20 Black Inventions Over The Last 100 Years You May Not Know


George R. Carruthers (1939-Present)

What He Invented: The Ultraviolet Camera Spectrograph.

Why It’s Important: The ultraviolet camera spectrograph was a device that traveled to the moon with Apollo 16 in 1972. The camera designed by this Cincinnati-native enabled researchers to study Earth’s atmosphere, providing crucial information on how the world works.


Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950)

What He Invented: The Blood Bank.

Why It’s Important: His research in the field of blood transfusions led to the development of improved techniques for blood storage. He applied his expert knowledge to the development of  large-scale blood banks early in World War II. His invention allowed medics to save thousands of lives of the Allied forces.

He directed the blood plasma programs of the United States and Great Britain in World War II, but resigned after a ruling that the blood of African-Americans would be segregated.


Alexander Miles (1838-1918)

What He Invented: The Modern-Day Elevator Design.

Why It’s Important: Although Miles may not have invented the first elevator, his design was very important. Alexander Miles improved the method of the opening and closing of elevator doors; and he developed the closing of the elevator shaft when an elevator was not positioned at a floor. Miles created an automatic mechanism that closed access to the shaft.

His patent is still used for most elevators today because they still work under the basic principle of automated opening and closing doors. His life and his invention helped to break down racial barriers in many ways.


James E. West (1931-Present)

What He Invented: The Electroacoustic Transducer Electret Microphone.

Why It’s Important: Without James West, rappers wouldn’t be able to rock the mic. West, along with Gerhard M. Sessler, helped develop the electroacoustic transducer electret microphone, for which they received a patent in 1962. Their invention was acoustically accurate, lightweight and cost effective. Ninety percent of microphones in use today — including those in telephones, tape recorders and camcorders — are based on their original concept.

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