February 11, 2020

Honoring Black Inventors

Explore a range of innovative creations

In February, we honor the history and heritage of the black community in the United States. It is also the month that includes National Inventors Day, so let’s take a look at some of the innovative creations by black inventors that have improved the quality of life for all people.

Crucial Creations

Three-Light Traffic Signal
Garrett Morgan

When drivers see a yellow light while approaching an intersection on the road, they know to reduce speed and prepare to stop. Garrett Morgan’s contribution of the yellow warning light significantly improved roadway safety. He is also known for the creation of a protective safety hood, sewing machine upgrades and more!

The Heating Furnace
Alice H. Parker
These days if we feel a chill, a simple turn of a dial or press of a button will bring warm air throughout our homes. In 1919, Alice H. Parker received the patent for a natural gas heating furnace, which lessened the need for chopped wood to heat homes. She developed the idea of using a centralized heating source to warm buildings in their entirety. Her design provided the framework for modern thermostats and HVAC systems.

The Pacemaker Control Unit
Otis Boykin

Several conditions may lead to a doctor’s recommendation for a pacemaker. Typically, it is used to treat an arrhythmia, or an irregular heart rhythm. Otis Boykin’s creation of an electronic control devise is used in pacemakers to send electrical pulses to the heart so that it may maintain a steady beat.

The Blood Bank
Charles R. Drew

Charles R. Drew was a surgeon who studied chemistry and biology at Amherst College and the now named Morgan State University. He used his expertise to develop large-scale blood banks. In his time, he actively protested against the racial segregation of donated blood, even resigning from his position as director of the American Red Cross after it was ruled that the practice would continue despite its lack of scientific principle.

Fun Favorites

The Super Soaker
Lonnie G. Johnson

You may have treasured childhood memories of water fights on scorching summer days. Lonnie G. Johnson, a former aerospace engineer at NASA, created the popular toy that made those hot days in the sun a little more bearable – and fun.

Animated GIFs
Lisa Gelobter

Animated graphics interchange format, or ‘GIFs’ as they are most commonly known, are the best part of any group chat or Twitter thread. Lisa Gelobter, a graduate of Brown University with a degree in computer science, is credited with developing the animation used to produce GIF images.

The Ice Cream Scoop
Alfred L. Cralle

Whether you like dessert before or after dinner, you have Alfred L. Cralle to thank for making it easier to get ice cream out of the carton and into your cone. In 1897 he created the “Ice Cream Mold and Disher” featuring a built-in scraper. Cralle’s design serves as the foundation for modern ice cream scoops.

Ever wonder what it takes to turn an idea into a reality?

At Discovery Place Science, we celebrate the spirit of wonder that fuels experimental thinking and imaginative designs. Get started on the next great invention in our Thinker Space, located on Level 3 of the Museum.