List of African-American inventors and scientists

List of African-American inventors and scientists
Aldrin Apollo 11.jpg
Science and technology
in the United States
African-American contributions
NASA spinoff
Native American contributions
Puerto Rican scientists and inventors
Technological and industrial history
Inventions by date
(before 1890)
(after 1991)
Note: this table is viewable as a timeline when clicking on the sort symbol next to 'Life'.
Name Life Occupation Inventions/Accomplishments Refs
Ammons, Virgie 19xx– Inventor Fireplace burner [1][2]
Amos, Harold 1918–2003 Microbiologist First African-American department chair at Harvard Medical School [3]
Alcorn, George Edward, Jr. 1940– Physicist
Invented a method of fabricating an imaging X-ray spectrometer [4][5]
Bailey, L.C. 18xx–? Inventor Military folding bed invention. [6]
Banneker, Benjamin 1731–1806 Mathematician
Wooden clock (1753). Assisted in survey of the original boundaries of the District of Columbia (1791). Authored almanac and ephemeris (1792–1797) [7]
Banyaga, Augustin 1947- Mathematician Work on diffeomorphisms and symplectomorphisms
Bashen, Janet Emerson 1957– Inventor
First African-American woman to receive a patent for a web-based software invention. The invention, LinkLine, is an Equal Employment Opportunity case management and tracking software. [8]
Bauer, James A. 19xx– Inventor Coin changer mechanism [9]
Bath, Patricia 1942– Ophthalmologist First African-American female physician to receive a patent for a medical invention. Inventions relate to cataract surgery and include the Laserphaco Probe, which revolutionized the industry in the 1980s, and an ultrasound technique for treatment. [10][11][12]
Beard, Andrew 1849–1921 Farmer
Railroad worker
Jenny Coupler improvements

Invented the automatic car coupling device patent #594,059 dated November 23, 1897
Rotary engine patent #478,271 dated July 5, 1892

Bell, Earl S. 1977– Inventor
Industrial Designer
Invented Chair With Sliding Skin (2004), and the Quantitative Display Apparatus (2005) [14]

[15] [16]

Benjamin, Miriam 18xx–? Inventor
Invented "Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels". Second African-American woman to receive a patent. [17]
Berry, Leonidas 1902–1995 Gastroenterologist Gastroscope pioneer [18]
Black, Keith 1957– Neurosurgeon Brain tumor surgery and research [19][20]
Blackwell, David 1919–2010 Mathematician
First proposed the Blackwell channel model used in coding theory and information theory; one of the eponyms of the Rao-Blackwell theorem, which is a process that significantly improves crude statistical estimators. [21]
Blair, Henry 1807–1860 Inventor Second black inventor to issue a patent
Invented early spark plug


