Global Inventor Statistics: Tracking 5 MM plus Utility Patents and 5 MM plus Inventors (1/1/2002 - 3/21/2023)

Top 25 Black Inventors List Who Changed the World

February is Black History Month, an annual observance originating in the United States, where it is also known as African American History Month.  To commemorate, we are looking at the Top 25 Black Inventor List who changed the world. Many people are unaware that black inventors and engineers have made significant contributions to almost every aspect of life throughout history through their innovative creations.

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Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928) 

Lewis Howard Latimer – was an African-American inventor and patent draftsman. His inventions included an evaporative air conditioner, an improved process for manufacturing carbon filaments for light bulbs, and an improved toilet system for railroad cars. In 1884, he joined the Edison Electric Light Company where he worked as a draftsman and wrote the first book on electric lighting.

Despite the racial barriers of his time, Latimer was able to make significant contributions to the field and paved the way for future Black inventors. Today, his legacy continues to inspire and encourage people of colour to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

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Alexander Miles (1838-1918)

Alexander Miles – was an African American inventor who made important contributions to the field of building technology.

Miles is best known for inventing an automatic elevator, which made it possible to move up and down inside a building without having to manually operate the elevator. This invention was a major milestone in the history of building technology and improved the safety and convenience of elevators for people all over the world.

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Granville Tailer Woods (1856 – 1910)

Granville Tailer Woods – was an African  American inventor who held more than 50 patents in the U.S. He was the first African American mechanical and electrical engineer after the Civil War. 

Self-taught, he concentrated most of his work on trains and streetcars. One of his notable inventions was a device he called the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph, a variation of induction telegraph which relied on ambient static electricity from existing telegraph lines to send messages between train stations and moving trains.

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George Washington Carver (1864 – 1943)

George Washington Carver – was an American agricultural scientist and inventor who promoted alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion. He was one of the most prominent black scientists of the early 20th century.

Carver is best known for his work in developing alternative crops for farmers in the southern United States, particularly peanuts and sweet potatoes. He developed hundreds of products using these crops, including dyes, soaps, and other household items, which helped farmers in the region to diversify and become more self-sufficient.

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Sarah Elisabeth Goode (1855 – 1905)

Sarah Elisabeth Goode – was an African American inventor and businesswoman. She is best known for her invention of the foldaway bed, which was designed to conserve space in small apartments. Goode received a patent for her invention in 1885, making her the first African American woman to receive a patent for a piece of furniture.

She went on to establish a successful furniture store in Chicago and continued to invent new products throughout her life.

Despite the challenges she faced as a black woman in business in the late 19th century, Goode’s innovative spirit and determination have made her a notable figure in the history of American entrepreneurship and invention.

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Elijah J. McCoy (1844  – 1929)

Elijah J. McCoy – was a Canadian-American engineer of African-American descent.

McCoy is best known for his invention of the “Automatic Lubricator,” a device that automatically lubricated the steam engines of trains and other machines. This invention was critical in improving the efficiency of machines and reducing the frequency of breakdowns, making them more reliable and easier to maintain.

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Madam C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove; 1867 – 1919) 

Madam C.J. Walker – was an African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist. She is recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in America in the Guinness Book of World Records

Walker made her fortune by developing and marketing a line of cosmetics and hair care products for black women through the business she founded, Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company. She became known also for her philanthropy and activism.

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Henry Blair (1807–1860) 

Henry Blair – was an American inventor and farmer. He was one of the first African American inventors to receive a patent, and he is credited with inventing two different types of agricultural implements. In 1834, he received a patent for a seed planter, which was designed to help farmers plant seeds in rows at a consistent depth and spacing. He received another patent in 1836 for a corn harvester, which was a significant improvement over existing corn harvesting methods.

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Sarah Boone (née Sarah Marshall; 1832 – 1904) 

Sarah Boone – was an African American inventor who made significant contributions to the field of household appliances, and was the first Black woman to get a patent.

Boone is best known for inventing a new and improved ironing board, designed to make ironing clothes easier and more efficient. Her design, which featured a curved shape and a slanted surface, was patented in 1892 and remains an important part of household appliances.

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Frederick McKinley Jones (1893 – 1961) 

Frederick McKinley Jones – left his mark with the development of refrigeration equipment, receiving over 40 patents for it. In the 1930s, he began inventing automatic refrigerated air-cooling units for trucks, trains, ships, and planes, which helped the preservation of food. His creation, the Thermo King, allowed people to eat fresh food year-round. His work also contributed to the preservation of blood and medicine, proving to be particularly useful during WWII.

In 1991, he became the first African American to receive the National Medal of Technology.

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Otis Frank Boykin (1920 – 1982)

Otis Frank Boykin -was an American inventor and engineer who made significant contributions to the field of electronics. He is best known for his work on developing various electronic devices, including a wire precision resistor used in guided missiles and computers. Boykin received more than 25 patents in his lifetime and was widely recognized for his innovative designs and technological advancements.

He was a pioneering figure in the field of electronics and continues to inspire future generations of inventors and engineers.

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Jan Ernst Matzeliger (1852 – 1889) 

Jan Ernst Matzeliger -was a Surinamese-American inventor who made important contributions to the field of shoemaking.

