Black Inventors Who Don't Get the Credit They Deserve
Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve

Shannon Quinn - February 15, 2023

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of James West, we have small microphones in modern tech. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Auditory Physicist- “Acoustician” James E. West Helped Develop the Electret Microphone

James E. West is an American acoustician who was born in Virginia in 1931. He is best known for the development of the electret microphone. A variety of electronic devices, such as telephones, hearing aids, and microphones for musical instruments, widely use it now. West joined Bell Labs in 1962, where he conducted research on the development of improved microphones. Together with his colleague Gerhard Sessler, they developed the electret microphone. This uses a permanent electric charge to generate a signal, rather than relying on a power source. It allowed them to make it smaller, more reliable, and less expensive to produce than other types of microphones.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of Jesse Ernest Wilkins, we have the atomic bomb. Credit: Shutterstock

Mathematical Physicist Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr. Contributed to The Manhattan Project

Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr. was an American mathematical physicist and engineer. He was born in 1923, in Wisconsin. Throughout his career, Wilkins made important contributions to the fields of nuclear physics and engineering. He worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bombs, and later helped develop the first nuclear power plants. He was also a pioneer in the use of computers for scientific research. Wilkins helped develop the first computer simulations of physical systems. In recognition of his contributions to science and technology, Wilkins received numerous awards and honors. However, because of his inventions, many people have died.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of Frederick McKinley Jones, we can transport food across the country. Credit: Wikimedia commons

Inventor Frederick McKinley Jones Created Refrigeration Systems For Trucks

Frederick McKinley Jones was an African American inventor born in 1893. His work in the field of refrigeration and over 60 patents for his inventions have earned him recognition and fame. This includes the first automatic refrigeration system for trucks and trailers. Jones’s innovations revolutionized the transportation of perishable goods, such as food and medicine. This helped make long-distance transportation of these items much more efficient and reliable. In addition to his work as an inventor, Jones was also an entrepreneur and founded the Thermo King Corporation, which manufactured and sold his refrigeration systems. He was a pioneer in the field of refrigeration and his work helped lay the foundation for the modern transportation industry.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of Sarah E Goode, we have modern inventions like the Murphy Bed. Credit: Core 77

Entrepreneur Sarah E. Goode Invented the Cabinet Bed

Sarah E. Goode was an African American inventor and businesswoman who was born into slavery in 1855. She went on to become the first African American woman to receive a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Goode’s invention of the folding cabinet bed, designed to save space in small apartments, has earned her recognition and fame. Her invention was innovative because it combined a bed and a desk or cabinet in one piece of furniture, allowing people to make the most of their limited living space. During the day, the bed folded up into a cabinet, freeing up space for other activities, and easily pulled down into a bed at night. Goode’s invention helped to meet the needs of people in growing cities who were looking to make the most of their limited living space.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of Norbert Rillieux, we have refined sugar in almost everything. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Chemical Engineer Norbert Rillieux Revolutionized the Sugar Refining Industry

Norbert Rillieux was an African American inventor and engineer who lived in the 19th century. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1806. Rillieux revolutionized the sugar refining industry with his invention of a multiple-effect evaporator and has gained recognition for it. Before Rillieux’s invention, sugar refining was a difficult and time-consuming process that required a large amount of fuel and manpower. Rillieux’s multiple-effect evaporator made the process much more efficient by using a series of evaporators. The sugar syrup vaporized and condensed by setting each at a lower pressure than the preceding one. In the end, the result was a much purer form of sugar.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of Dr. Daniel Williams, we have open heart surgery. Credit: USFHP

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Performed the First Successful Open-Heart Surgery

Daniel Hale Williams wasn’t exactly an “inventor”, but his work opened the door to life-saving surgical practices. Doctor Hale was an African American physician and surgeon who lived from 1856 to 1931. He was one of the pioneers of modern heart surgery and was one of the first physicians to perform a successful open-heart surgery. Williams grew up during a time when African Americans faced significant barriers to opportunities in the medical profession. Despite these obstacles, he went on to earn a medical degree. In 1893, Williams performed one of the first successful open-heart surgeries in history. He successfully repaired a knife wound to the heart of a patient. This paved the way for the development of modern heart surgery. He also founded Provident Hospital and Training School in Chicago, one of the first African American-owned hospitals in the country.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of Alexander Miles, we no longer need elevator attendants. Credit: Liberty Writers Africa

Alexander Miles Invented The Automatic Elevator Door

A man named Alexander Miles was an African American inventor who lived from 1838 to 1918. Miles revolutionized the elevator industry with his invention of the automatic elevator door, making elevators safer and more convenient for use. Before his groundbreaking invention, elevators operated manually. Passengers often had to close and open the doors themselves. Miles’ automatic door design used a sensor system to automatically open and close the doors, making elevators much safer and more efficient. The automatic elevator door quickly became an industry standard, and Miles’ invention had a significant impact on the growth and development of the modern elevator industry.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of Lonnie Johnson, kids everywhere have Super Soakers. Credit: CNN

