African-American Inventors

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Michael Pellicano


Hi, My name is Michael and this PowerPoint presentation is all about the African-American Inventors who revolutionised technology, and made nifty new ways of doing everyday things. Throughout these slides I have introduced and talked about many known African-American inventors and explained what they invented and how their inventions work. Also there will be views on racism and discrimination towards our fellow African-American Inventors.


Benjamin Banneker was born in Maryland on November 9th, 1731, and died on October 9th, 1806. Benjamin Banneker was a free Africa-American, a mathematician, an astronomer, a clockmaker and a publisher. Benjamin’s mother, Mary Bannaky, stole a pale of milk and was moved from England to the colonies as punishment for her crime. She ended up owning a farm and marrying a slave whom she had freed. Benjamin was their son. Benjamin’s father had built a series of dams and watercourses and successfully irrigated their farm at Ellicott’s Mills. Banneker lived there most of his life and was taught to read and write by his grandmother and by a Quaker School Master. The Quaker changed the spelling of his name to Banneker.


When Banneker 21 he met a man named Josef Levi, and around his arm was a patent watch. Levi gave the watch to Banneker as a gift. Benjamin was so fascinated at the watch he took it apart to see how it worked. This encouraged Banneker to carve a similar one out of wood, and make his own clock. It was the first clock to strike every hour on the hour for 40 years. This lead him to repair clocks, sundials and watches. He even helped Josef Ellicott to build a complex clock. Banneker became close friends with the Ellicott Brothers, and they lent him books on geometry, astrology, mathematics, and an instrument for observing the stars. Benjamin taught himself astronomy and advanced mathematics. When his parents died he Banneker was left the farm, since his two sisters had married and moved away. He build his own workshop with a skylight to help him study the stars and make calculations. Mainly working by himself, with very few visitors, he used results and published them in his almanac.


George Washington Carver (July 12, 1864 – January 5, 1943) was an American botanical researcher and agronomy educator who laboured in agricultural extension at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, educating former slaves farming techniques for self-sufficiency. To bring the much needed education to farmers, George designed what you would call a ‘mobile school’. It was named a Jesup Wagon after the New York financier, Morris Ketchum Jesup, who funded the operation. In 1921, George spoke in favour of a peanut tariff before the House Ways and Means Committee. Given racial issues of the time, it was unusual for an African-American to be called as an expert. Carver's well-received testimony earned him national attention, and he became an unofficial spokesman for the peanut industry. Carver wrote 44 practical agricultural bulletins for farmers.


In the post-Civil-War South, an agricultural monoculture of cotton had depleted the soil, and in the early 1900s, the boll weevil destroyed much of the cotton crop. Much of Carver's fame was based on his research and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops as both a source of their own food and a cash crop. His most popular bulletin contained 105 existing food recipes that used peanuts. His most famous method of promoting the peanut involved his creation of about 100 existing industrial products from peanuts, including cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline and nitro-glycerine. His industrial products from peanuts excited the public imagination but none was a successful commercial product. There are many myths about Carver, especially the myth that his industrial products from peanuts played a major role in revolutionizing Southern agriculture. Carver's most important accomplishments were in areas other than industrial products from peanuts, including agricultural extension education, improvement of racial relations, mentoring children, poetry, painting, religion, advocacy of sustainable agriculture and appreciation of plants and nature.


He served as a valuable role model for African-Americans and an example of the importance of hard work, a positive attitude and a good education. His humility, humanitarianism, good nature, frugality and lack of economic materialism have also been widely admired. One of his most important roles was that the fame of his achievements and many talents undermined the widespread stereotype of the time that the black race was intellectually inferior to the white race. In 1941, "Time" magazine dubbed him a "Black Leonardo," a reference to the white Leonardo Da Vinci.


Frederick McKinley Jones was one of the most prolific Black inventors ever. Frederick Jones patented more than sixty inventions, however, he is best known for inventing an automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks in 1935 (a roof-mounted cooling device). Jones was the first person to invent a practical, mechanical refrigeration system for trucks and railroad cars, which eliminated the risk of food spoilage during long-distance shipping trips. The system was, in turn, adapted to a variety of other common carriers, including ships. Frederick Jones was issued the patent on July 12, 1940 (#2,303,857). Frederick Jones also invented a self-starting gas engine and a series of devices for movie projectors: adapting silent movie projectors for talking films, and developing box office equipment that delivered tickets and gave change.


Frederick McKinley Jones was granted more than 40 patents in the field of refrigeration. Frederick Jones' inspiration for the refrigeration unit was a conversation with a truck driver who had lost a shipment of chickens because the trip took too long and the truck's storage compartment overheated. Frederick Jones also developed an air-conditioning unit for military field hospitals and a refrigerator for military field kitchens. Frederick Jones received over 60 patents during his lifetime. Frederick Jones Frederick McKinley Jones applied the mechanical experience he gained at work and at war to improve two industries: cinema and refrigeration.. Thermo King - Frederick Jones' Company Thermo King C Refrigeration Unit (1940) Frederick McKinley Jones Frederick McKinley Jones invented the an automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks. List of patents by Frederick M. Jones Frederick Jones was born in in Covington, Kentucky near Cincinnati, Ohio on May 17, 1893. He was a trained mechanic, a skill he learned doing military service in France during World War. His mastery of electronic devices was largely self-taught, through work experience and the inventing process.


Frederick M. Jones - Biography Biographical information. Frederick McKinley Jones Frederick McKinley Jones was the inventor of the first practical refrigeration system for long haul trucks. His system was later adapted to a variety of other carriers including ships and railway cars. Frederick McKinley Jones Frederick Jones exhibited an early passion for the mechanics of the automobile Frederick Jones Frederick M. Jones held more than 60 patents in a variety of fields, but refrigeration was his specialization. In 1935, he invented the an automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks.


