Celebrating African American History

and the lasting legacy of these American inventors of the past and present.

By National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

George Alcorn PortraitNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

George Alcorn

George Alcorn's father, an auto mechanic, was his hero. They shared a love of hands-on science that Alcorn later turned toward the stars. Alcorn was Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015. 

Alcorn Patent DrawingNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

X-Ray Spectrometer
Patent No. 4,472,728

While working at NASA, George Alcorn invented the X-ray imaging spectrometer. These types of imaging devices have made discoveries such as black holes and neutron stars and have greatly expanded our view of the universe.

The most powerful space telescope ever built, Chandra, uses technology based on Alcorn's original work.

Click here to see the full patent

Alcorn Visits Camp Invention by National Inventors Hall of FameNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

George Alcorn enjoys supporting others in the pursuit of their dreams. In 1984, he won a NASA award for his work recruiting minority and women scientists and engineers.

Today, he inspires the next generation at Camp Invention®, a program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Alcorn proves to students that inventing and learning are not work; they are an adventure!

"If you have a good, interesting project, going to work is not coming to work. It's coming to an adventure. And I'd much rather have an adventure..."
- George Alcorn

Alcorn Museum Display by National Inventors Hall of FameNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

Charles Drew PortraitNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

Charles Drew

Charles Drew was a lifelong learner with a passion for sharing his knowledge for the benefit of all people. He pioneered methods for the processing and storing of blood plasma, or blood-banking, having helped save millions of lives. Drew was Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015.

Drew Patent DrawingNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

Surgical Needle
Patent No. 2,389,355

Charles Drew supervised the collection of 14,500 pints of plasma during World War II, which were put to immediate and effective use. Banked plasma is still saving lives. Ten thousand pints are needed every day in the United States.

"The foremost lifesaver, is plasma...(it) saved shock and bleeding, and without that many men would have died before they could have reached medical care."
- Maj. Gen. Norman T. Kirk, Surgeon General of the Army

Click here to see the full patent

Drew Teaches Interns and ResidentsNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

Charles Drew's legacy lives on in the many schools named for him around the country. The Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) of South Los Angeles is committed to improving the lives of those in underserved communities. This is done through biomedical research and training a diverse group of future health care leaders.

Pictured Left: Drew is teaching interns and residents during rounds at Freedmen's Hospital in 1947.

Drew Museum Display by National Inventors Hall of FameNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

Lewis Latimer by Queensborough Public LibraryNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

Lewis Latimer

The son of escaped slaves, Lewis Latimer continued his parents' fight by joining the Union Navy. He lived his life pursuing his passions of art, invention and service to his community, quitely breaking the boundaries of the time. The Amsterdam News wrote, "His work in science was an achievement and his personal life was a work of art." Latimer was Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006. 

Process of Manufacturing Carbons Patent by Lewis LatimerNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

Durable Carbon Filament for Electric Light Bulbs
Patent No. 252,386

Lewis Latimer's improved manufacturing process created a long-lasting carbon filament that made electric light affordable for the average family.

Latimer was soon working for Thomas Edison. During his time with Edison, Latimer wrote a book, the first one on incandescent lighting published in The United States.

Click here to see the full patent

Latimer HouseNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

The Lewis Latimer House Museum

Lewis Latimer's home in Queens, New York was saved from demolition in 1988 and reborn as a museum. Its programs reflect Latimer's life by melding science, technology and the arts into innovative, hands-on activities that encourage children to exercise their ingenuity.

Latimer Museum Display by National Inventors Hall of FameNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

James West PortraitNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

James West

"My father introduced me to three black men who had earned doctorates in chemistry and physics. The best jobs they could find were at the post office," said Jim West. The lack of career opportunities did not discourage his dream. West was Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999.

West Patent DrawingNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

Electret Microphone
Patent No. 3,118,022

Jim West enjoyed 40 years of doing work he loved at Bell Laboratories, where he earned more than 60 U.S. patents. He invented the electret microphone with Gerhard Sessler in 1962.

It is still the most common type used today, found in everything from phones and laptops to hearing aids.

Click here to see the full patent

West at CIC Meet the ExpertsNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

Jim West is an active advocate for science education, particularly for minority students. He is an invaluable part of the programs of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and serves on the board of The Ingenuity Project of Baltimore City Public Schools.

Pictured Left: West mentors a Collegiate Inventors Competition (CIC) Finalist during the 'Meet the Experts' portion of CIC.

West Museum Display by National Inventors Hall of FameNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

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