Engineer Lonnie G. Johnson Invented the Super Soaker

Lonnie G. Johnson is an American inventor and engineer who was born in Alabama in 1949. His invention of the Super Soaker, a high-powered water gun, has made him famous worldwide. Johnson has worked as an engineer and inventor for several government and private organizations, including the U.S. Air Force, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Energy Research Corporation. In addition to the Super Soaker, Johnson has also patented several other inventions in the fields of energy and thermodynamics. He created a high-efficiency heat pump and a high-efficiency water heater. Numerous awards and honors have recognized Lonnie Johnson’s contributions to science and technology. Because of him, your kids will get each other soaking wet every summer.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of Philip Emeagwali, we have the supercomputer. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Computer Engineer Philip Emeagwali’s Inventions Contributed to the Development of the Supercomputer

Philip Emeagwali is a Nigerian-American computer scientist and mathematician born in 1954, in Akure, Nigeria. His pioneering work in high-performance computing has earned him recognition and fame. This helped to advance the study of petroleum reservoirs and climate modeling. In 1989, he won the Gordon Bell Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in high-performance computing, for his contribution to the use of supercomputers. Emeagwali not only excels in high-performance computing, but also champions science education and the application of technology to enhance the lives of Africans through advocacy.He is a strong supporter of the “brain gain” movement, which seeks to attract highly educated professionals from the African diaspora back to Africa to help drive development on the continent.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of Marian Croak, we have VoIP technology. Credit: Unique Coloring

Computer Engineer Marian R. Croak Developed VoIP Technology

In more recent history, Marian R. Croak is an American computer scientist and engineer. She is a Vice President and Technical Fellow at Google. Prior to joining Google, she worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories for over 20 years, where she made significant contributions to the development of the internet. Croak earned notoriety for developing Voice over IP (VoIP) technology, enabling voice communication via the internet. Over 150 patents recognized her groundbreaking work and established her as a pioneer in the development of the internet. Besides her technical innovations, Croak is famous for championing diversity and inclusion in the technology industry. Because of her, we are now able to have Zoom meetings at home.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of Percy Julian’s medical research, we have a lot of new hormone and steroid compounds. Credit: Science History

Chemist Percy Lavon Julian Invented Several Medical Applications With His Research

Percy Lavon Julian, a pioneering African American chemist, was born in 1899 in Montgomery, Alabama. He broke barriers as the first African American to earn a PhD in Chemistry from an American university. Focused on plant-based chemistry, Julian achieved great success in isolating and synthesizing compounds from plants, such as hormones and steroids. He utilized his research to found several companies that manufactured and sold these compounds for medical and industrial use. Despite facing significant challenges and discrimination, Julian remained dedicated to his work and left a lasting impact on the field of chemistry and the African American community.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of inventor Shirley Jackson, we have caller ID. Credit: Black Doctor

We Have Shirley Jackson to Thank For Caller ID

Shirley Jackson made history as the first African American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT. Her groundbreaking telecommunications research led to the development of several important products, including the touch-tone phone, portable fax, fiber optic cables, and caller ID. Not many people use landlines anymore. But for those of us who remember the invention of caller ID, that was truly revolutionary. You could finally see who was calling, and choose to ignore them if you like. Without her, phones may have never advanced to what they are today. Recognized for her exceptional achievements, President Barack Obama appointed her as co-chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory in 2014.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of Lisa Gelobter, we have meme culture. Credit: Forbes

Lisa Gelobter Invented the Technology to Make GIFs Possible

Lisa Gelobter actively leads a long and successful career in the tech industry, because of her innovations. She is known for her role in the development of various digital media and entertainment technologies. Gelobter has held crucial positions at numerous prominent tech companies such as, BET, and Hulu, and has also served as a trusted advisor and mentor for many tech startups. In addition to her achievements in technology, Gelobter strongly advocates for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry and actively works to enhance the representation of women and underrepresented minorities. Every time you text someone a GIF, you should thank Lisa Gelobter. Because without her, the technology would have never been invented.

Black Inventors Who Don’t Get the Credit They Deserve
Because of Dr. Patricia Bath, it is now possible to remove cataracts. Credit: History Collection

Dr. Patricia E. Bath Invented the Laserphaco Probe to Treat Cataracts

As a pioneering African American ophthalmologist and inventor, Dr. Patricia E. Bath made significant contributions to the field of medicine. Born in 1942, she became the first African American woman to complete a residency in ophthalmology. She was also the first African American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. With her innovative spirit, she invented the Laserphaco Probe. This revolutionized the field of cataract surgery. Throughout her distinguished career, Dr. Bath passionately dedicated herself to increasing access to quality eye care for all. (Particularly those in underserved communities.) She received numerous awards and honors for her contributions to the field of ophthalmology. Sadly, she passed away in 2019. But her legacy continues to inspire future generations of medical professionals and inventors.

How did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

14 Black Inventors You Probably Didn’t Know About. Pamela Rosario Pérez. Think Growth. 2017.

8 Black Inventors Who Made Daily Life Easier. Thaddeus Morgan. History. 2019.

No, a Black man didn’t invent the light bulb. But Lewis Howard Latimer made it better. Leah Asmelash.CNN. 2020.

15 African-American Inventors to Remember This Black History Month and Beyond. Oprah Daily. 2023.