List of African-American inventors and scientists

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Science and technology
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African-American contributions
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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'.
Name Life Occupation Inventions/Accomplishments Refs
Amos, Harold 1918–2003 Microbiologist First 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. 1930–1998 Mathematician Put forth the Andrews–Curtis conjecture in group theory with Morton L. Curtis, still unsolved [8]
Bailey, L.C. 1890–1976 Inventor Wind Powered Clothes Dryer. [9]
Ball, Alice Augusta 1892–1916 Chemist Extracted chaulmoogra oil for the treatment of Hansen's disease (leprosy). [10]
Banneker, Benjamin 1731–1806 Mathematician
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, Augustin 1947– Mathematician Work on diffeomorphisms and symplectomorphisms [12]
Janet Bashen 1957– 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, Patricia 1942– Ophthalmologist First 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, Andrew 1849–1921 Farmer
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, Miriam 1861–1947 Inventor
Educator
Invented "Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels". Second African-American woman to receive a patent. [21]
Berry, Leonidas 1902–1995 Gastroenterologist Gastroscope pioneer [22]
Bharucha-Reid, Albert T. 1927–1985 Mathematician
Statistician
Probability theory and Markov chain theorist [23]
Black, Keith 1957– Neurosurgeon Brain tumor surgery and research [24][25]
Blackwell, David 1919–2010 Mathematician
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, Henry 1807–1860 Inventor Second black inventor to issue a patent
Invented early spark plug
[27]

[28]

Boahen, Kwabena 19xx– Bioengineer Silicon retina able to process images in the same manner as a living retina [29][30]
Boone, Sarah 1832–1905
Inventor Ironing board allowing sleeves of women's garments to be ironed more easily [31][32][33]
Bouchet, Edward 1852–1918 Physicist First African-American to receive a Ph.D. in any subject. Received physics doctorate from Yale University in 1876.
Bowman, James 1923–2011 Physician Pathologist 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, Otis 1920–1982 Inventor
Engineer
Artificial heart pacemaker control unit. [36][37][38]
Brady, St. Elmo 1884–1966 Chemist Published three scholarly abstracts in Science and also collaborated on a paper published in Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry. [39]
Branson, Herman 1914–1995 Physicist
Educator
Protein structure research [40][41]
Brooks, Charles 1865– ? Inventor[citation needed] Street sweeper truck and a type of paper punch[citation needed]
Brooks, Phil 19xx– Inventor[citation needed] First U.S. Patent for a disposable syringe[citation needed]
Henry Brown 1832– ? Inventor Invented fire safe [42]
Burr, John Albert 18xx– ? Inventor Rotary-blade lawn mower patent [43]
Cardozo, P. William 1905–1962 Pediatrician Sickle 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, Ben 1951– Pediatric Neurosurgeon Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University
First surgeon to successfully separate craniopagus twins
[44]
Carver, George Washington 1865–1943 Botanical researcher Discovered hundreds of uses for previously useless vegetables and fruits, principally the peanut [45][46][47][48]
Chappelle, Emmett 1925– Scientist and researcher Valuable contributions to several fields: medicine, biology, food science, and astrochemistry
Clark, Mamie 1914–2005 Psychologist Conducted 1940s experiments using dolls to study children's attitudes about race.
Clark, Kenneth 1917–1983 Psychologist First Black president of the American Psychological Association [49]
Crosthwait, David, Jr. 1898–1976 Research engineer Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
Received some 40 U.S. patents relating to HVAC systems.
Dabiri, John 1980- Biophysicist Expert on jellyfish hydrodynamics and designer of a vertical-axis wind farm adapted from schooling fish.
Daly, Marie Maynard 1921–2003 Chemist First black American woman with a Ph.D. in chemistry.
Dean, Mark 1957– Computer scientist Led the team that developed the ISA bus, and led the design team responsible for creating the first one-gigahertz computer processor chip. [50][51][52]
Drew, Charles 1904–1950 Medical researcher Developed improved techniques for blood storage
Du Chaillu, Paul 1831–1903 Zoologist
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, Annie 1933– Computer scientist Work at the Lewis Research Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics [53][54]
Ejeta, Gebisa 1950- Geneticist Won the World Food Prize in 2009 for his major contributions in the production of sorghum.