Griffin, Bessie Blount 1914–2009 Physical therapist
Amputee self-feeding device [24][25]
Boone, Sarah 18xx– Inventor Ironing board allowing sleeves of women's garments to be ironed more easily
Bowman, James 1923– Physician Pathologist and geneticist; Professor Emeritus Pritzker School of Medicine; first tenured African-American professor at the University of Chicago Division of Biological Sciences. [26][27]
Boykin, Otis 1920–1982 Inventor
Artificial heart pacemaker control unit. [28]
Brady, St. Elmo 1884–1966 Chemist Published three scholarly abstracts in Science and also collaborated on a paper published in Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry. [29]
Branson, Herman 1914–1995 Physicist
Protein structure research [30][31]
Brooks, Charles 18xx–? Inventor Street sweeper truck and a type of paper punch
Brooks, Phil 19xx– Inventor First U.S. Patent for a disposable syringe
Henry Brown 18xx–? Inventor Invented fire safe [32]
Burr, John Albert 18xx–? Inventor Rotary-blade lawn mower patent
Cardozo, William 1905–1962 Pediatrician Sickle cell anemia studies. In October 1937, he published "Immunologic Studies in Sickle Cell Anemia" in the Archives of Internal Medicine; many of the findings are still valid today.
Carson, Ben 1951– Pediatric Neurosurgeon Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University
First surgeon to successfully separate craniopagus twins
Carver, George Washington 1865–1943 Botanical researcher Discovered hundreds of uses for previously useless vegetables and fruits, principally the peanut [34][35][36][37]
Chappelle, Emmett 1925– Scientist and researcher Valuable contributions to several fields: medicine, biology, food science, and astrochemistry
Crosthwait, David, Jr. 1898–1976 Research engineer Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
Received some 40 U.S. patents relating to HVAC systems.
Dean, Mark 1957– Computer scientist Led the team that developed the ISA bus, and led the design team responsible for creating the first one-gigahertz computer processor chip.
Daly, Marie Maynard 1921– First black American woman with a Ph.D. in chemistry.
Drew, Charles 1904–1950 Medical researcher
Easley, Annie 1933– Computer scientist Work at the Lewis Research Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
Ejeta, Gebisa 1950- Geneticist Won the World Food Prize in 2009 for his major contributions in the production of sorghum.
Ejigu, Kitaw 1948–2006 Systems engineer
Ferguson, Lloyd Noel 1918–? Chemist
Chemistry doctorate, first received (1943, University of California, Berkeley)
Fryer, Roland G., Jr. 1977– Economist
Social scientist
Inequality studies
Gates, Sylvester James 1950– Theoretical physicist Work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory
Goode, Sarah E. 1850s–? Inventor Cabinet bed invention
First African-American woman to receive a patent in the United States
Graves, Joseph L. 19xx– Evolutionary biologist
Hall, Lloyd 1894–1971 Chemist
Haile, Sossina M. 1966- Engineer Work on fuel cells
Harris, James A. 1932–? Co-discovered Rutherfordium (element 104) and Hafnium (element 105) at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory [38]
Hawkins, Walter Lincoln 1911–1992 Scientist Inventor at Bell Laboratories [39]
Hodge, John E. 1914–1996 Chemist
Holley, Kerrie 19xx– Research computer scientist at IBM Co-creator of Service-Oriented Modeling and Architecture, SOMA and the Service Integration Maturity Model (SIMM)
Jarvis, Erich 19xx– Neurobiologist Duke University neuroscience bird songs studies. [40][41][42]
Johnson, Lonnie 1949– Engineer
Invented Super Soaker while researching thermal energy transfer engines; worked with NASA. Holder of over 80 patents [43][44]
Jones, Frederick McKinley 1893–1961 Inventor Invented refrigerated truck systems [47]
Julian, Percy 1899–1975 Chemist
Just, Ernest 1883–1941 Woods Hole Marine Biology Institute Biologist Provided basic and initial descriptions of the structure-function-property relationship of the plasma membrane of biological cells.
Kittles, Rick 1967– Geneticist Work in tracing the ancestry of African Americans via DNA testing
Kountz, Samuel L. 1930–1981 Transplant surgeon
Organ transplantation pioneer, particularly renal transplant research and surgery.
Author or co-author of 172 articles in scientific publications.
Latimer, Lewis 1848–1928 Inventor
Expert witness
Worked as a draftsman for both Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. He became a member of Edison's Pioneers and served as an expert witness in many light bulb litigation lawsuits. [48][49][50][51]
Lawson, Jerry 1940–2011 Computer engineer Designer of Fairchild Channel F, the first programmable ROM cartridge-based video game console
Lee, Raphael 1949– Surgeon
Biomedical engineer
Paul and Aileen Russell Professor, Pritzker School of Medicine; MacArthur Fellow, Searle Scholar, Founder and Chairman, Avocet Polymer Technologies, Inc.; Founder and Chaiman, Renacyte BioMolecular Technologies, Inc; Discovered use of surfactant copolymers as molecular chaperones to augment endogenous injury repair mechanisms of living cells. Holder of many patents covering scar treatment therapies, tissue engineered ligaments, brain trauma therapies, protective garments.
Matzeliger, Jan 1852–1889 Inventor Shoe assembly Machine [52][53]
McBay, Henry 1914–1995 Chemist
McCoy, Elijah 1844–1929 Inventor Invented the automatic lubricator for steam engines.
McLurkin, James 1972- Roboticist
McNair, Ronald 1950–1986 Astronaut Astronaut killed during mission STS-51-L in the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
Montgomery, Benjamin 1819–1877 Inventor Designed a steam operated propeller to provide propulsion to boats in shallow water
Morgan, Garrett 1877–1963 Inventor
Nour, Nawal M. 1966- Gynecologist
Ogbu, John Uzo 1939–2003 Anthropologist Race and intelligence studies
Oyekan, Soni 1946– Chemical engineer
Poindexter, Hildrus 1901–1987 Bacteriologist
Work on the epidemiology of tropical diseases including malaria
Petters, Arlie 1964– Physicist Work on the mathematical physics of gravitational lensing
Renfroe, Earl 1907–2000 Orthodontist
Rillieux, Norbert 1806–1894 Engineer
Russell, Jesse 1948– Engineer
Wireless communications engineer
Sammons, Walter Inventor Patent for hot comb [54]
Sowell, Thomas 1930– Economist
Social scientist
Steele, Claude 1946– Psychologist
Social scientist
Stereotype threat studies
Stiff, Lee 1941– Mathematician President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics from 2000 to 2002 [55]
Thomas, Vivien 1910–1985 Surgical technician Blue baby syndrome treatment in the 1940s
Tyson, Neil deGrasse 1958– Astronomer Researcher and popular educator in astronomy and the sciences
Walker, C.J. 1867–1919 Inventor Created black cosmetic products.
Washington, Warren M. 1936– Atmospheric scientist Former chair of the National Science Board
West, James E. 1931– Acoustician
Co-developed the foil electret microphone
Wilkins, J. Ernest, Jr. 1923–2011 Mathematician
Nuclear scientist
Entered University of Chicago at age 13, PhD at 19, worked on the Manhattan Project, wrote over 100 scientific papers, helped recruit minorities into the sciences. [56][57]
Williams, Daniel 1856–1931
Williams, Scott W. 1943– Mathematician
Williams, Walter E. 1936– Economist
Social scientist
Woods, Granville 1856–1910 Inventor

