They are among history’s most revered black inventors, known for their relentless inquisition, passionate research, impeccable design and, most importantly, their desire to push the envelope. Some of the world’s greatest technological and social advancements, including the modern-day gas mask, light bulb and traffic light, owe their origins to black inventors. Did you know that George Washington Carver developed more than 100 products using peanuts? Or that Madam C.J. Walker was the first American woman to become a self-made millionaire? Learn more about these inventors, as well as Lonnie G. Johnson, Garrett Morgan, Patricia Bath, Percy Julian and more, at Biography.com.
Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, created specialized hair products for African-American hair and was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire.
Garrett Morgan blazed a trail for African-American inventors with his patents, including those for a hair-straightening product, a breathing device, a revamped sewing machine and an improved traffic signal.
Granville T. Woods
Known as “Black Edison,” Granville Woods was an African-American inventor who made key contributions to the development of the telephone, street car and more.
African-American chemist Percy Julian was a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs such as cortisone, steroids and birth control pills.
Elijah McCoy was a 19th century African-American inventor best known for inventing lubrication devices used to make train travel more efficient.
James West is a U.S. inventor and professor who, in 1962, developed the electret transducer technology later used in 90 percent of contemporary microphones.
Sarah E. Goode
Entrepreneur and inventor Sarah E. Goode was the first African-American woman to receive a United States patent.
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver was a prominent African-American scientist and inventor. Carver is best known for the many uses he devised for the peanut.
Lonnie G. Johnson
Lonnie G. Johnson is a former Air Force and NASA engineer who invented the massively popular Super Soaker water gun.
Scientist George Carruthers created inventions, such as the ultraviolet camera, or spectograph, which was used by NASA in the 1972 Apollo 16 flight, revealing the mysteries of space and the Earth’s atmosphere.
African-American hairdresser and inventor Lyda Newman patented an improved hairbrush design in New York City in 1898.
Among many firsts, Patricia Bath is the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology and the first African-American female doctor to receive a medical patent. She invented the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment in 1986.
Lewis Howard Latimer
Lewis Howard Latimer was an inventor and draftsman best known for his contributions to the patenting of the light bulb and the telephone.
Computer scientist and engineer Mark Dean is credited with helping develop a number of landmark technologies, including the color PC monitor, the Industry Standard Architecture system bus and the first gigahertz chip.
Otis Boykin’s noteworthy inventions include a wire precision resistor and a control unit for the pacemaker. When he died in 1982, he had 26 patents in his name.
David Nelson Crosthwait Jr.
David Nelson Crosthwait Jr., an African-American pioneer in the field of heating and air conditioning, is best known for heating up Radio City Music Hall.