Can you believe we are already in the second month of 2022? This month is celebrated nationally by Americans in dedication to the contributions of African American art, history and culture. I thought it would be a great time to share a few of my favorites with you.
1. Marie Van Brittan Brown
Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the first closed circuit television security system. This invention helped pave the way for all modern home security systems. She worked as a nurse and her husband Albert was an electronics technician. Both of them worked long and irregular hours, so they created something to be able to see who was at the front door. Their first invention was a multiple peephole, television monitor and sliding cameras able to capture people at different heights.The also had a remote so they could lock the front door from a distance. They received their patent in 1969. They also received an award from the New York Times and the National Scientists Committee for their work in technology.
2. Dr. Marian Croak
Dr. Marian Croak is currently the vice president of engineering at Google. She developed Voice Over Internet Protocol. She has over 200 patents related to that technology. She also developed text to vote, created during the first season of American Idol and she also helped with donating to text campaigns.
3. Mark Dean
Mark Dean invented color computer monitors. As an engineer for IBM, he was responsible for three of the company’s original nine patents which included the first gigahertz chip that helped us complete a billion calculations in a second. His Industry Standards Architecture (ISA) systems bus allows us to plug peripheral devices, like disk drives or printers directly into our computers. His color computer monitor that he developed in 1980 helped a create wave of personal computers that changed how we all interact and complete our business transactions.
4. Thomas Jennings
Thomas Jennings found a way to clean garments that couldn’t handle regular washing. His method of washing helped these delicate clothes keep their original shape and appeared to be polished and brand new. Thomas Jennings became the first black man to receive a patent in America. He received this patent in 1821. Unfortunately, his patent was in the X Patents, a group of 10,000 documents damaged during an 1836 fire in Washington D.C.
5. George Grant
George Grant invented the golf tee. Before this invention players would wet mounds of sand to balance their golf balls. He made a wooden tee in 1899, but couldn’t produce it to scale. He had to make these tees for himself and friends. William Lowell made the Reddy Tee in 1920, and this helped Grant’s idea spread around the world.
6. Alexander Miles
Next time you walk up to an elevator and push the button remember that Alexander Miles created the automatic elevator doors. In the late 1800s, all of the elevator shafts were closed separately with a designated operator. This was very dangerous because if the people riding the elevator forgot to close the shaft, they would fall out and potentially die. He was granted his patent in 1887. His invention set the safety standards for elevators that we still use today.
7. Lisa Gelobter
This is one of the coolest inventions on this list. Lisa Gelobter created the GIF. I know I use this feature several times a day to help me add a little flair to my text messages and social media responses. She is a computer scientist that uses interactive applications and animation to create these GIFs. She was on the senior management team that launched another favorite – Hulu. She also worked at BET and in the White House’s Digital Service Department.
8. James West
James West helped us all hear a little better. His electric microphone is now 90 percent of all microphones used today, including simple things that we may not think about when it comes to microphones like hearing aids, our phones and those cute baby monitors we buy to help us listen in on our new precious gifts. This technology is called electret transducer technology. He created over 250 patents on microphones and other similar technologies.
9. Frederick Jones
We see more of these trucks now in the age of COVID, delivering our fresh foods. Frederick Jones taught himself engineering at a young age which then inspired him to get an engineering license by the time he was 20 years old. In the 1930s, he patented a portable air cooling unit for trucks carrying perishable food. During World War 2, his company, U.S. Thermo Control, and his invention were responsible for preserving much needed medicine, perishable foods and blood for our American soldiers. President George H. Bush presented his widow with a National Medal of Technology in 1991. He was the first black man to receive this honor.
10. Lonnie G. Johnson
I know we all can’t wait until summer after feeling this recent cold weather. Usually, the first thing we buy for our kids to have some fun with water is a… that’s right, a Super Soaker! Super Soakers were invented by Lonnie G. Johnson, a former Air Force and NASA engineer. His invention is still the top selling toy of all time. Two years after his invention reached the stores, they generated over $200 million in retail sales. Johnson has over 100 patents. Now, the Super Soaker is a billion dollar business.
So, as we celebrate the history of these amazing Americans, share some of these inventions with your friends to help us continue to share and spread great news about people that have changed our lives forever.