Granville Woods life was committed to making inventions of all sorts relating to the railroad industry. He was thought out to be the greatest inventor of all time, and to some he was known as the ‘Black Edison’. His inventions were all about improving electric railway cars, and for controlling the flow of electrical current. He invented dozens of devices for this purpose. Even though Granville went to school in Columbus to learn the trades of machinist and a blacksmith, and was an apprentice in a machine shop, he learnt most of his skills on the job.


Inventions: In 1888 he patented a system for overhead electric conducting lines for railroads. In his early 30’s he became very interested in thermal power and steam-driven engines In 1889 he filed his first patent for an improved steam-boiler furnace. In 1887 he patented device for wireless inductions telegraphy, which was designed to assist in communicating with moving trains. He left school at 10 years old and soon realized education and learning was essential for him to express his creativity in machinery. From 1872 – 1888 Granville had many jobs, one of which he was a fireman out on the Danville and Southern roads in Missouri. Throughout his spare time he studied electronics. He moved to Springfield, Illinois and worked in a rolling mill. He took a job aboard the Ironside, a British steamer and within 2 years became chief engineer of the steamer. He finally settled in Cincinnati, Ohio


A man called Alexander Graham Bell and his company purchased the rights to Granville’s ‘Telegraphony’ and this gave Granville the opportunity to become a full-time inventor. Granville loved the arts and because of his love his invented and developed a safe and low-cost dimmer switch.( Earlier attempts made by previous inventors had often lead to electrical fires)


Inventor of the Gamma-Electric Cell On July 6th, 1971 Henry Thomas Sampson invented the Gamma-Electric Cell. It produces high voltage output current to detect radiation in the ground. Sampson began his career when he studied engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles and nuclear engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He graduated in 1961 with a MS degree in Engineering, 1965 a MS degree in nuclear engineering and his P.H.D in 1967. Honours: - Fellow of U.S Navy 1962-1964 - Atomic Energy Commission 1964-1967 - Black Image Award from Aerospace Corp 1982 - Blacks in Engineering, Applied Science, Education Award, Los Angeles ` Council of Black Professional Engineering 1983


In 1983 mobile technology took a big leap forward with the invention of the Cellular System regulating the portable telephone and radio waves to transmit and receive audio signals. Before this, mobile telephone services in the U.S, mainly car phones, were very limited in Metropolitan areas and had only one antenna for these purposes. FCC( Federal Communications Commission) assigned only 12-24 frequencies. This meant waiting up to 30min for a dial tone or a 5-10 year waiting list to acquire the service. With the new invention of the cellular phone service, we became no longer dependant on wires. Throughout the 1990’s it was made possible to connect to the internet from virtually anywhere in the world, using a portable computer and a cellular modem with satellite coverage. Henry-Thomas Sampson holds patents with rocket motors and the conversion of nuclear energy into electricity. He also pioneered a study of internal ballistics of solid rocket motors using high speed photography


The racist people in our society could not and still does not allow Black scientists and engineers to be credited with their invaluable contributions. Few people know that the first clock made in the United States, which kept accurate time for 40 years, made entirely of wood, was produced by a Black man in the early 18th century. His name was Benjamin Banneker. Born into a free family in 1731 in the colony of Maryland, Banneker led an outstanding life of keen observation and achievements, among them the most accurate almanac of its time. From self-taught astronomical calculations using his handmade clock, he wrote a book predicting storms and seasonal patterns and recommending sowing times. The almanac became widely used throughout the early United States.


But another Benjamin Franklin, is the one known in U.S. history for his almanac, although he did not make his own astronomical calculations. These are only two of Banneker’s contributions. Until recently, there has been no statue or monument to Benjamin Banneker in the United States. A monument to him is finally due for completion in 2010 in Washington, D.C. The test of his astronomical prowess came when Banneker forecast a solar eclipse for April 14, 1789. In doing so, he contradicted the two most renowned astronomers of the day, who said no such eclipse would occur. On that day, the sky darkened at precisely the time he forecast. Black scientists of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries were largely self-educated. Institutionalized racism denied them entrance to primary schools, not to mention higher levels of learning. George Washington Carver, whose discoveries revolutionized agriculture, is the best known African American scientist, especially in the South. His botanical discoveries and inventions rescued farmers from ruin when he recommended the use of nitrate-producing legumes to combat soil exhaustion from growing cotton.


Most schoolchildren can recite one of his most celebrated contributions, the production of hundreds of products from peanuts. But the hardships he endured as a child are almost unknown. Born into slavery in 1864 in Missouri, Carver’s mother and sister were kidnapped by nightriders along with Carver as an infant. His mother and sister were separated from him, and he never saw them again. Hundreds of inventions and discoveries of African Americans merit public honour in the United States: the synthesis of cortisone by Dr. Percy Julian; the multi-stage evaporating system which revolutionized sugar production by Norbert Rillieux of New Orleans; the first successful gas mask in 1914, used by fire-fighters throughout the country, by Garrett A. Morgan; several machine lubricating systems by Elijah McCoy, whose fame prompted the phrase, “Is it the real McCoy?” to signify high quality.


These African American innovators, and many others, often laboured without financial or social reward. They are still mostly unrecognized, having been denied credit and omitted from history. Their achievements have benefited all humanity through the higher development that was achieved. But their monumental contributions are especially noteworthy because of the huge societal obstacles that Black scientists and inventors have had to overcome. The colour of the skin is in no way connected with the strength of the mind or intellectual powers. Preface to Banneker's Almanac, 1796



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