Many of the conveniences that we experience are attributed to African-Americans and other black people within the Diaspora. Learning about the inventions by black people are a valuable and eye-opening part of STEM curriculum.
From the caller ID and light bulbs to peanut butter and squirt guns, we use their inventions every day. Let’s take a look at some famous inventors, and the creations they contributed to society.
1. George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver invented almost 300 goods from the peanut plant, but he is best known for the one he didn’t: peanut butter. Agricultural scientists are frequently credited with “discovering” something that already existed. Nonetheless, his biography fits in perfectly with the growth of peanut butter as a culinary staple in the early twentieth century, making him a fitting icon for this particularly American treat.
He was an agricultural chemist whose efforts increased the profitability of growing peanuts and sweet potatoes. Through his experiments during the 1860s, he created around 518 different and new products from the crops. So, we have him to thank for soap, ink, dye, vinegar, flour, synthetic rubber, and cosmetics.
2. Dr. Shirley Jackson
Dr. Shirley Jackson received her Ph.D. from MIT in 1973, making her the first African-American woman to get a nuclear physics doctorate. She conducted many experiments in theoretical physics that brought us amazing telecommunication devices such as portable fax, touch-tone telephones, call waiting, caller ID, and even fiber-optic cables.
Currently, Jackson is the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological research university in the United States. According to U.S. News and World Report, Rensselaer is ranks as one of the nation’s top 50 universities.
3. Lewis Latimer
Lewis Latimer worked with some scientific geniuses like Thomas Edison and Hiram Maxim. He invented the carbon filament, which was a really important component of the light bulb.
So, the next time you are basking under the glow of the photons from your light bulbs, think of Mr. Latimer!
He didn’t just stop at light bulbs, either. Latimer also helped get a patent for Alexander Graham Bell’s design – the telephone. He also improved upon the designs for air conditioning systems and railroad bathrooms.
4. Marie Van Brittan Brown
Marie Van Brittan Brown was a full-time nurse who invented the first home security technology. She used to get security threats at home, which drove her to create a system that could let her know of any strangers at the door as well as a system that could alert the police.
At first, she combined monitors, cameras, peepholes, and microphones. The best part is the alarm button she set up that contacted the authorities when pressed.
Her work and patent is the blueprint for modern security and surveillance systems for homes, traffic monitoring, crime prevention, and alarm button triggers.
5. Otis Boykin
Otis Boykin is known for his contribution to making crucial circuit-level improvements to pacemakers. He lost his mother after heart failure, which drove him to the invention.
Mr. Boykin has definitely saved countless lives with just that invention, but then also contributed to 26 more patents. He helped develop electronic resistors that can be used to control missiles and other such devices.
This incredible scientist is credited for the development of chemical air filters, burglary-proof cash registers, and IBM computers too.
6. Lonnie G. Johnson
Lonnie G. Johnson is definitely part of the famous inventors roster. If you enjoyed water fights when you were a kid, you have Lonnie Johnson to thank for the Super Soaker water gun.
Lonnie worked for NASA as an Aerospace Engineer, working on the Galileo Jupiter probe, the US Air Force, and the Mars Observer project.
He has around 46 patents to his name for his inventions.
While his most enjoyed creation was the squirt gun, he also worked on the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter (JTEC). The JTEC is a vital invention that converts heat into electricity.
7. Charles Drew
Charles Drew is the reason people are able to donate and receive blood. This medical pioneer has managed to save millions of lives throughout history because his invention ensured that blood was available during surgeries and other medical procedures.
Mr. Drew was a surgeon, physician, and medical researcher, working with Red Cross when he made some world-changing discoveries on blood transfusions.
He played a huge role in the first blood plasma projects and big blood banks during the Second World War. As one of the most prominent doctors in history, he also invented bloodmobiles. These are special refrigerated trucks that are still used to transport blood to hospitals and such.
Charles Drew actually created all of these helpful inventions even when blood donations were separated based on race. He eventually resigned from the American Red Cross when they refused to amend this policy. It wasn’t until 1950 that the policy was amended to be inclusive of race.
8. Marian R. Croak
Marian R. Croak is part of the hall of fame for Women in Technology International because of her immense work in the world of tech. She has over 135 patents for voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) that has changed how businesses work across the world. Another 100 patents under her name are also currently under review.
Marian is currently a Vice President of Engineering at Google. She has previously served as Senior Vice President of Research and Development at ATT Labs. She sits on the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education Center board.
9. Lisa Gelobter
Lisa Gelobter is the person to thank if you have ever enjoyed animated GIFs on the internet. She was an integral part of the Shockwave technology that started web animations.
She continued to serve as the senior manager for Hulu after her role in online video. Today, she works at the White House as a part of the United States Digital Service.
Lisa was named one of Inc. magazine’s Top 100 Female Founders for 2019, and she is happy to be a Black woman with a computer science degree. STEM is the way to go!
If you want your students to immerse into black history and inventions through fun quizzes, codes, and activities, try the Black History Fun Pack. It is a unique and fun way to introduce your children to some of the greats in our history!
This packet includes:
- Word search
- QR codes to gather info on the inventors
- Biography template on which you can populate info about each inventor (each inventor should get their on biography sheet)
Do you have technology in your classroom to help students in their research, but aren’t sure if they will find the right websites? No longer will students struggle with finding enough information, or writing their biography reports on each historical figure. The QR codes in this engaging packet will help students find credible facts with ease!
You can have each child in your class research all of the inventors listed in this packet, or place them into groups to research some of the inventors. This activity is great to use during Black History Month!
It is awesome for students to learn about the ingenuity of different cultures. It opens their eyes to the creative innovation within groups of people around the world. Celebrating popular inventions by black people of the Diaspora teaches students about the contributions that have changed our lives for the better.