Henry T. Sampson: Gamma Electric Cell


On July 6, 1971, Sampson was awarded a patent with George H. Miley for the invention of the gamma-electric cell, a direct-conversion energy device that converts the energy generated from the radiation of high-energy gamma rays into electricity.

Other patents include a binder system for rocket propellants and explosives and a case-bonding system for cast-composite rocket propellants, both related to the manufacturing and production of solid-propellant rocket motors.



The Real McCoy: Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy.

In 1872 McCoy was issued a patent for his invention, and within a short time his automatic lubricator—dubbed “the real McCoy” to distinguish it from the horde of less effective imitations that soon flooded the market—had been installed on locomotives around the country. “McCoy’s invention was a small thing,” wrote Aaron E. Klein in The Hidden Contributors: Black Scientists and Inventors in America, “but it speeded up the railroads, and faster railroad deliveries spurred the economic growth of a nation.”


Elijah McCoy obtained patents for an automatic sprinkler, an ironing table, and eventually acquired 58 patents in his lifetime.


Jan Ernst Matzeliger: Shoe Lasting Machine


Matzeliger set out to find a solution to the problems he discerned in the shoemaking process. He thought there had to be a way to develop an automatic method for lasting shoes. He began coming up with designs for machines that could do the job. After experimenting with several models, he applied for a patent on a “lasting machine.”

On March 20, 1883, Matzeliger received patent number 274,207 for his machine. The mechanism held a shoe on a last, pulled the leather down around the heel, set and drove in the nails, and then discharged the completed shoe. It had the capacity to produce 700 pairs of shoes a day—more than 10 times the amount typically produced by human hands.



Alexander Miles: Modern Day Elevator


The objects of the invention are, first, to provide mechanism operating automatically to close the shaft openings above and below the elevator-cage, and so preclude the possibility of danger by reason of such openings being left unclosed through negligence; and, second, devices operating automatically by the movement of the cage to open and close the cage-doors when set by an operator to be in engagement at any desired floor. The first of these objects is accomplished by means of a flexible belt having its ends attached to the cage and running over drums at the top and bottom of the shaft, and the second by means of levers pivoted to thecage, having one of their ends connected to a door and the other ends carrying rollers which are engaged in curved grooves provided in the corners of the shaft at the several floors, and devices provided in the cage for enabling an operator to throw the rollers into or out of engagement at will. These objects are attained by the mechanisms illustrated in the accompanying drawings, in which– Figure 1 is a side elevation of an elevator shaft and cage containing my improvements. Fig. 2 is a front elevation of the same. Fig. 3 is a detached view of one of the cage-doors and its operating devices. Fig. 4 is a detail of the devices for sliding the roller-wheels carried by the levers to and from positions to be engaged in the grooves. Fig. 5 is a cross-section of one of the uprights of the shaft, showing the beltway and a portion of one of the belt cross-strips in it. Fig. 6 is a perspec tive view of an elevator shaft and cage provided with the improvements, but having a single cage-door; and Fig. 7 is a top view of the sliding doors and their tracks.




Charles Richard Drew: The Blood Bank



Academy of Medicine in May of 1941, he specifically mentions the pioneering work of Henry Bowditch, a physiologist who was aware of plasma’s potential as early as 1871. The same article also pays tribute to an English physician named Ward, who suggested the use of plasma for battlefield transfusions during World War I.

Still, Drew and several other researchers worked to refine liquid plasma preservation techniques. Having obtained a four-month leave from Howard University in September of 1940, he got off to a brisk start, instituting a system of rigorous processing in a central laboratory so that the sterility of all donated blood could be controlled. Drew later relieved the community hospitals of their constant donor traffic by introducing the idea of a refrigerated mobile blood bank.




Frederick McKinley Jones:Refrigerated Inventions


Frederick McKinley Jones (1893?-1961) was known for his mechanical aptitude and his curious and inventive mind. Largely self educated, Jones invented the first refrigerated transport system. This made it possible to ship food via plane, truck, boat or train anywhere in the world without it perishing.

Ticket Dispensing Machine
Removable Cooling Unit for Compartments.
Automatically Starting and Stopping Gas Engine.
Two-Cycle Gas Engine.
Two-Cycle Gas Engine.
Removable Cooling Unit for Compartments.
Preventing Frosting of Evaporator Heat Exchangers.
Air Conditioning Unit.
Starter Generator.
Means Operated by a Starter Generator for Cooling a Gas Engine.
Thermostatically Operating Gas Engine.
Rotary Compressor.
System for Controlling the Operation of Refrigeration Units.
Apparatus for Heating or Cooling the Atmosphere Within an Enclosure.
Two-Cycle Internal-Combustion Engine.
Prefabricated Refrigerator Construction.
Refrigeration Control Device.
Locking Mechanism.
Method and Means for Air Conditioning.
Method and Means of Defrosting a Cold Diffuser.
Method and Means for Preserving Perishable Foodstuffs in Transit.
Control Device for Internal Combustion Engine.
Thermostat and Temperature Control System.



