Black Inventors in Technology: Granville T. Woods aka “Black Edison”

Granville T Woods - Electric Railway System

Granville T. Woods, also Known as “Black Edison,” registered nearly 60 patents in his lifetime, including a telephone transmitter, a trolley wheel and the multiplex telegraph. Woods’s most important invention was the multiplex telegraph, also known as the “induction telegraph,” in 1887. The device allowed people to communicate by voice over telegraph wires, which helped speed up important communications and prevent crucial errors such as train accidents. Woods defeated Thomas Edison’s lawsuit that challenged his patent, and turned down Edison’s offer to make him a partner. Thereafter, Woods was often known as “Black Edison.”

Black Inventors in Technology: Inventor of the Cataract Laserphaco Probe

dr p:bath

Dr. Patricia Bath becoming the first African American female doctor to patent a medical invention. Patricia Bath’s patent was for a method of removing cataract lenses by using a laser device. Bath’s dedication to the treatment and prevention of blindness led to her invention of the Cataract Laserphaco Probe, which was designed to use the power of a laser to quickly and painlessly vaporize cataracts from patients’ eyes, replacing the more common method of using a grinding, drill-like device to remove the afflictions.

With another one of Bath’s inventions she was able to restore sight to people who had been blind for over 30 years. She also holds patents for her invention in Japan, Canada, and Europe.

patricia bath patent 1

Black Inventors in Technology: Inventor of the Electret Microphone


After graduating from Temple University in 1957 with a degree in physics West hired with a full-time position as an acoustical scientist at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey.  In 1960 West teamed up with scientist Gerhard M. Sessler at Bell to develop an inexpensive compact microphone. In 1962 they finished the product and had successfully developed the foil electret microphone, an inexpensive, compact device. West’s and Sessler’s invention became the industry standard, and  now 90% of all contemporary microphones like the ones found in  telephones, tape recorders, cameras, baby monitors and hearing aids use their technology.

Black Inventors in Technology: Inventor of the Gas Mask & Traffic Light


After witnessing a collision between an automobile and a horse-drawn carriage, Garrett Morgan created a new kind of traffic signal, one with a warning light to alert drivers that they would need to stop.  Morgan applied for a  patent on his traffic signal in the United States, that was granted on November 20, 1923. He also had his invention patented in Britain and Canada. Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 11.58.18 AM

Morgan also made national news  in 1916 when he used his gas mask to rescue men trapped in a tunnel below Lake Erie. He was granted a patent in 1914 for a Safety Hood & Smoke Protector, and after the rescue his company received requests from fire departments around the country who wanted to purchase the masks. A cool fun fact about his gas mask is that it was later refined for use by the U.S. Army during World War 1.

gas mask