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5 Major Historical Contributions by Black Inventors

May 01, 2023 02:00PM ● By Anand Subramanian

Image: Home security system patent by Marie Van Brittan Brown. Source: Google Patents

Black innovators have made significant contributions to society, often against overwhelming obstacles. These remarkable inventors have enormously influenced our planet, from improving everyday living to expanding technology. Nonetheless, their achievements are frequently overlooked or undervalued in mainstream history. It is critical to acknowledge and appreciate Black innovators' accomplishments, not just for their historical value but also for the inspiration they bring to future generations. Come along with us on this exploration of the astounding achievements of Black innovators.

(1) Modern Toilet

The concept of a contemporary toilet was patented in 1872 by African American inventor Thomas Elkins. Unlike earlier designs, Elkins' toilet included a chamber that employed a siphon to discharge waste into the sewage system, making it more effective and hygienic. Elkins' creation reduced the spread of disease through inadequate sanitation, enhancing public health. Additionally, he incorporated a ventilation system into the design of his toilet to stop foul odors from seeping into the room. Elkins' ground-breaking toilet design served as the prototype for the contemporary toilets we use today, and his contributions to the sanitation industry significantly improved public health and cleanliness.

Image: Dr. Thomas Elkins. Public Domain

(2) Home Security System

African American nurse Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the development of the home security system in 1966. This innovation transformed home security by giving homeowners a cutting-edge way to monitor their properties remotely. Brown's innovation was revolutionary because it allowed homeowners to use closed-circuit television to watch and interact with guests at their front door. A gadget feature also allowed homeowners to remotely unlock the door, which was helpful for people with restricted mobility. Brown's creation marked a crucial turning point in home security by giving families, particularly those living in cities, protection and peace of mind. Her creative ideas and efforts continually inspire modern security systems.

Image: Home security system patent by Marie Van Brittan Brown. Source: Google Patents

(3) Super Soaker

A famous recreational water cannon known as the Super Soaker was created in 1982 by Lonnie G. Johnson, a former NASA engineer and adored kid's toy. While working on a novel heat pump design that used water instead of Freon, Johnson created the Super Soaker. He realized he could produce a strong jet of water by pressurizing a container and blasting it through a nozzle. Johnson's creation revolutionized the toy market by giving youngsters a brand-new, fascinating summertime pastime. Over the years, the Super Soaker has evolved into a cultural icon and has served as an inspiration for numerous young inventors. People of all ages are continually motivated to achieve their aspirations and positively influence the world through Johnson's inventive attitude and imaginative thinking.

Child playing with Super Soaker. Photo by Steward Masweneng on Unsplash

(4) Potato chip

The potato chip was created in 1853 by George Crum, an American cook of African and Native American ancestry. According to the legend, Crum chopped the potatoes into thin, crispy pieces and deep-fried them until golden brown after a client complained that his French fries were too thick. The client received the new product, and potato chips immediately became popular in America. A novel and tasty method to consume potatoes was created by Crum's creation, which was a culinary innovation. Potato chips are one of the most widely consumed snacks in the world today, and Crum's invention is still praised for its distinctive flavor.

Image: Potato chips Public Domain

(5) The three-way traffic light

The three-way traffic light, invented in 1923 by African American inventor Garrett Morgan, transformed how we control traffic flow today. Traffic lights only had two settings before Morgan's innovation, green and red, leading to confusion and roadway accidents. With Morgan's addition of amber light, the signal's impending change in direction was made clear to cars. His three-way traffic light proved more successful in controlling traffic flow, avoiding collisions, and preserving lives. Thanks to Morgan's idea, modern traffic lights, which use cutting-edge technologies to manage traffic flow effectively, were made possible. Millions of people worldwide are still impacted by his contribution to the field of transportation safety.

 Image: Portrait of Garrett Morgan. Public Domain

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 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

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