Inventors and Innovators:
Historical and Contemporary Contributions
by Mary Teasley
The creative mind and innovative skill of African Americans have truly impacted our society and the world. History informs us that from their involuntary arrival in the Americas to this present time, the inventiveness of African Americans has manifested itself in a diverse range of devices, products, and processes.
This exhibition profiles select inventions and innovations by African Americans who have made significant contributions to science, technology, health, and everyday life, and even recreation. As you browse the gallery and view the materials, it is hoped that you will become enlightened and be proud of the accomplishments made by African American scientists and inventors.
Did you know that Lewis Latimer, who susequently became a member of Thomas Edison's team, invented the carbon light bulb filament? Or that John Standard invented the refrigerator? Or that Meredith Gourdine created a generator that allowed for the chaper transmission of electricity? You might, if you're really up on African-American history. For all these inventors and scores of others were African Americans.
The son of a former slave, Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928) enlisted in the Navy at age 16 and served as a cabin boy aboard the U.S.S. Massasoit. After the Civil War, he learned mechanical drawing while working in a patent attorney's Boston law office. He later became a chief draftsman.
In 1873 he invented a toilet system for railroad cars. In 1882, his job with the United States Electrical Lighting Co. led him to work with Thomas Edison and become one of the famous Edison Pioneers.
Latimer also supervised the installation of electric lighting in New York City, Philadelphia, and Montreal. His textbook, "Incandescent Electric Lighting: A Practical Description of the Edison System," was published in 1890.
The inventions highlighted include such everyday items as the fountain pen, traffic light and gas mask. Emphasis has been given to New Jersey inventors such as Latimer, Standard and Gourdine.
The exhibit is open during regular Newark Public Library hours which are Monday, Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Please call (973) 733-7735 for further details.
©1999 The Newark Public Library