, Jesse1948–Engineer
Inventor
Wireless communications engineer
Sammons, Walter1890–1973InventorPatent for hot comb[117]
Sowell, Thomas1930–Economist
Social scientist
Economist, social theorist and political philosopher[118][119][120][121]
Steele, Claude1946–Psychologist
Social scientist
Stereotype threat studies
Stiff, Lee1941–MathematicianPresident of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics from 2000 to 2002[122]
Snyder, Window1976–Computer engineerSecurity engineer at Microsoft, Mozilla, and Apple
Temple, Lewis1800–1854Inventor, Blacksmith, abolitionistInventor of the toggling whaling harpoon head.[123]
Thomas, Vivien1910–1985Surgical technicianBlue baby syndrome treatment in the 1940s[124][125][126]
Turner, Charles Henry1867–1923ZoologistFirst person to prove that insects can hear and can distinguish pitch, that cockroaches can learn by trial and error, and that honeybees can see color. First African-American to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.[127]
Tyree, Bernadette19xx–Biochemist[citation needed]Program Director at National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases[citation needed]
Tyson, Neil deGrasse1958–AstronomerResearcher and popular educator in astronomy and the sciences[128][129][130]
Walker, Arthur B. C., Jr.1936–2001AstronomerDeveloped normal incidence multilayer XUV telescopes to photograph the solar corona[131][132][133]
Walker, C. J.1867–1919Inventor[citation needed]Created black cosmetic products.
Washington, Warren M.1936–Atmospheric scientistFormer chair of the National Science Board[134][135][136][137]
West, James E.1931–Acoustician
Inventor
Co-developed the foil electret microphone[138][139][140]
Wilkins, J. Ernest, Jr.1923–2011Mathematician
Engineer
Nuclear scientist
Entered University of Chicago at age 13, PhD at 19, worked on the Manhattan Project, wrote over 100 scientific papers, helped recruit minorities into the sciences.[141][142]
[143]
Williams, Daniel1856–1931SurgeonPerformed the first successful open-heart surgery in the United States[144]
Williams, Scott W.1943–Mathematician
Williams, Walter E.1936–Economist
Social scientist
[145][146][147]
Woods, Granville1856–1910InventorInvented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph[148]
Wright, Jane C.1919–2013Cancer Research and SurgeonNoted for her contributions to chemotherapy and for pioneering the use of the drug methotrexate to treat breast cancer and skin cancer
Wright, Louis T.1891–1952SurgeonLed team that first used Aureomycin as a treatment on humans[149][150][151]
Young, Roger Arliner1899–1964ZoologistFirst African-American woman to receive a doctorate degree in zoology[152][153]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes

Citations

  1. ^ Carver, George Washington. 1916. "How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption", Tuskegee Institute Experimental Station Bulletin 31.
  2. ^ Interview wp'ith CNBC's "How I Made my Millions"
  3. ^ Roche, Timothy. Soaking In Success, Time magazine, December 4, 2000.
  4. ^ a b Products Created by Independent Inventors, April 2, 2009, Inventors Digest.
  5. ^ "Dr. Harold Amos, 84; Mentor to Aspiring Minority Physicians". Los Angeles Times. 2003-03-08. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 
  6. ^ a b "George Edward Alcorn, Jr.". About.com. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  7. ^ "Alcorn exceled in missile research". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. February 20, 2002. Retrieved 2008-02-27. "George Edward Alcorn Jr. attended Occidental College in Los Angeles where he earned eight letters in basketball and football and was an honors student studying physics. He received his bachelor's degree in 1962 and a master's in nuclear physics from Howard University a year later. He attended Occidental College in Los Angeles where he earned eight letters in basketball and football and was an honors student studying physics. He received his bachelor's degree in 1962 and a master's in nuclear physics from Howard University a year later." 
  8. ^ Andrews, J. J.; Curtis, M. L. (1965), "Free groups and handlebodies", Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society 16 (2): 192–195, doi:10.2307/2033843, JSTOR 2033843, MR 0173241 .
  9. ^ Who Is L.C. Bailey?, Answers.com website.
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  11. ^ The ninth and tenth paragraphs of the "His Story" page in official website of the Washington Interdependence Council: Administrators of the Benjamin Banneker Memorial (Retrieved 2008-08-06), the fourth paragraph in the webpage entitled "Who was Benjamin Banneker?" in official website of the Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, 800 Euclid Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001 (Retrieved 2009-11-12), the fourth paragraph in the section entitled "BENJAMIN BANNEKER (1731–1806)" in "Benjamin Banneker" page in website of "ChickenBones: A Journal for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes" (Retrieved 2008-08-06), the third paragraph in Newbold, K., "Benjamin Banneker: A Brief Biography" in official website of The James Madison Center, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia (Retrieved 2008-10-23), the first paragraph in the webpage entitled "Benjamin Banneker (1731–1806)" in official website of the Brookhaven National Laboratory (Retrieved 2008-08-08), the fifth and sixth paragraphs in "Benjamin Banneker in website of "The Black Inventor Online Museum" by Adscape International, LLC (Retrieved 2009-02-02), An Early American Hero: Benjamin Banneker in website of SuccessMaker Enterprise by Pearson Education, Inc. (Retrieved 2009-02-09), and the 1970 book by Claude Lewis entitled Benjamin Banneker: the man who saved Washington, New York, McGraw-Hill, relate part or all of this urban legend.
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  30. ^ IBM Seeks to Build the Computer of the Future Based on Insights from the Brain: IBM Awarded DARPA Funding for Cognitive Computing Collaboration, IBM Alden, November 20, 2008.
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  48. ^ The legacy of George Washington Carver-Friends & Colleagues (Henry Wallace)
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  60. ^ Skip Ellis, Retrieved from Computer Scientists of the African Diaspora web site March 6, 2012.
  61. ^ Skip Ellis, Retrieved from howstuffworks Extraordinary People website, March 6, 2012.
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  63. ^ "Lloyd Noel Ferguson". Biographical Snapshots of Famous Women and Minority Chemists. Journal of Chemical Education. Retrieved 2011-01-17. .
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