Top 10 Black American Innovators & Technologists who re-wrote history


Over the years, we have seen several outstanding individuals who have done pretty well for society. The last decades have seen the rise of a couple of Black American Innovators who has done well for society. Their role is now re-shaping the technology world. There have been many significant innovations and technologies from Black American innovators. The likes of caller ID, traffic lights, and many more are from the creative minds of Black American innovators and inventors. In honor of Black History Month, Vmware compiled a list of Black inventors who have made a major impact. In addition to engineers, scholars, and entrepreneurs also makes the list. The impact of the people on the list is felt in our everyday life as well as in science and the tech industry.

1. Dr. Mark E. Dean

You probably haven’t heard of Dr. Mike E. Dean but we know you probably have an interest in what he stands for. Dr. Dean is the inventor (co-inventor actually) of the colour IBM PC monitor and gigahertz chip. In addition to his Silicon Valley legend status, he also has no less than three of IBM’s nine original patents.

According to Dr. Dean, “People are sitting on goldmines they don’t even know about”. In a 2008 interview (video below), he explains the concept of spintronics. This is the study of the intrinsic spin of the electron and its associated magnetic moment. He further explains the huge value of data analysis as well as the traits of a good innovator.

Throughout all of his work, he focused on predicting where computing was headed. Dean was right on target in the late ’90s, when he was dreaming up a magazine-sized tablet that could accept voice commands, play media and replace your PC. He predicted that we’d see that within 10 years, which was pretty much in line with the iPad’s debut in 2010.

Devindra Hardawar, zenior editor, Engadget

2. Dr. James E. West

Dr. James E. West is one of many Black American Innovators whose technology we use almost every day. If you use a smartphone or camera, then you have probably been using Dr. West’s technology. According to Vmware, 90% of the microphones today use a technology co-invented by Dr. James E. West.

Dr. West is very interested in the diversity of sciences and he takes his time to educate society. He also had a very long career as an acoustical scientist. In the video below, Dr. West discusses the challenges he had to face in the sciences as well as the revolutionary impact of his invention.

3. Garrett A. Morgan

If you drive a car, then you have probably used the technology by one of the foremost Black American Innovators, Garrett A. Morgan. Do you see the green, red, and yellow traffic lights? that’s from Garrett Morgan. He did not only invent and patented the three-position traffic signal, he is also the inventor of the first gas mask. The video below shows the interview by Smithsonian Channel on Morgan’s gas mask.

4. Lisa Gelobter

Lisa Gelobter is at the center of the development of the popular GIF we have today. The American developer is an integral part of the development of Shockwave. This technology is the advent of what we know as web animation today. It can carry out no less than 3.1 billion calculations per second.

Gelobter is the founder of tEQuitable, this platform is dedicated to addressing harassment, bias, and discrimination in the workplace. Furthermore, the computer scientist worked with big organizations like Hulu, BET, and The White House. The video below highlights Gelobter’s contributions to the technology and entertainment industry.

5. Dr. Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr.

In the development and understanding of atomic energy, Dr, Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr. has a significant contribution. The mathematician and scholar is the University of Chicago’s youngest student earning a doctorate by age 19. At age 13, he was already a student at the University of Chicago and the record still holds till this day.

Wilkin’s research is pivotal to how to shield harmful rays and also did a significant explanation of how gamma radiation works. Wilking’s died in 2011 at age 87. The video below succinctly showcases Wilkin’s amazing career in mathematics, physics, and engineering.

6. Lewis H. Latimer

While we know Thomas Edison for his invention of the light bulb, the name Lewis H. Latimer is another important name in commercial lighting. Latimer dedicated a significant part of his life to the perfection of commercial lighting. The video below is from the Institute of Engineering and Technology and it outlines Latimer’s life and inventions in detail.

7. Janet E. Bashen

Another female Black American innovator on the list is the first Black woman to receive a patent for web-based software, Janet E. Bashen. LinkLine is Bashen’s invention and it is an equal employment opportunity case management and tracking software. In the CNN interview below, Bashen introduces the LinkLine solution

8. Dr. Edward A. Bouchet

In 1876, Dr. Edward A. Bouchet got a doctorate in physics from Yale University. He is the first Black American to get a doctorate degree in any subject from an American university. However, his work with nurturing Black students as an educator is one of his significant achievements. According to Yale Daily News, Bouchet is only the sixth person in the Western Hemisphere to earn a doctorate degree in physics.

Edward Alexander Bouchet Black American Innovators

9. Mary W. Jackson

Remember the movie “Hidden Figures”?, if you know the movie then you probably know the story of Mary W. Jackson. Her life with NASA is portrayed in that movie. After a series of obstacles linked to the colour of her skin, she became NASA’s first Black female engineer in 1958. For decades, she was working on aerodynamics but she was also instrumental to the next generation of female mathematicians, engineers, and scientists at NASA. In the video below, NASA recaps the milestones in Jackson’s career. In fact, NASA even has a building in recognition of the Black female engineer.

10. Dr. Frank S. Greene, Jr.

Dr. Frank S Greene Jr. has a place in the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame. He is believed to be one of the first Black technologists. In the 60s, he worked on the development of high-speed semiconductor computer memory systems. Greene founded software companies like ZeroOne Systems, Inc., as well as NewVista Capital.

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