See also


  1. ^ Virgie Ammons, Retrieved from website February 18, 2011.
  2. ^ Virgie Ammons, Retrieved from African-American Inventors website, February 18, 2011.
  3. ^ "Dr. Harold Amos, 84; Mentor to Aspiring Minority Physicians". Los Angeles Times. 2003-03-08. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 
  4. ^ "George Edward Alcorn, Jr.". Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  5. ^ "Alcorn exceled in missile research". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. February 20, 2002. Retrieved 2008-02-27. "George Edward Alcorn Jr. attended Occidental College in Los Angeles where he earned eight letters in basketball and football and was an honors student studying physics. He received his bachelor's degree in 1962 and a master's in nuclear physics from Howard University a year later. He attended Occidental College in Los Angeles where he earned eight letters in basketball and football and was an honors student studying physics. He received his bachelor's degree in 1962 and a master's in nuclear physics from Howard University a year later." 
  6. ^ Who Is L.C. Bailey?, website.
  7. ^ The ninth and tenth paragraphs of the "His Story" page in official website of the Washington Interdependence Council: Administrators of the Benjamin Banneker Memorial (Retrieved 2008-08-06), the fourth paragraph in the webpage entitled "Who was Benjamin Banneker?" in official website of the Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, 800 Euclid Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001 (Retrieved 2009-11-12), the fourth paragraph in the section entitled "BENJAMIN BANNEKER (1731–1806)" in "Benjamin Banneker" page in website of "ChickenBones: A Journal for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes" (Retrieved 2008-08-06), the third paragraph in Newbold, K., "Benjamin Banneker: A Brief Biography" in official website of The James Madison Center, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia (Retrieved 2008-10-23), the first paragraph in the webpage entitled "Benjamin Banneker (1731–1806)" in official website of the Brookhaven National Laboratory (Retrieved 2008-08-08), the fifth and sixth paragraphs in "Benjamin Banneker in website of "The Black Inventor Online Museum" by Adscape International, LLC (Retrieved 2009-02-02), An Early American Hero: Benjamin Banneker in website of SuccessMaker Enterprise by Pearson Education, Inc. (Retrieved 2009-02-09), and the 1970 book by Claude Lewis entitled Benjamin Banneker: the man who saved Washington, New York, McGraw-Hill, relate part or all of this urban legend.
  8. ^ Janet Emerson Bashen, Retrieved from website March 14, 2011.
  9. ^ James Bauer patent #3,490,571 (1/20/1970): Coin Changer Mechanism, Mary Bellis,
  10. ^ Henderson, Susan K. (1 March 1998). African-American Inventors III. Capstone Press. p. 12. ISBN 9781560656982. 
  11. ^ "Modern Black Inventors". Jet (Johnson Pubishing Company) 101 (7): 55. February 4, 2002. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  12. ^ Lambert, Laura (1 September 2007). Inventors and Inventions. Marshall Cavendish. p. 72. ISBN 9780761477631. 
  13. ^ Bellis, Mary (2008). "Andrew Beard (1849-1921)". Inventors. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  14. ^ Earl S. Bell, Retrieved from website June 06, 2011.
  15. ^ Earl S. Bell, Retrieved from website June 06, 2011.
  16. ^ Earl S. Bell, Retrieved from website June 06, 2011.
  17. ^ Bellis, Mary. Inventors: Miriam Benjamin, Retrieved from website, February 17, 2011.
  18. ^ University of Chicago
  19. ^ Keith Black, Arnold Mann, Brain Surgeon: A Doctor's Inspiring Encounters with Mortality and Miracles (New York: Wellness Central/Hachette, 2009, ISBN 9780446581097.
  20. ^ Michael D. Lemonick, "The Tumor War", TIME, Heroes of Medicine special edition, Fall 1997 (retrieved May 15, 2009).
