"I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions." ~ Proverbs 8:12
As Black History Month comes to a close, I wanted to highlight some historical figures whose inventions and innovations continue to have a significant impact on our lives today. They also reflect how God's inventive and entrepreneurial characteristics are displayed in His children - whether they acknowledge Him or not. Many of these creative geniuses are well known, but there are plenty others who are not household names that have made extraordinary contributions to our society. (This list of black American inventors was sourced from http://bit.ly/yBRt7X.)
ELIJAH McCOY (1843-1929)
A love of machines and tools led to a lifetime career and the awarding of 57 patents to Elijah Mc Coy, son of former slaves who had fled from Kentucky to Canada in search of freedom. Until Mc Coy developed a device, which made possible the automatic oiling of machinery used in manufacturing, companies using such machines had to stop the machines before oiling them. Oiling of machinery reduces the wear and tear of friction. So popular did Mc Coy's invention become that person inspecting new equipment generally asked if it contained the "real Mc Coy," meaning Mc Coy's oiling device. Today, "real Mc Coy" is an expression is in the American language meaning the "real thing.' In all, Mc Coy invented 23 oiling devices as well as many other useful inventions. He finally set up his own manufacturing company to develop and sell his many inventions.
GARRETT A. MORGAN (1875-1963)
Garrett A. Morgan was a prize-winning inventor who developed a safety helmet-breathing device widely used by firemen in many American cities in the early 1900's. His invention became popular after he and his brother used it to rescue over two-dozen men who were trapped under Lake Erie, at Cleveland, Ohio, when an explosion occurred in a tunnel, which was under construction. He was awarded a hold medal by the City of Cleveland for his heroic rescue. He later received a gold medal at the Second International Exposition of Safety and Sanitation, in New York, in 1914. Morgan is best remembered for his invention of the automatic stop sign. This invention, now called the traffic or "stop light" controls the flow of vehicles through street intersections.
GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER (1864-1943)
Probably the best-known African American scientist and inventor is George Washington Carver, who alone, nearly revolutionized agriculture in the South. At a time when the South's major crop-cotton-was faced with total destruction by the boll weevil beetle, Dr. Carver, through scientific experiments showed the South that peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes (yams), among other crops, should be planted, along with cotton. Thus, if on crop failed, there would be others from which farmers could make money. Known as "The Wizard of Tuskegee," Dr. carver developed hundreds of products from the peanut, the soybean, the pecan nut, the sweet potato, and even the weeds. Today, there are many schools and other institutions named in memory of Dr. Carver.
DANIEL H. WILLIAMS (1858-1931)
Founder of a hospital which still exists in Chicago, medical physician Dr, Daniel H. Williams is credited with having performed the first "open-heart" surgery July 9, 1893, long before this kind of surgery was developed. Dr. Williams saved the life of a knifing victim by "sewing up his heart." Working in a makeshift operating room too small for the six-man operating team which helped him, he opened the patient's chest, exposed the beating heart, and stitched the knife wound a fraction of an inch from the heart without the aid of X-rays, blood transfusions or modern "miracle drugs." On August 2, Dr. Williams operated again to remove some fluid from the chest cavity. On August 30, the patient walked out of the hospital, and was known to be alive and well 20 years later.
CHARLES H. TURNER (1867-1923)
Charles H. Turner, who obtained a Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago in 1907, was noted for his knowledge of ants and bees. He originated a way of watching and recording the habits of insects and small animals, the way they act toward one another, and the way they reacted to things that happened to them. A type of behavior in insects is now called "Turner's circling" after his detailed description. Through forty-seven research papers which he published between 1892 and 1923, he showed how humans were a lot like animals and insects, and helped the world better understand why man acts the way he does.
MADAME C.J. WALKER (1869-1919)
Before her invention, African American women had to straighten their hair by placing the hair on a flat surface and then pressing it with a clothing iron. After her invention was introduced, Sarah Breedlove Walker, who was known as Madame C.J. Walker, became one of the first American women of any race to become a millionaire through her own efforts. Madame Walker invented a hair softener and a special hair-straightening comb. Before her death in 1919, Madame Walker could count over 2,000 agents who sold her ever-growing line of Walker products and demonstrated the "Walker System" of treating hair. Her efforts laid the foundation for the cosmetics industry among African Americans.
ERNST E. JUST (1883-1941)
An outstanding research biologist, Dr. Ernest E. Just devoted a lifetime of study and function of the cell (cytology), the smallest unit of the body. His studies included how eggs are fertilized, how babies are born, and how the cells of animals function. In 1915, he won the Spingarn Medal, the highest award given by the NAACP to the person having done the most during the year to advance the process of African American people. He wrote two major books and more than sixty scientific papers in his field. His book, The Biology of the Cell Surface, which was used in many colleges, represented his lifetime of research, and was published in 1939, just two years before he died.
LOUIS T. WRIGHT (1891-1952)
A physician and surgeon, Dr. Louis T. Wright originated a method of operating on fractures about the knee joint, a brace for fractures of the spine, and a vaccination against smallpox, and supervised the first test of a miracle drug (aureomycin) on humans. He also advanced a new theory on the treatment of skull fractures and engaged in early cancer research. Graduating with highest honors from the Harvard Medical School in 1915, he was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant in the Medical Section of the Officers Reserve Corps in 1917, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army during World War I. In 191, he became the first African American to be appointed to a New York City Municipal Hospital (Harlem Hospital) where he helped lower the death rate and increase the professional standards.
