Master Inventors

 One cannot write about contributions to world civilizations through inventions that brought about physical infra-structures, instruments and devices that keep the wheels of civilization turning, without first considering the Great Black Civilizations of the Nile Valley.

“All elements of civilization were first found in Africa by Black People. For example, religion, art, science, government, mining, writing, mathematics, to name a few, were developed by Blacks of antiquity”. These statements are not just conjectures but were scientifically proven by “Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, the leading cultural historian on Africa and Director of the Radiocarbon Laboratory at the University of Dakar. Dr. Diop proved through historical, archaeological and anthropological evidence that Black Africans created all the elements of civilization” (Indus Kush).   

[The]” thinking about African people is shifting away from the old paradigms of Africans being an ignorant, uncivilized, genetically inferior people. The new model portrays  African people as: 1) One of the significant creators of Western Civilization; 2) Major contributors to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; and 3) Contributors to many other civilizations throughout world history”.

“As the following quotations indicate, Africans and their descendants have contributed significantly to world cultures and civilizations. Their influence has flowed through world history from the beginning of humanity to the present” (Hamilton, 1993).

“This race of Blacks [Egyptians] the very one to which we owe our arts, our sciences, and even the use of the spoken word...There (in Egypt) a people now forgotten discovered, while others yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences. A race of men now rejected for their black skin and woolly hair founded on the study of the laws of nature, those civil and religious systems which still govern the universe” (Count C. F. Volney in ‘’The Ruins of Empires', 1890).

Among their many accomplishments, the African people of the Nile Valley were the first or among the first people to produce the sciences: astronomy, a 365 ¼ day calendar, anatomy, embalming, chemistry, mathematics (including geometry and trigonometry), high-grade steel and large-scale architecture;

<    Inventions and discoveries: phonetic writing, paper and ink, asprin, tetracycline, a pregnancy test, front porches, and the house clock;

       Social structures: national government, universities, libraries, belief in One God, grand funerals, and beliefs emphasizing the afterlife;

      Social customs: circumcision, wigs, dice, shaving, beer, belly dancing, and branding animals with hot irons (Hamilton, 1993).


 Listed above are some Black inventions of Antiquity but today many Afrikan inventions are present in our everyday life “...from the moment you turn a door knot, flick an on/off switch, start your car engine, stop for a traffic light, take an elevator, watch a missile launch, talk on your cellular phone, you’ve come into contact with an invention or innovation created by an Afrikan...” (Parker, 1995).                                  


SOURCES: Parker, I. Gay; DVD; “Making It Happen: Masters of Invention” (1995)

Kush, Indus Khamit, WHAT THEY NEVER TOLD YOU IN HISTORY CLASS; D AND J Book Distributors, Inc., NY. 1983. P. 28.

Hamilton, L. Paul, African Peoples’ Contributions to World Civilizations: SHATTERING THE MYTHS VOLUME 1; R.A. Renaissance Publications, Denver, Colorado. 1993. P. 5 &13.


ARF EDITORIAL COMMENTS: Look forward to Modern Day Black inventors in our next Edition where we will present specific inventors and their inventions; you’ll be surprised for there are very many things created by blacks in our modern world.. For more information on Dr. Diop, CLICK ON AFRIKAN CLASSICS to see GREAT AFRIKAN THINKERS.





The collective contributions of african-americans to science and invention is so extensive that it is not possible to live a full day…without sharing the benefits of their contribution. Yet, the genius of the Afrikan-American imagination that influences every aspect of life is generally unknown. Following are a few of the most significant black inventors of the 19th century; Afrikan American inventors who helped to make america’s 20th century industrial revolution possible.

1.     ELIJAH McCOY (1843-1929) automatic lubrication for steam engines

Elijah McCoy had so many inventions that he opened the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Co. in Detroit, Mich., in order to develop and market his inventions. Between 1873 and 1899 , he received  25 patents for different types of lubricators. The invention of the lubricating cup that fed oil to machinery while it was still running revolutionized the Railroad industry. The confidence inspired by the reliability of his lubricating deices was such that the phrase “the real McCoy” was coined in regard to machinery that contained the McCoy device, and this phrase became a part of our language still today.

2.     jan matzeliger (1852-1889) first machine for mass-producing shoes

Jan Matzelinger is the inventor who revolutionized the shoemaking industry by creating a devise to replace the hand-making of shoes. He was offered $1,500.00 for the patent rights but refused. When he died at the age of 37 his patent was purchased by the United Shoe Machine Co. of Boston.