Percy Lavon Julian: Pioneering Chemist


Known as the “soybean chemist” for his extraordinary success in synthesizing innovative drugs and industrial chemicals from natural soya products, Percy Lavon Julian was an internationally acclaimed scientist whose discoveries earned him more than 130 chemical patents and a host of professional awards. Among his most important contributions were the creation of a synthetic version of cortisone, a drug used to relieve the pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, and physostigmine, prescribed to alleviate the effects of glaucoma—a disease of the eye that can cause blindness if left untreated. Julian’s work with soybeans and soya derivatives also led to the mass production of the male and female hormones testosterone and progesterone and the development of a powerful firefighting chemical called Aero-Foam, used by the U.S. Navy during World War II. The first African American to direct a modern industrial laboratory, he spent 17 years with the Glidden Company in Chicago before leaving to establish his own successful pharmaceutical enterprise, Julian Laboratories, Inc.


Percy Julian synthesized physostigmine for treatment of glaucoma; and synthesizedcortisone for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Percy Julian is also noted for inventing a fire-extinguishing foam for gasoline and oil fires.


Julian held more than 100 chemical patents, wrote scores of papers on his work, and received dozens of awards and honorary degrees. He founded The Julian Laboratories, Inc., with labs in the U.S. and Mexico (both purchased by Smith Kline French in 1961) and another chemical plant in Guatemala (owned by Upjohn Company since 1961). In 1951, Julian and his family moved to Oak Park, Illinois, becoming the first black family to live there. His house was firebombed twice, but the community largely backed him and today celebrates his birthday as a holiday.


George E. Alcorn: X-Ray Spectrometer


The question of whether or not life exists on other planets has intrigued people for centuries. Physicist George Edward Alcorn Jr. figured out how to find out. In 1984 Alcorn and his colleagues patented a device to detect extraterrestrial life: the imaging X-ray spectrometer. This device is one of dozens that Alcorn has invented over the years, and the one with the most popular appeal. That’s not to say Alcorn’s other work isn’t interesting. It is. But George Edward Alcorn is an atomic and molecular physicist, and his work is very complex. In addition to Alcorn’s work detecting planetary life, he has also studied missile trajectory and orbits, invented components for semiconductors, designed instruments used in space, and created devices to detect atmospheric contaminants, among other things. For his work Alcorn has won the esteem of his colleagues and his industry’s top awards, including NASA’s Inventor of the Year Award in 1984.



Patricia Bath: Cataract Laserphaco Probe


In 1981, Bath began working on her most well-known invention: the Laserphaco Probe (1986). Harnessing laser technology, the device created a less painful and more precise treatment of cataracts. She received a patent for the device in 1988, becoming the first African-American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. (She also holds patents in Japan, Canada and Europe.) With her Laserphaco Probe, Bath was able to help restore the sight of individuals who had been blind for more than 30 years.




Granville T. Woods: The Black Edison


To me, he isn’t the Black Edison; he is Granville T. Woods, one of the most important inventors in the 19th and 20th century. 

By the time of his death, on January 30, 1910, in New York City, Granville T. Woods had invented 15 appliances for electric railways. received nearly 60 patents, many of which were assigned to the major manufacturers of electrical equipment that are a part of today’s daily life.

Steam Boiler Furnace Comment: First Patent.
Telephone Transmitter
Apparatus for Transmission of Messages by Electricity
Relay Instrument
Polarized Relay
Electro Mechanical Brake
Telephone System and Apparatus
Electro Mechanical Brake Apparatus
Railway Telegraphy
Induction Telegraph System
Overhead Conducting System for Electric Railway
Electro-Motive Railway System
Tunnel Construction for Electric Railway
Galvanic Battery
Railway Telegraphy
Automatic Safety Cut-Out for Electric Circuits
Automatic Safety Cut-Out for Electric Circuits.
Electric Railway System
Electric-Railway Supply System.
Electric Railway Conduit
System of Electrical Distribution
System of Electrical Distribution.
Amusement Apparatus
Automatic Circuit-Breaking Apparatus.
Electric Railway
Electric Railway System
Regulating and Controlling Electrical Translating Devices
Electric Railway
Controlling Electric Motors or Other Electrical Translating Devices.
Controlling Electric Motors or Other Electrical Translating Devices.
Controlling Electric Motors or Other Electrical Translating Devices.
Controlling Electric Motors or Other Electrical Translating Devices.
Electric Railway.

System of Electrical Control.
Motor Controlling Apparatus.
Automatic Air Brake
Electric Railway System
Electric Railway
Railway-Brake Apparatus.
Electric-Railway Apparatus.
Railway-Brake Apparatus.
Safety Apparatus for Railways.
Safety Apparatus for Railways.
Vehicle-Controlling Apparatus.




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