Matzeliger is best known for inventing the lasting machine, which was the machine used in shoemaking to attach the upper part of a shoe to the sole. Prior to this invention, shoemaking was a slow and labour-intensive process, but the lasting machine made it possible to produce shoes much more quickly and efficiently. This invention had a profound impact on the shoe industry and revolutionized the way shoes were produced and sold.

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Garrett A. Morgan (1877-1963)

Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. – was an African American inventor and businessman who made important contributions to the fields of transportation and safety.

Morgan is best known for inventing a breathing device for underwater diving and a traffic signal for controlling the flow of vehicles. He received a patent for his traffic signal in 1923, and it quickly became widely adopted in cities across the United States and around the world.

He also discovered and developed a chemical hair-processing and straightening solution.

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Dr. Percy Lavon Julian (1899 – 1975) 

Dr. Percy Lavon Julian – was an African American chemist and inventor who made significant contributions to the field of organic chemistry and medicine.

Julian is best known for developing synthetic derivatives of natural substances, including hormones and cortisone, which is used to treat a wide range of medical conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. He was also a pioneer in plant chemistry, where he studied the chemical compounds found in plants and developed new methods for synthesizing these compounds.

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Charles Richard Drew (1904 – 1950) 

Charles Richard Drew – was an African American physician and medical researcher who made important contributions to the field of blood banking and transfusion medicine.

Drew is best known for his pioneering work in developing blood banks and improving the process of blood transfusion. He was the first person to establish a successful blood bank, which allowed for the storage and preservation of blood, and his work led to the development of modern blood banking practices.

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Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922 – 1999) 

Marie Van Brittan Brown -was an African American inventor who made significant contributions to the field of home security.

Brown is best known for inventing the first home security system, which consisted of a set of closed-circuit television cameras and a two-way communication system that allowed homeowners to monitor their homes and communicate with police or other authorities in the event of a break-in. This invention revolutionized the field of home security and paved the way for the development of modern security systems.

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James Edward Maceo West (1931) 

James Edward Maceo West – is an American inventor and engineer. He is best known for his contributions to the development of the electret microphone, which is widely used in many devices such as telephones, hearing aids, and microphones for recording studios.

He holds over 250 patents and has been recognized for his contributions to the field of engineering, including being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999. West continues to be an influential figure in the field of engineering and is considered one of the greatest inventors of the 20th century.

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Henry Thomas Sampson Jr.  (1934-2015)

Henry Thomas Sampson Jr. – was an American inventor and nuclear engineer who made important contributions to the field of energy technology.

Sampson is best known for his work in developing the gamma-electron energy converter, a device that converts gamma rays into electricity. This invention was a major milestone in the field of nuclear energy and has since been widely recognized for its potential to revolutionize energy production.

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George Robert Carruthers (1939 – 2020) 

George Robert Carruthers – is an African American physicist and inventor who made important contributions to the field of space exploration and astronomy.

Carruthers is best known for his work in developing the ultraviolet camera/spectrograph, which was used by NASA during the Apollo 16 mission to study the moon and the surrounding space environment. This invention revolutionized the field of space exploration and allowed for a deeper understanding of the moon and the universe.

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Patricia Era Bath (1942 – 2019)

Patricia Bath – was an American ophthalmologist and inventor who made important contributions to the field of eye care and eye health.

Bath is best known for her invention of the Laserphaco Probe, a device used in cataract surgery to remove the cloudy lens of the eye and replace it with an artificial lens. This invention revolutionized the field of cataract surgery and improved the quality of life for millions of people around the world.

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Mark E. Dean (1957)

Mark E. Dean – is an American computer engineer and inventor who has made significant contributions to the field of computer technology.

Dean is best known for his work at IBM, where he played a key role in the development of several key computing technologies. He developed the ISA bus, and he led a design team for making a one-gigahertz computer processor chip. He holds three of nine PC patents for being the co-creator of the IBM personal computer released in 1981. In 1995, Dean was named the first-ever African-American IBM Fellow.

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Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson (1946)

Shirley Ann Jackson – is an American physicist, and was the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is the first African-American woman to have earned a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics. She is also the second African-American woman in the United States to earn a doctorate in physics.

Jackson is best known for her work in the field of theoretical physics, where she made important contributions to our understanding of condensed matter systems and the behaviour of electrons in solids.

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Roscoe L. Koontz (1922 – 1997)

Roscoe L. Koontz – was an American Health Physicist.

Notable inventions: Collimator and pinhole gamma the ray camera

This health physics specialist created the collimator, a device used to align two or more devices and set them toward at a proper focus. He also designed radiation activity measuring devices and automatic air and water sampling equipment.

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Lonnie George Johnson (1949)

Lonnie Johnson – is an African American inventor, engineer, aerospace engineer, and entrepreneur, whose work includes a U.S. Air Force term of service and a twelve-year stint at NASA, where he worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Johnson is best known for his work in developing the Super Soaker water gun, which has become a popular toy and tool for water play around the world. He is also known for his work in developing advanced energy technologies, including a highly efficient solar thermal energy system and a high-performance battery system.

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Kenneth J. Dunkley (1939)

Kenneth J. Dunkley – is an American physicist, inventor and entrepreneur. He is best known in the field of holography for inventing and patenting Three Dimensional Viewing Glasses (3-DVG)
Known as both a visual pioneer and a leader in the field of holography

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