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4 Famous African American Inventors


The United States would not be what it is if not for the ingenuity and intellect of our African American inventors. The list of contributions is long, and indeed takes many books to be complete, but the following are a few of some of most invaluable inventions and who created them first.

Otis Boykin was interested in medicine, and invented the first pacemaker. His invention at the turn of the twentieth century has saved millions of lives.

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Dr. James West invented the modern microphone. The specific engineering that West brought to the table is still used in 90 percent of today’s microphones.

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George Washington Carver invented hundreds of different uses just for peanuts, and hundreds more for other food crops. The applications of his inventions continue to multiply today, as we tackle world hunger and fuel shortages.


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Valerie Thomas invented the Illusion Transmitter. Though it might not have had many practical applications in 1976, as we learn and develop more in 3-D technologies, her ideas and, indeed, her name will come back up over and again. The application of her invention is what made Michael Jackson’s posthumous performance at the AMA’s possible a few years ago.


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Not all African inventors were focused on medical and scientific research. George Crum invented the potato chip in the mid 19th century; many, many Americans remain grateful to this day.

Perhaps one of the world’s most important inventors (of any race) is Dr. Charles Drew. His studies revealed the nature of blood plasma, and this knowledge further led to the invention of the blood bank. His invention has allowed for the successful treatment for tens of millions of people, and has no doubt saved millions more throughout the world.

This very short list is just a brief understatement to the countless contributions African Americans have made to modern society. There will, of course, be many more to come.

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