African American Inventors
MARIE VAN BRITTAN BROWN
Inventor and pioneer of the CCTV system. While home security systems today are more advanced than ever, back in 1966 the idea for a home surveillance device seemed almost unthinkable. That was the year famous African-American inventor Marie Van Brittan Brown, and her partner Albert Brown, applied for an invention patent for a closed-circuit television security system – the forerunner to the modern home security system.
Brown’s system had a set of four peep holes and a camera that could slide up and down to look out each one. Anything the camera picked up would appear on a monitor. An additional feature of Brown’s invention was that a person also could unlock a door with a remote control.
A female black inventor far ahead of her time, Marie Van Brittan Brown created an invention that was the first in a long string of home-security inventions that continue to flood the market today.
ALICE H. PARKER
Known for her contribution to the heating furnace she invented a furnace that supplied central heating for entire homes and buildings, which was patented on December 23, 1919. This was much safer than burning firewood. Her heating furnace was different from the other furnaces around at that time. Her design had air ducts that allowed heat to spread throughout the structure. Parker’s invention included a multiple burner system and used natural gas. What made it especially unique is that it was like later zone heating, where the temperature could be moderated in different areas of a building.
Was an African-American inventor who was best known for being awarded a patent for inventing electric elevator doors that automatically open and close. He was awarded the patent, U.S. Patent 371,207, on October 11, 1887.
The potato chip was invented in 1853 by George Crum. Crum was a Native American/African American chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, USA. French fries were popular at the restaurant and one day a diner complained that the fries were too thick. Although Crum made a thinner batch, the customer was still unsatisfied. Crum finally made fries that were too thin to eat with a fork, hoping to annoy the extremely fussy customer. The customer, surprisingly enough, was happy – and potato chips were invented!
Thomas Elkins invented the modern toilet. He influenced several major patents, but it’s this one we appreciate most (not to knock the multi-purpose table or refrigerators for dead bodies).
His was the first blimp to have an electric motor and directional controls. Goodyear better have this man’s picture in their lobby.
Driving up a steep hill got a whole lot easier in 1932, thanks to this guy who invented an improved gear shift transmission system in 1932. He also patented a beer-tapper, which this technology is still used today. He invented a self-locking rack for billiard cues as well as several other patented inventions, like the horizontally swinging barber’s chair.
In the Stevie Wonder song “Black Man,” the Motown marvel sings of Benjamin Banneker: “first clock to be made in America was created by a black man.” Though the song is a fitting salute to a great inventor (and African Americans in general), it only touches on the genius of Benjamin Banneker and the many hats he wore – as a farmer, mathematician, astronomer, author and land surveyor.
GEORGE FRANKLIN GRANT
He was the first African-American professor at Harvard. He was also a Boston dentist, and an inventor of a wooden golf tee.
GERALD ANDERSON “JERRY” LAWSON
He was an American electronic engineer. He is known for his work in designing the Fairchild Channel F video game console as well as pioneering the commercial video game cartridge.