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Inventors with Ingenuity

Posted 02/27/2008 by Christina Danek

From peanut butter to the player piano, these black Americans from history have made a difference.
by Christina Danek

BlackHistory.jpg    In celebration of Black History Month, here is a look at some of the black Americans from history whose ideas, discoveries and inventions impact our everyday lives.
    Those who enjoy the convenience of air conditioning on scorching summer days, and the comfort of a heated home on chilly winter evenings, can thank David Crosthwait. An expert on heat transfer, air ventilation and central air conditioning, this black American holds 39 U.S. patents and 80 international patents for various temperature-regulating devices.
    All of the music appreciators out there should check out Joseph Hunter Dickinson. Around the turn of the 19th century, he invented improvements to a number of musical instruments including the reed organ and player piano. He also devised volume-regulating means for mechanical musical instruments.
    Although of no relation to our first president, George Washington Carver played in integral role in our society through his work in agricultural chemistry. He found over 200 uses for the peanut. Paper, ink, shampoo, shaving cream, caramel, cocoa and instant coffee are just a few items that are now made with peanut products, thanks to Carver.
     Having secure homes and possessions is a fundamental right for Americans, and thanks to the work of Marie Brown, many people are more secure today. In 1969 she patented the first video home security system that relied on TV surveillance to detect and deter criminals.
    Anyone who has ever mowed a lawn can appreciate the work of John Albert Burr. In 1899 he patented the rotary-blade lawn mower, which expedited mowing by adding traction to the wheels, and preventing the mower from getting plugged with lawn clippings.
    Whether we’re making Spaghetti O’s or raiding the refrigerator, many of us find ourselves in the kitchen from time to time, and for modern conveniences like the stove and refrigerator we can thank, among others, John Standard. His improved efficient refrigerator design and space-saving oil stove changed the way we keep and prepare food.
    The work of Anthony L. Dent has affected one of the simplest tasks that we do every day: brushing our teeth. His patent on toothpaste that contains pH-adjusted zeolite simplified the composition of the everyday product.
    Big and small, edible and inedible, the inventions of these black men and women from history have made a difference in the lives of countless people.