WILLIAM A. HINTON (1883-1959)
A specialist in the study and development of medicines to fight diseases, Dr. William A. Hinton is best known for the Hinton-Davies test used to detect the venereal disease, syphilis. In 1936, he wrote a textbook on his studies, and became recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities on the diagnosis and treatment of syphilis. Only three years after getting his doctor's degree from Harvard Medical School in 1912, he was made an instructor in preventive medicine and hygiene at his fortune university. It is said that he could have made a fortune in private practice, but he chose to serve humanity by working in the field of public health.
PERCY JULIAN (1891-1975)
Finding a remedy for arthritis led to fame and fortune for Dr. Percy Julian, a noted chemical scientist. But, more important was the fact that his discovery made the medicine for this painful disease available to everyone at a much more reasonable price. Dr. Julian developed a way of making the medicine from the inexpensive American soybean instead of from the costly ingredient found in certain parts of animals and produced in Europe. At one time, he was president of two companies, which he formed to produce this medicine. He later sold one of the companied to a leading medicine-making (pharmaceutical) firm for several million dollars.
THEODORE K. LAWLESS (1892-1971)
Dr. Theodore K. Lawless was a skin specialist (dermatologist) who became a millionaire form his studies, practice and development of medicines. He also contributed to the better understanding of syphilis, a venereal disease; and leprosy, a disease, which wastes away the muscles of the body. Setting up his offices in the heart of Chicago's Black community, he established one of the largest and best-known skin clinics in the city. For many years, men and women and children, both black and white, crowded his waiting room from morning until night. But he still found time to teach at Northwestern University, work with the staff of Chicago's Provident Hospital, and share his knowledge with other doctors. In 1954, he was awarded the NAACP's Spingarn Medal.
MEREDITH GOURDINE (1929- )
Head of his own manufacturing firm in New Jersey, Meredith Gourdine, an engineering scientist, found a way to make high-voltage electricity from gas. He and the other engineers in his company believe there are many uses for this discovery in our everyday life. Some of them are: refrigeration for preserving foods, supplying cheap power for heat and light in homes, burning coal more efficiently, making sea water drinkable by taking the salt out of it, making painting and coating processes easier, and reducing the amount of pollutants in smoke. His company has already made an exhaust purifying device for automobiles, devices for measuring air pollution, and generators for power stations.
OTIS BOYKIN (1920-1982)
An electronic scientist and inventor, Otis Boykin devised the control unit in artificial heart stimulators, invented a variable resistor device used in many guided missiles, small components such as thick-film resistors used in IBM computers, and many other devices including a burglar-proof cash register and a chemical air filter. Starting as an assistant in a laboratory testing airplane automatic controls, Boykin was soon developing a type of resistor now used in many computers, radios, television sets and other electronically controlled devices. Many products made from his discoveries are manufactured in Paris and throughout Western Europe. One of his products was approved for use in military hardware for the Common Market.
VANCE H. MARCHBANKS, JR. (1905-1973)
As a Colonel and surgeon in the Air Force, Dr. Marchbanks designed a gas mask testing device, and discovered a method of measuring fatigue in pilots who had been involved in aircraft accidents. He also did important research in the control of noise in carious types of airplanes. Before the first U.S. space shot (Project Mercury) he was appointed project head physician, and was responsible for determining the effects of space flight on man, and for collecting medical information on the astronauts before, during and after their flight. In the 1960's as chief of environmental health services with United Aircraft Corporation, he assisted in the designing of space suits and monitoring systems for the Apollo moon shot.
JOHN B. CHRISTIAN (1927- )
As a materials research engineer for the Air Force, John Christian developed and patented a variety of revolutionary lubricants that saved pilots' lives in combat and contributed to the success of the astronaut's mission on the moon. The lubricants, resembling cake frosting more than oil, could withstand temperatures ranging from minus 50 to 600 degrees. In Vietnam, when the helicopters' oil lines were punctured by ground fire, the "soap" lubricants enabled them toe return to their base. They were also used in the astronaut's back-pack life support systems, without which there could have been no moon landing, and were used in the four-wheel drive of the "moon-buggy" making it possible to extend their moon exploration by 36 hours.
GEORGE R. CARRUTHERS (1940- )
Astor-physicist Dr. George Carruthers was the principal scientist responsible for the development of a special camera that made the trip to the moon aboard the Apollo 16 in 1972. Called the "far-ultra-violet camera/spectrograph," the 50-pound, golf-plated unit was designed to study the earth's upper atmosphere and other interplanetary conditions. More than 200 frames of pictures were made of eleven selected targets. In 1973, another model of the camera was made for the Skylab 4 to take pictures of a comet speeding toward the sun. Carruthers was interested in science as a child and built his own telescope at the age of ten. From the age of 25, he made significant contributions to the field of electronic imaging and space astronomy.
CHARLES W. BUGGS (1906-1991)
A scientist and educator, Dr. Charles Buggs, of Brunswick, Georgia, conducted special research on why some bacteria (germs) do not react to certain medicines. In several articles, he presented his ideas on penicillin and skin grafting, and the value of chemicals in treating bone fractures. In 1944, he contributed some of the results of his research to the world through 12 studies he helped to write. Three years later he wrote an important article on how to use germ-killing chemicals (antibiotics) to prevent and cure certain diseases. He also taught college biology, and made studies and suggestions on premedical education for African Americans. Dr. Buggs' research and teaching contributed to a better understanding of health and of the human body.
CHARLES R. DREW (1904-1950)
The storing of human blood until it is needed to save someone's life was the major contribution of Dr. Charles Drew to science and medicine. He researched the nature of human blood and created what has become known as "blood banks," places where blood is kept in a special form (plasma) until needed by injured patients. In 1940, during World War II, the British asked Dr. Drew to establish a blood bank program for their country. After the war, he was appointed the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank, supplying plasma to the United States armed forces. He also became recognized as an outstanding surgeon, teacher and public servant, and in 1944 was awarded the Spingarn Medal.
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