Despite the hardships suffered through slavery, many African Americans have managed to become great inventors, scientists, and thinkers. This is a list of the ten greatest African American inventors.
5. Lewis Latimer 1848 – 1928
Invented: Long life lightbulb
Lewis Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1848. He was the son of George and Rebecca Latimer, escaped slaves from Virginia. Latimer was hired as the assistant manager and draftsman for U.S. Electric Lighting Company owned by Hiram Maxim. Maxim was the chief rival to Thomas Edison. Maxim greatly desired to improve on Edison’s light bulb and focused on the main weakness of Edison’s bulb – their short life span (generally only a few days.) Latimer set out to make a longer lasting bulb. Latimer devised a way of encasing the filament within an cardboard envelope which prevented the carbon from breaking and thereby provided a much longer life to the bulb and hence made the bulbs less expensive and more efficient. This enabled electric lighting to be installed within homes and throughout streets.
4. Granville Woods 1856 – 1910
Invented: A variation on the induction telegraph
The magnitude of an inventors work can often be defined by the esteem in which he is held by fellow inventors. If this is the case, then Granville Woods was certainly a respected inventor as he was often referred to as the “Black Thomas Edison.” In 1885, Woods patented an apparatus which was a combination of a telephone and a telegraph. The device, which he called “telegraphony,” would allow a telegraph station to send voice and telegraph messages over a single wire. The device was so successful that he later sold it to the American Bell Telephone Company. In 1887, Woods developed his most important invention to date – a device he called Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph. A variation of the “induction telegraph,” it allowed for messages to be sent from moving trains and railway stations. By allowing dispatchers to know the location of each train, it provided for greater safety and a decrease in railway accidents. Over the course of his life time Granville Woods would obtain more than 50 patents for inventions including an automatic brake and an egg incubator and for improvements to other inventions such as safety circuits, telegraph, telephone, and phonograph.