Posts Tagged: "Black History Month"

From Home Security to VoIP: Honoring Black Women Inventors of the Last Half-Century

Throughout February, we have recognized some of the earliest Black women inventors, beginning with Martha Jones in 1868 and her patent directed to a corn husker, ending with Sarah Boone’s 1892 patent for the Ironing Board. Black women have continued to play an important role in driving innovation during the twentieth century and through today.

Sarah Boone: the ‘Ironing Table’, Perfected

Sarah Boone is believed to be the fifth African-American woman to be awarded a U.S. patent Her invention, U.S. Patent No. 473,653, issued in 1892 and was directed to an improved ironing board. The object of her invention was “to produce a cheap, simple, convenient, and highly effective device, particularly adapted to be used in ironing the sleeves and bodies of ladies’ garments.”

Eighteen Dollars for Her Patent: Ellen Elgin and the Story of the Clothes-Wringer

In August 1888, Ellen Elgin, a black woman housekeeper, invented a clothes wringer which allowed clothing to be washed and dried faster by feeding clothes through two rollers to wring out the clothing, thereby making them easier to hang and dry. Elgin sold her patent to a white person because she felt it would have a better chance at success than if people knew the inventor was a woman of color. Thus, U.S. Patent No. 459,343 lists Cyrenus Wheeler, Jr. as the inventor.

Black Women Inventors Recall Their Paths to Success in USPTO Black History Month Event

On February 10, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosted its annual Black History Month program, “Contemporary Black Women Inventors.” The event spotlights Black inventors and business personalities across the United States to showcase their legacy contributions to America’s ingenuity and the innovation economy. These events include discussions with remarkable innovators, explorations of entrepreneurship, and seminars focused on how to obtain and use intellectual property, as well as helpful USPTO resources.

Signed with an ‘X’: Judy Reed, Improved Dough Kneader and Roller

Judy W. Reed, one of the first recorded African American women to receive a U.S. patent (No. 305,474), is known for her invention titled “Dough Kneader and Roller”, which was granted patent protection on September 23, 1884. The invention improved upon existing dough kneaders and rollers and included a box for receiving dough and a crank that causes the dough to be drawn between corrugated rollers, whereby the dough is kneaded and rolled into a continuous sheet or ribbon.

A Cooking Revolution: Mary Jones De Leon

In 1873, Mary Jones De Leon was granted U.S. patent No. 140,253 for her invention titled ”Cooking Apparatus.” De Leon, who resided in Baltimore, Maryland, is believed to be the second black woman to receive a U.S. patent, following Martha Jones in 1868. De Leon’s invention was an apparatus for heating or cooking food by dry heat and steam the same time. Her cooking apparatus was an early precursor to the steam tables now used in food buffets to keep food warm during gatherings.

Dr. Thomas Mensah: An innovator of fiber optics technologies

Although the history of fiber optics includes a long list of engineers and inventors making contributions over decades, Dr. Mensah’s particular improvements to the process of making fiber optic cables dramatically improved the cost-efficiency of producing those cables, clearing the way for a much greater degree of fiber optics technologies at work in our world. In his other work, Dr. Mensah increased the practical applications of fiber optics and has also sought to improve the status of African-American inventors and historical figures, making him a particularly interesting profile subject for Black History Month.

Innovation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

The first patent received by an HBCU was on April 11, 1978, assigned to Shaw University of Raleigh, NC. Between 1969 and 2012, HBCUs received 100 utility patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in various fields, including energy, advanced manufacturing technology, nanotechnology and breast cancer treatment. Although this is a very small portion of patents issued by the USPTO during that period, the rate at which HBCUs have received patents has increased exponentially in recent years. In 2010, HBCUs received 10 patents; in 2011, 17 patents; and in 2012, 24 patents.

God’s Scientist: George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was not only a talented innovator, but was also an extremely gifted educator and scientist.

Granville Woods and Induction Telegraphy

There are some who say that the number of patents Woods obtained is at least 60, may be even much higher. But from Professor Fouché’s book, I’ve only identified 45 patents for Woods which is still a pretty awesome figure. These patents may be divided into essentially 4 technology categories: (1) induction telegraphy of which there are 8 patents; (2) electrical railways of which there are 20 patents; (3) other electrical devices of which there are 13 patents; and (4) 4 patents on “other inventions” that don’t fall into any specific category. This article focuses only the first category of inventions, induction telegraphy, for which Woods is most famous for. So why is induction telegraphy important? Well…

The Black Edison: Granville T. Woods

Granville Woods is often referred as “The Black Edison.” Woods and Thomas Edison went to court twice over what were apparently invention disputes. Both times, Woods won. There’s even a story, perhaps “folklore,” that Edison asked Woods to work for him, but Woods turned down Edison’s offer. Admittedly, Edison, with close to 1100 patents to his name, is far better known than Woods. But the parallels between these two inventive giants are striking in many respects. Both were from Ohio. Each came from very humble or modest family backgrounds. Each was primarily self-taught and highly entrepreneurial. Their scientific intellect was keen and often focused on electrical technologies. The scope of their inventive discoveries was also quite varied, and extremely prolific.