Ejigu, Kitaw 1948–2006 Systems engineer Worked for NASA as a system engineer and space research scientist [55][dead link]
Ellis, Skip (Clarence) 1943– Computer scientist First African American with a Ph.D. in Computer Science
Software inventor including OfficeTalk at Xerox PARC
[56][57]
Ezerioha, Bisi 1972– Automotive engineer Drag racing engineer and driver
Ferguson, Lloyd Noel 1918–2011 Chemist
Educator
Chemistry doctorate, first received (1943, University of California, Berkeley) [58][59][60]
Fryer, Roland G., Jr. 1977– Economist
Social scientist
Statistician
Inequality studies
Gates, Sylvester James 1950– Theoretical physicist Work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory [61][62]
Goode, Sarah E. 1855–1905 Inventor Cabinet bed invention
First African-American woman to receive a patent in the United States
[63][64]
Gilbert, Juan E. 1969– Computer scientist Awarded the first Presidential Endowed Chair at Clemson University in honor of his accomplishments
Graves, Joseph L. 1955– Evolutionary biologist [65][66][67]
Greenaugh, Kevin 1956– Nuclear engineer [68]
Griffin, Bessie Blount 1914–2009 Physical therapist
Inventor
Amputee self-feeding device [69][70]
Hall, Lloyd 1894–1971 Chemist
Haile, Sossina M. 1966- Engineer Work on fuel cells
Haile-Selassie, Yohannes 1961- Paleoanthropologist Codiscoverer 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. 1932–2000 Co-discovered Rutherfordium (element 104) and Hafnium (element 105) at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory [71]
Hawkins, Walter Lincoln 1911–1992 Scientist Inventor at Bell Laboratories [72]
Hodge, John E. 1914–1996 Chemist
Holley, Kerrie 1954– Research computer scientist at IBM Co-creator of Service-Oriented Modeling and Architecture, SOMA and the Service Integration Maturity Model (SIMM)
Jarvis, Erich 19xx– Neurobiologist Duke University neuroscience bird songs studies. [73][74][75]
Johnson, Isaac 18xx– ? Inventor Held patent for improvements to the bicycle frame, specifically so it could be taken apart for compact storage. [76]
Johnson, Lonnie 1949– Mechanical engineerNuclear engineer
Inventor
Invented Super Soaker while researching thermal energy transfer engines; worked with NASA. Holder of over 80 patents [4][77]
[78][79]
Jones, Frederick McKinley 1893–1961 Inventor Invented refrigerated truck systems [80]
Julian, Percy 1899–1975 Chemist First to synthesize the natural product physostigmine; earned 130 chemical patents; lauded for humanitarian achievements. [81][82][83][84]
Just, Ernest 1883–1941 Woods Hole Marine Biology Institute Biologist Provided basic and initial descriptions of the structure–function–property relationship of the plasma membrane of biological cells. [85][86][87]
Kittles, Rick 1967– Geneticist Work in tracing the ancestry of African Americans via DNA testing [88][89]
Kountz, Samuel L. 1930–1981 Transplant surgeon
Researcher
Organ transplantation pioneer, particularly renal transplant research and surgery.
Author or co-author of 172 articles in scientific publications.
