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Celebrating Historic Black Inventors

In celebration of Black history and culture, we are recognizing Black inventors, the patents they contributed to and the inventions that influenced modern day technology. Learn more about these inventors and their creations below:

Michael C. Harvey was an African American inventor. He was best known for his invention of the lantern, specifically for making improvements to the wick-raiser of the lantern. The Black History Museum now displays the original lantern that he created.

Robert Flemming was an American inventor and Union sailor in the American Civil War. After finishing his naval service in 1865, he began work as a guitar manufacturer and a music teacher, later inventing a guitar he called the “Euphonica.” It was designed to create a louder and more resonant sound than traditional guitars at the time. He received a patent in the US and Canada for his invention and continued creating and building musical instruments.

Marie Van Brittan Brown, an American inventor, created the first home security system in the 1960s as a way to keep herself safe in her neighborhood. The original invention included a front door camera and a two-way microphone. This successful invention received a patent in the late 1960s. It was the basis for two-way communication and influenced modern home security systems that we still use today.

Mark Dean was an African American computer engineer and inventor who helped create a one-gigahertz computer processor chip. Mark Dean is the first African American to become an IBM Fellow, the highest level of technical excellence at the organization.

Patricia Bath was an American ophthalmologist, inventor, humanitarian and academic. She was the first woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. Patricia also developed the laserphaco probe, a medical device that improved the use of lasers to remove cataracts.