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You are on a computer doing your thing, and for a moment does it strike you that a black man played a big role in the making of this device you are using?
For color PC monitors, gigahertz processors, and all the peripherals you are now able to connect to a computer, you can all thank Dr. Mark Edward Dean, the African-American who holds 3 out of the 9 original patents for the IBM PC.
And those 3 patients are a tiny fraction of the 200+ patents the current John Fisher Distinguished Professor (University of Tennessee) holds.
Apparently no one thought of placing a hinged door box in a mail box until Philip B. Downing, another African-American, showed them in 1891, and his is the design you are familiar with.
Step into a salon to get your curls straightened, or your hair curly, and appreciate that the machine doing that came from Marjorie Stewart Joyner having a Eureka moment while making a pot roast.
The ‘Get Ready’ symbol Garett A. Morgan incorporated into his 3-stage traffic light system made crossing intersections a whole lot safer, and it’s a system that endures to date.
There’s a long list of inventions by men and women of color, yet they largely go unnoticed, simply coz people are unaware; there’s a book to disabuse us of this ignorance.
That book is Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success.
Black Inventors covers, as exhaustively a possible, the rich history of innovation and invention within the global black community, from the Aborigines of Australia, to Africans and their dispersed diaspora across Eurasia and the Americas.
It is the product of more than 20 years of research by Keith C. Holmes, a native New Yorker with roots in Jamaica. He has crisscrossed some 70 countries to get a better understanding of the circumstances and motivations that drove these feats of innovation and invention, and the result is an informed understanding of over 15,000 inventions, patents and trademarks.
As he notes, “Many western historians have traditionally omitted the fact that other cultures were using their own ideas and inventions to benefit their societies long before their contact with and dominance by Europeans.” Black Inventors is a timely reminder of a long and continuing tradition of innovation and invention among Black folk.
The tapestry of Black invention is rich and extensive, encompassing the eons from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt to the modern day, and includes among its most vivid displays advances in agriculture, food processing, medicine, and technology; Black Inventors gives an easy to follow timeline of such inventions, but is understandably more comprehensive when it comes to Black Inventors of the recent past (in the book this is from 1769 A.D.).
Black Inventors is probably one of the few places you can learn more about the Cameroonian, Dr. Ernest Simo, a pioneer in CDMA technology (which is what your Verizon/Sprint network uses), or the Togolese Dr. Victor Agegnenou, who created a system simply described as “fiber optics in the air.”
There is also a significant number of women inventors in the book, like Christina Nare from Burkina Faso, credited with developing a wine-making process using local fruits and cereals, or Kapinga Mikalu, who despite being in Pres. Mobutu’s Zaire, built a mirror-microscope device used in diagnostics.
Fast forward to modern day Zaire, now the DR Congo, Black Inventors casts the spotlight on Therese Inza, who developed a solar-powered robot that doubles up as a traffic light system (Garett Morgan, remember him?) and a traffic officer that can communicate and report offenders.
Truly, the list of inventors and their creations is long, and the best way to know them all is to grab a copy of the book, which is widely distributed and probably available at your nearest bookstore. Alternatively, the book can be obtained from numerous online retailers, including, Amazon, Baker & Taylor, Barnes and Noble, Google Books and Wheelers. Black Inventors, Crafting 200 Years of Success can also be found in the physical locations listed here.
The author, Mr. Keith C. Holmes, can be reached via the Twitter handle Globalblkinvtr, or this email: email@example.com.