The world would not be the same without so many excellent inventions by Black men & women. However, many of us may not be aware of who are the people behind the inventions we know and love. In this article, you will learn who the brains are behind brilliant inventions that you use in your everyday life.
Reading time: 5 minutes
Disclaimer: This article mostly concentrates on innovators from the US.
1. Potato crisps
Everyone (almost) loves crisps in the UK. Did you know that a New York chef, George Crum worked in a resort when he encountered a grumpy, dissatisfied customer who returned his French fries back to the kitchen? George took pride in his culinary skills, and he didn’t like people leaving and complaining about the food. So, he re-made the customer’s order. He cut the potatoes as thinly as possible and fried them in oil and seasoned them with salt. This was the D-day when potato crisps were born. A worldwide sensation!
2. Home security system
American Mary Van Brittan Brown invented an early security unit for her own home. She and her husband patented their brilliant invention in 1969. All home security systems worldwide were built upon her early invention and design.
3. Peanut butter
Crowd favourite! People love it, dogs love it, even bears love it! We should thank George Washington Carver for the invention of peanut butter.
4. Three-light traffic lights
American Garett Morgan contributed to the road-safety in the United States. In addition, he was the first Black person in Ohio to own a car. One day, he witnessed a serious car collision at an intersection in the city, which inspired him to invent an addition to the current traffic light by adding a ‘yield’ component, which would warn incoming drivers of an impending stop.
5. Folding cabinet bed
A businesswoman Sarah Goode was the first Black woman in the US to receive a US patent. Some of you may have her invention in your parent’s or grandparent’s home even today – folding cabinet bed.
6. Gas mask
The first gas mask was invented by Garrett Morgan after he noticed how many firefighters were killed due to smoke inhalation. He called his invention ‘safety hood’ back in the day; the hood went over the head and featured tubes connected to wet sponges that filtered out the smoke and provided oxygen to firefighters. He saved an infinite number of lives.
7. Blood bank
Surgeon Charles Richard Drew discovered a method of separating red blood cells from plasma and then storing the two components separately while he was studying towards his university degree. He researched the field of blood transfusions, developing improved techniques for blood storage, and applied his expert knowledge to developing large-scale blood banks early in World War II.
8. Improved ironing board
In the late 19th century, the ironing board was improved by Sarah Boone. Sarah’s design morphed into the modern board that we use today.
9. Refrigerated trucks
Frederick McKinley Jones created a roof-mounted cooling system that was used to refrigerate goods on trucks during extended transportation in the mid-1930s. He received a patent for his invention in 1940 and co-founded the US Thermo Control Company, later known as Thermo King.
10. Automatic elevator doors
Alexander Miles took out a patent in 1887 for a mechanism that automatically opens and closes elevator shaft doors. His designs are largely reflected in elevators used today.
11. Color IBM PC monitor and Gigahertz chip
You can thank Mark Dean for co-inventing the colour monitor. Without his invention, we would be typing on black and white computer screens.
12. Tissue holder
Mary Davidson invented the tissue holder to help her in day to day life living with multiple sclerosis. She has also developed the very first sanitary belt, a predessor to modern menstruation pads. Mary has received 5 patents in her lifetime. She holds the record for the most patents awarded to a Black woman by the U.S government.
An ophthalmologist and laser scientist, Patricia Bath, invented a device and technique used to remove cataracts and revive patients’ eyesight.
14. Automatic gear shift
Richard Spikes created the automatic gear shift, helping people drive up hills everywhere.
15. Clothes dryer
George T. Sampson was the inventor of the clothes dryer in 1892, an innovation we all use even today.
16. Folding chair
You likely have a couple in your garden. The folding chair was invented by John Purdy.
17. Ice cream scooper
Before the ice cream scooper was invented, people scooped ice cream with spoons. That was until Alfred L. Cralle invented the ice cream scooper, allowing children and adults alike to enjoy more than a spoonful of ice cream at a time.
John Albert Burr designed a lawnmower with traction wheels and a rotary blade that was designed to not easily get plugged up with lawn clippings. John also improved the design of lawnmowers by making it possible to mow closer to building and wall edges.
19. Ceramic toilet
Thomas Elkins was a dentist, abolitionist, surgeon, pharmacist, and inventor. One of the many things he invented was a ceramic toilet. His invention included a mirror and a washstand.
20. Baby pram
William H. Richardson patented a new type of baby pram by creating the first pram with independent wheels and a turning bassinet, so the newborn’s parent can keep an eye on their child.
This might be an unknown fact to many, but the inventor of whiskey was a skilled distiller, Nathan Green, nicknamed Nearest, from Lynchburg, Tennessee. He created the original recipe and he was the brains and hands behind everything. He mentored Jack Daniel, and taught him his craft. Jack later proceeded to create his own brand using Nathan’s teachings called and named his brand Jack Daniels. The public did not believe Nathan Green was the real inventor, and all the fame shone on Jack Daniels. It was unknown to the public until many decades later. Nathan Green passed in 1890’s, and his family since created a world-famous whiskey brand, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, which has won numerous international awards across the years.
Learned something new? Leave a comment and share your feedback!
Interesting article, thanks. The whiskey got me wondering though as it’s been around for hundreds of years. Do you mean specifically Jack Daniels? Here’s something about it being drunk in 1494! https://www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk/about/about-whisky/history/
Yes, you are right – it was Jack Daniels specifically. I will make adjustments to the article to reflect this. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I hope you enjoyed the article.