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Five Black innovators inducted into the Nat’l Inventors Hall of Fame

29th January 2018   ·   0 Comments

For centuries, American history books have often ignored or failed to acknowledge the ingenuity and contributions of Black inventors and innovators in the U.S. like Lewis Latimer, who invented the cargon filament necessary for Thomas Edison’s light bulb to become a successful invention, and Benjamin Banneker, who played a critical role in the surveying of the land and the re-creation of the blueprints for Washington, DC.

The contributions of Black inventors span several centuries dating all the way back to the 18th century and continue to this very day.

At least one entity based in Alexandria, Va. is doing its part to ensure that the contributions of these Black inventors is included in the celebration of America’s ingenuity and innovation.

Since the founding of the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), more than 500 visionary men and women, who conceived, patented and advanced the greatest technological achievements of our nation, have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Historical innovators like Thomas Jennings and Garrett Morgan paved the way beyond science and technology by becoming advocates for African Americans.

“Each year, we induct a new class of industry pioneers into the National Inventors Hall of Fame who have conceived and patented innovations to further our nation, and this year’s class is no exception,” said National Inventors Hall of Fame CEO, Mike Oister. “This year’s Inductees have provided solutions to life’s common problems and as a result, they’ve enhanced our lives.”

Today, pioneers like Victor B. Lawrence continue to advance technologies and racial and economic inequalities.

Below are descriptions of several of past year’s inductees’ inventions:

Thomas Jennings, Dry Scouring (First African-American U.S. Patent)

Thomas Jennings invented a process he called “dry scouring,” becoming the first Afri can American to be granted a U.S. patent in 1821. His dry-scouring process was a predecessor to today’s dry-cleaning methods. His success as a businessman and patent holder helped him become a leader for civil rights in New York City. When Jennings died, Frederick Douglass wrote about his death. He noted the importance of the patent Jennings received and that the patent recognized him as a “citizen of the United States,” a designation at the time that shocked many.

Garrett Morgan, Gas Mask & Three-way Traffic Signal

Garrett Morgan was a self-educated Black man who produced a series of successful inventions in the beginning of the 2oth century. His first well-known invention was the safety hood – a forerunner of the gas mask. In 1923, he patented one of his best-known inventions, the three-way traffic signal. Morgan went on to sell his patent to General Electric, which developed the electric version of the product. Morgan became an advocate for racial equality, establishing the first Black fraternities in the country at Cleveland’s Western Reserve University.

Victor B. Lawrence, Signal Processing in Telecommunications.

Victor Lawrence improved transmission for the modern Internet with his invention of signal processing in telecommunications. His invention has stimulated the growth of the global Internet and advanced data encoding, modem technology, silicon ship design, ATM switching and protocols, DSL and digital video. As a key player in Internet technology, Lawrence advocates bringing Internet access to the world’s poorest countries. He spearheaded efforts to lay high-capacity fiber-optic cable along the west coast of Africa.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) is the premier nonprofit organization in America dedicated to recognizing inventors and invention, promoting creativity, and advancing the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.

On May 3, an Illumination Ceremony will be held at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum at the USPTO Headquarters in Alexandria, Va., where the 2018 Inductees will place illuminated hexagons bearing their names in the Gallery of Icons™.

Corrections: It was previously stated that Victor B. Lawrence, Thomas Jennings and Garrett Morgan were inducted as part of the 2017 class of Inductees. In fact, Lawrence was inducted in 2016; Jennings was inducted in 2015; and Morgan was inducted in 2005.

This article originally published in the January 29, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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