6 Famous Inventions You Probably Didn't Know Were Made By A Black Person - Celebrating Black History
Updated: Apr 19
Photo Courtesy of Raymond Hsu on Unsplash
Whenever Black History Month rolls around, the same famous names seem to be mentioned over and over every year – Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Frederick Douglass...and as significant to black history as these people are, they are by no means the scope of all that black people have contributed to the rich history of the United States of America. Here are 6 inventions we use every day that we wouldn't have without black people.
1- Garret Morgan (1877-1963) – Creator of the "smoke hood"
Garret Morgan created the “smoke hood”, a predecessor to the gas mask. He created them to help firefighters fight smoke inhalation.
Honorable mention: Morgan also patented a 3-signal traffic light that introduced a third light to warn drivers of an impending stop in 1922. However, there was a similar 3-signal traffic light developed in 1920, which is what makes it an honorable mention.
2- Alice H. Parker (1885-1920) – Inventor of the gas furnace
If you live anywhere cold, you owe Alice H. Parker your endless gratitude for her patent on a central heating system that utilizes natural gas. While it has been further developed as time passed, her invention played a key starting point for the heating systems in our homes today.
3- Patricia Bath (1942-2019) – Inventor of the Laserphaco Probe
Patricia Bath was the first African-American woman appointed as a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center and founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. Her invention the Laserphaco Probe, also known as laser cataract surgery, allows for the safe removal of cataracts. She was the first African-American woman to be given a medical patent.
4- Marian Croak (1955-present) – Creator of VOIP
Marian Croak is responsible for creating VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), the technology that makes it possible for us to effectively communicate with audio and video over the internet. This tech is used by companies like Zoom and Skype. In the world of COVID and remote working, it truly is the holy grail of modern invention!
Photo Courtesy of NASA on Unsplash
5- Mark Dean (1957-present) – Inventor of the Color PC Monitor & First Gigahertz Chip
Mark Dean is a computer scientist and the first African American to become an IBM Fellow in 1995. Dean is credited with inventing the gigahertz chip, a ground-breaking piece of technology that allows for computers to process data at a speed many people thought was impossible. He is also the co-inventor of the color PC monitor, the reason our screens are no longer black and white.
6- Lisa Gelobter (1971-present) – Creator of the GIF
Gelobter’s invention might be the most ground-breaking or necessary, but I would argue it is one of the most influential and widely used on this list. She helped to develop the animation that makes GIFs possible, changing how we communicate online forever. She also held the title of Chief Digital Service Officer for the U.S. Department of Education
The most important thing to remember this Black History Month is that there is no mold black history follows. It is diverse and ebbs and flows the same way Eurocentric history does, it just isn’t talked about as much. So, this Black History Month (and every other month, too) try to learn more about all the kinds of people who have helped build our world into what it is today. And remember history continues to happen every day, so don’t just focus on the accomplishments of 50 years ago; revel in the accomplishments of today, too.
Morgan Galvez is a freelance writer and editor with a BA in English (with a concentration in writing, rhetoric, and publication) from the College of Charleston. She is currently building her freelancing career through positions at Brainfuse and Fiverr.