Day 20 – Black History – Little Known Inventors

Lonnie Johnson (born 1949). The engineer developed the mega water gun in his free time while working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. And once the toy, dubbed the Super Soaker, hit shelves in 1990 its popularity skyrocketed. In 2017, Forbes reported that it had earned over $1 billion in retail sales.

Mark Dean (born 1957)
Dean, who earned a doctorate at Stanford University, is a co-inventor of IBM’s original personal computer and the PC color monitor, literally changing how we all interact with the internet. And the technology that enables printers, keyboards, and mice to communicate with your computer? That’s him, too.

Shirley Jackson (born 1946)
Jackson, the first African American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT, is responsible for monumental telecommunications research that led to the invention of products such as the touch-tone phone, portable fax, fiber optic cables, and caller ID. In 2014, President Barack Obama named her the co-chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory.

Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922-1999)
Brown filed a patent in 1966 for the first-ever home security system after wanting to increase her own house’s security in her Queens, New York, neighborhood. Her original design contained a camera, a two-way microphone, peepholes, and monitors, all serving as the foundations for today’s modern systems.

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner (1912-2006)
Though she filed a total of five patents, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner is thought to be one of the most “forgotten” Black inventors, despite her contributions to society. She patented the sanitary belt in 1957, which was adjustable and had a moisture proof napkin pocket in a time where women were still using cloth pads for their periods. She also created a serving tray that could be attached to a walking frame, a toilet tissue holder, and back washer that could be mounted on the wall of the shower.

Granville T. Woods (1856-1910)
Woods accumulated nearly 60 patents during his lifetime, many of which improved the functioning of railroads. His most notable are the induction telegraph system, which allowed traveling trains to communicate with one another while also allowing dispatchers to locate them, and the first electricity-powered railway.

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