  21. ^ Cattau, Daniel (July 2009). "David Blackwell 'Superstar'". Illinois Alumni (University of Illinois Alumni Association): pp. 32–34. 
  22. ^ Maryland's African American Heritage: Henry Blair, ThinkQuest.
  23. ^ About Inventors: Henry Blair
  24. ^ "Bessie Blount Griffin". Retrieved 2010-01-05. 
  25. ^ "Virginia Women in History Past Honorees". Retrieved 2010-01-05. 
  26. ^ Terry, Don (July 27, 2008). "Insider has Obama's ear: What's she telling him?". Chicago Tribune.,0,1640738.story. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  27. ^ "The Bowman Society". Pritzker Pulse. Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago. Spring 2005. Retrieved March 15, 2009. 
  28. ^ U.S. Department Of Energy. Black Contributors to Science and Energy Technology (Biographical sketch: Otis Boykin), U.S. Department Of Energy, Office of Public Affaris, U.S.Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1979, pp. 8–9, DOE/OPA-0035(79)
  29. ^ University of Illinois biography, University of Illinois.
  30. ^ PNAS Classics – Protein Structure
  31. ^ Einseberg, David. "The discovery of the alpha-helix and beta-sheet, the principal structural features of proteins" PNAS 100(20):11207-11210 (2003) [1]
  32. ^ "Henry Brown". Retrieved 2010-02-06. "Henry Brown". Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  33. ^ Health and Medical Biographies.Biography of Benjamin S. Carson.
  34. ^ "Black Leonardo Book". Time Magazine. 1941-11-24.,9171,801330,00.html. Retrieved 2008-08-10. 
  35. ^ Harlan, Volume 5, p. 481
  36. ^ Special History Study from the National Park Service website
  37. ^ The legacy of George Washington Carver-Friends & Colleagues (Henry Wallace)
  38. ^ "James A. Harris". Journal of Chemical Education. Retrieved 27 May 2011. 
  39. ^ McMurray, Emily, ed. Notable Twentieth-Century Scientists. Gale Research, Inc.: Detroit, 1995.
  40. ^ Singing In The Brain, Duke Magazine, Nov-Dec 2001.
  41. ^ [2], Duke News
  42. ^ Erich Jarvis Named Howard Hughes Investigator, Duke Medicine News & Communications. Retrieved from
  43. ^ Soaking In Success, By Timothy Roche, Dec. 04, 2000, TIME
  44. ^ Products Created by Independent Inventors, April 2nd, 2009, Inventors Digest
  45. ^ Shooting for the Sun, By Logan Ward, October, 2010, The Atlantic
  46. ^ Lonni Johnson --- Thermo-Electric Generator -- articles, patent, The Rex Research Civilization Kit.
  47. ^ "July 12: Frederick M. Jones Patents Refrigeration System", Rebecca Goodman and Barrett J. Brunsman, This Day in Ohio History (Emmis Books, 2005) p214.
  48. ^ Fouché, Rayvon, "Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation: Granville T. Woods, Lewis H. Latimer, and Shelby J. Davidson." The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore & London, 2003, ISBN 0-8018-7319-3
  49. ^ Clarke, John Henrik (1983). Ivan Van Sertima. ed. Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern. Piscataway,NJ: Transaction. pp. 230–233. ISBN 978-0-87855-941-1. 
  50. ^ "Lewis Howard Latimer". National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  51. ^ List of 2006 NIHF inductees
  52. ^ "Jan Matzeliger". The Black Inventor Online Museum. 
  53. ^ "Inventor of the Week / Jan Matzeliger". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. August 2002. 
  54. ^ Bellis, Mary. "Walter Sammons". Retrieved 27 May 2011. 
  55. ^ NCTM past presidents, retrieved 2011-03-20.
  56. ^ IEEE
  57. ^ University of Chicago news release
  58. ^ Zerbonia, Ralph G. (contrib. by Alic, Margaret) (2005) Contemporary Black Biography, Gale Research Inc, 2005, Vol.49 (Original from the University of Michigan), Digitized Sep 17, 2008, ISBN 0-7876-6731-5, ISBN 978-0-7876-6731-3, (biography viewable via;

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