Thanks to African-American inventors and innovators our lives are easier, more convenient and more prosperous in many ways. Although we rarely hear about these sharp, groundbreaking pioneers from the past and present, black innovators have contributed in every field—from mechanics to cosmetics to consumer goods to technology. This Black History Month we pause to acknowledge a few.
While working at IBM, Mark Dean invented the first modern peripherals that enabled us to plug speakers, disk drives, scanners and printers into computers. Dean holds three of IBMs original nine PC patents.
At just 27 years old, chemist Dennis Weatherby invented automatic dishwasher detergent while working at Proctor & Gamble in 1987. His invention now sells under the trade name “Cascade” and is the basic formula for all of today’s lemon-scented cleaning products with bleach.
If you’ve ever wondered where the phrase “the real McCoy” originated look to innovator Elijah McCoy. His parents escaped slavery in the mid 1800s by way of the Underground Railroad and moved to Canada. They sent him to Scotland to be educated. Upon completing his studies, McCoy moved to the United States for work but discrimination prevented him from finding employment as a professional engineer. So he went to work on the railroad as an oilman responsible for keeping the moving parts of the trains lubricated for locomotion. He found that walking along the trains oiling the axles and bearings was inefficient so he created an oil lubricating cup that automatically dripped oil onto the moving parts. His invention allowed trains to travel long distances continuously without the need to stop for oiling. After he received a patent for his invention there were many engineers who imitated his work. But informed train operators knew his invention was superior and when they needed to order an automatic oil cup they would ask for “the real McCoy.” His invention became standard equipment on most locomotives and heavy machinery. McCoy went on to patent more than 50 inventions