Bessie Blount Griffin

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Bessie Virginia Blount (November 24, 1914 – December 30, 2009)[1] was a physical therapist, inventor, and forensic scientist also known by her married name, Bessie Blount Griffin.

Early life[edit]

Blount was born in November 24, 1914 in Hickory, Virginia. She always had a longing to be in the medical field when she grew up. Her parents were Mary and William Blount.


Blount, born in Hickory, Virginia, initially attended Union Junior College. She received nurse's training at Newark City Hospital, (currently University Hospital) in Newark, New Jersey,[1] then went on to Panzer College of Physical Education and Hygiene in East Orange, New Jersey. Along the way, she studied physical therapy in Chicago. She loved learning and going to school.


During World War II, as part of her work with wounded soldiers, Blount devised an apparatus to help amputees feed themselves. She invented an electronic feeding device in 1951, a feeding tube that delivered one mouthful of food at a time, controlled by biting down on the tube.[2] The American Veterans Administration did not accept her invention, so she sold it to the French government. Blount was once a physical therapist to the mother-in-law of Theodore Edison, son of famed inventor Thomas Edison. She and the younger Edison became close friends and while in his home she invented the disposable cardboard emesis basin. The basin was fashioned out of newspaper, flour and water, which was then baked into a hard form.[3] This invention was also not accepted by the American Veterans Administration, so she sold it to Belgium.

Forensic science career[edit]

In 1969, Blount went into law enforcement as a forensic scientist, at the Vineland Police Department and the Norfolk Police Department. In the mid-1970s, she became the chief document examiner at the Portsmouth Police Department. In 1977, she trained and worked at Scotland Yard in England. She was the first African-American woman to work there. She ran her own business as a forensic science consultant in the 1990s, until age 83, studying slave papers and Civil War documents as well as verifying the authenticity of documents containing Native American-U.S. treaties.

Interviews and public appearances[edit]

In 1953, Blount appeared on the WCAU Philadelphia television show “The Big Idea”, becoming the first African-American and the first woman to be given such an amazing recognition, especially for an African -American of that time. On the program, she stated, "A Black woman can invent something for the benefit of human kind."[citation needed]

Honors and awards[edit]

Virginia Women in History in 2005.[4]


  1. ^ a b Obituary: Bessie Griffin, Newark Star-Ledger
  2. ^ "Bessie Blount Griffin". Retrieved 2010-01-05.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  3. ^ Colt, Samuel (2008). Inventors and inventions. New York: Marshall Cavendish. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-7614-7764-8. 
  4. ^ "Virginia Women in History Past Honorees". Retrieved 2010-01-05.