[90][91][92][93]
Latimer, Lewis 1848–1928 Inventor
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. [94][95][96][97]
Lawson, Jerry 1940–2011 Computer engineer Designer of Fairchild Channel F, the first programmable ROM cartridge-based video game console [6][98]
Lee, Raphael 1949– 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 Steven 1872–1948 Chemist Teacher at West Tennessee University
Matzeliger, Jan 1852–1889 Inventor Shoe assembly Machine [99][100]
McBay, Henry 1914–1995 Chemist His discoveries allowed chemists around the world to create inexpensive peroxide compounds [101][102]
McCoy, Elijah 1844–1929 Inventor Invented a version of the automatic lubricator for steam engines. [103][104]
McLurkin, James 1972– Roboticist [105]
McWhorter, John 1965– Linguist Specializes in the study of creole language formation
Montgomery, Benjamin 1819–1877 Inventor Designed a steam operated propeller to provide propulsion to boats in shallow water
Moore, Willie Hobbs 1934-1994 Physicist Willie 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. [106]
Morgan, Garrett 1877–1963 Inventor Invented the first gas mask and the first traffic signal [107]
Nmezi, Murphy 1955– Physician/Biostatistician Advances in Path Analysis and Structural Equation Modeling
Nriagu, Jerome 1944– Geochemist Studies toxic metals in the environment. Originator of the lead poisoning thesis of the decline of the Roman Empire
Ogbu, John Uzo 1939–2003 Anthropologist Ethnic studies in education and economics [108][109]
Olukotun, Kunle 19xx– Computer scientist Early advocate and researcher of multi-core processors
Oyekan, Soni 1946– Chemical engineer
Poindexter, Hildrus 1901–1987 Bacteriologist
Epidemiologist
Work on the epidemiology of tropical diseases including malaria
Petters, Arlie 1964– Physicist Work on the mathematical physics of gravitational lensing
Quarterman, Lloyd Albert 1918–1982 Scientist
Fluoride Chemist
Manhattan Project, worked with Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi
Renfroe, Earl 1907–2000 Orthodontist [110][111]
Rillieux, Norbert 1806–1894 Engineer
Inventor
Inventor of the multiple-effect evaporator [112]
Robinson, Larry 1957– Environmental chemist Investigated possible role of arsenic in the death of Zachary Taylor. Interim president of Florida A&M University.
Russell, Jesse 1948– Engineer
Inventor
Wireless communications engineer
Sammons, Walter 1890–1973 Inventor Patent for hot comb [113]
Sowell, Thomas 1930– Economist
Social scientist
Economist, social theorist and political philosopher [114][115][116][117]
Steele, Claude 1946– Psychologist
Social scientist
Stereotype threat studies
Stiff, Lee 1941– Mathematician President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics from 2000 to 2002 [118]
Snyder, Window 1976– Computer engineer Security engineer at Microsoft, Mozilla, and Apple
Temple, Lewis 1800–1854 Inventor, Blacksmith, abolitionist Inventor of the toggling whaling harpoon head. [119]
Thomas, Vivien 1910–1985 Surgical technician Blue baby syndrome treatment in the 1940s [120][121][122]
Turner, Charles Henry 1867–1923 Zoologist First 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. [123]
Tyree, Bernadette 19xx– Biochemist[citation needed] Program Director at National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases[citation needed]
Tyson, Neil deGrasse 1958– Astronomer Researcher and popular educator in astronomy and the sciences [124][125][126]
Walker, Arthur B. C., Jr. 1936–2001 Astronomer Developed normal incidence multilayer XUV telescopes to photograph the solar corona [127][128][129]
Walker, C. J. 1867–1919 Inventor[citation needed] Created black cosmetic products.
Washington, Warren M. 1936– Atmospheric scientist Former chair of the National Science Board [130][131][132][133]
West, James E. 1931– Acoustician
Inventor
Co-developed the foil electret microphone [134][135][136]
Wilkins, J. Ernest, Jr. 1923–2011 Mathematician
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. [137][138]
[139]
Williams, Daniel 1856–1931 Surgerian Performed the first successful open-heart surgery in the United States [140]
Williams, Scott W. 1943– Mathematician
Williams, Walter E. 1936– Economist
Social scientist
[141][142][143]
Woods, Granville 1856–1910 Inventor Invented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph [144]
Wright, Jane C. 1919–2013 Cancer Research and Surgeon Noted for her contributions to chemotherapy and for pioneering the use of the drug methotrexate to treat breast cancer and skin cancer
Wright, Louis T. 1891–1952 Surgeon Led team that first used Aureomycin as a treatment on humans [145][146][147]
Young, Roger Arliner 1899–1964 Zoologist First African-American woman to receive a doctorate degree in zoology [148][149]

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 .
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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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  69. ^ "Bessie Blount Griffin". www.csupomona.edu. Retrieved 2010-01-05. 
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