3.     granville woods (1856-1910) 35 patents for electro-mechanical devices, bringing about improvements in telegraphy, telephones, automatic cut-offs for electrical circuits and ee lectric motor regulators

Grandville Woods, sometimes called the “Black Edison,” held over 35 patents on electro-mechanical devices which he sold to American Bl Telephone, General Electric and Westinghouse Air Brake. Many of his inventions improved the electric railway systems. Other inventions to his credit included improvements in telegraphy, telephone instruments, automatic cut-offs for electric circuits, and electric motor regulators.

4.     lewis latimer (1848-1928) “bringer of light – electric light bulb

Lewis Latimer studied engineering and draftsmanship and in 1870 made the drawings for Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. In 1878 Thomas Edison asked Latimer to work with him on a filament for the electric light bulb and the following year he invented an inexpensive cotton-thread filament which made electric light practical for homes. He went on to become the chief draftsman for the Board of Patent Control of General Electric and Westinghouse and wrote the first textbook on incandescent lighting.

5.     garrett morgan (1875-1963) first automatic stop-light and smoke inhalator mask

Garrett Morgan, inventor of the first automatic stop signal which was patented in 1923, then sold the patent rights to the General Electric Company for $40,000. His other inventions were a belt fastener for sewing machines and the smoke inhalator (gas mask) which won him first grand prize at the Second International Exposition of Sanitation and Safety in 1914.



6.     Frederick mckinley jones (1893-1961) movable refrigeration unit that transformed the food transport industry

Frederick Jones invented the first practical truck refrigeration unite that helped to change the food transport industry. A portable refrigeration unit invented by him was on the battlefields of Europe during World War II and helped to save many lives. During his lifetime, Frederick Jones was awarded more than 60 patents: 40 were for refrigeration equipment alone. Jones also invented the first portable X-ray machines, the self-starting gasoline engine that turned his cooling units on and off, as well as sound equipment techniques for motion pictures.

7.     otis boykin (1920-….) the control unit  in artificial heart stimulators and an electrical device used in all guided missiles and ibm computers

Otis Boykin attended Fisk University and Illinois Institute of Technology and is credited with devising the control unit used in artificial heart stimulators; with inventing a tiny electrical device used in all guided missiles and I.B.M. computers, plus 26 other electronic devices.

8.     George Washington carver (1860-1943) plants revealed their secrets

George Washington Carver, a botanist and agriculturalist, was one of the greatest scientists of all times who revolutionized the agricultural industry. Although born to slave parents, young Carver was determined to get a formal education. At 25 years of age as a freshman at Simpson College in Iowa and went on to earn a Masters Degree in 1896.  He was invited by Booker T. Washington, Head of the Tuskegee Institute to head the agricultural department. It was in his laboratory at Tuskegee that Carver said that “plants spoke to him” aiding him to discover over two dozen products including milk and cheese that could be synthesized from peanut. He eventually discovered over 300 different products including; instant coffee, face cream, ink, shampoo, soaps made from the oils, proteins and chemicals of peanut. He produced similar results from sweet potatoes, pecans and southern clay. George Washington Carver dedicated his life to science and was held in high esteem the world over. As a testimony to Carvers distinguished career, a memorial was erected at Tuskegee in his honor along with the founding of the George Washington Carver Museum. Approved by the joint resolution of congress on December 28, 1946, George Washington Carver Day was proclaimed on January 5, 1946 as tribute to an ingenious black chemist whose research and contributions benefitted all people throughout the world.

9.     dr. Charles Richard drew (1904-1950)

Dr. Charles Drew was a world renowned surgeon, medical scientist, educator and authority on the preservation of blood. He was the pioneer on blood-plasma preservation leaving mankind an important legacy – the blood bank. During World War II, Dr. Drew was asked to organize the world’s first mass blood bank program which he did which overwhelming success. He went on to become the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank.      Dr. Drew was killed in an automobile accident. The irony of his death is that his life may have been saved if he had received immediate medical attention following the accident. Discrimination at a nearby white hospitals did not allow him the blood transfusion needed to save his life.

Source Reference: BLACKS IN SCIENCE: Ancient and Modern Edited by Ivan Van Sertima

Complied and Edited by the Afrikan Renaissance Foundation

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