Honoring Black Scientists: Things We Wouldn't Have Without Black Scientists


The United States has always been a country that strives for advancement and innovation, especially when it comes to technology. However, what people may not realize is that a lot of the things we use today wouldn’t exist without the work of black scientists and inventors. In honor of Black History Month, here’s a list of black scientists and their inventions that helped to shape the way we live today:

Charles Drew - organized first blood bank

person on chair donating blood


Without Charles Drew,  a scientist from the early 20th century whose research helped to form the country’s blood banking process, there may not be a system for people to donate and receive blood. Drew was first inspired by a biology professor to go into medicine, which was at the time a very segregated field. He later conducted research on blood and transfusions that ended up contributing to the creation of the Blood for Britain Project (BFB), which transported blood to Great Britain during World War II. This program, along with Drew’s creation of the “bloodmobile”, gave him the nickname “father of the blood bank”.

Marie Van Brittan Brown- invented home security system

two bullet surveillance cameras attached on wall


Thanks to Marie Van Brittan Brown, people all across the country can sleep easier because of their home security system. In 1966, she designed a security system that allowed people to monitor visitors through a camera and press a panic button to contact the police immediately if there was an intruder. Fifty years later, the device has inspired many home security systems today, and also helped with personal safety and mail delivery. Especially since she was a woman and working as a nurse when she invented the system, she is definitely a name people should know.

Sarah E. Goode- invented cabinet bed

Those looking to conserve space in their homes probably know about the cabinet bed, which can be folded away in cabinets or walls. It was actually invented by a former slave named Sarah E. Goode, who also is the first woman to receive a patent in the United States. She was inspired to invent the cabinet bed because she worked in a furniture store with her husband, and many of her customers did not have space in their homes for beds. Goode can honestly be considered the original minimalist, with her invention serving multiple purposes and saving space at the same time.

James West- creator of the mic


What’s a concert, karaoke session or speech without a microphone? James West, who was a research professor from Johns Hopkins University, co-invented with research partner Gerhard Sessler the foil electret microphone, used in 90 percent of microphones today. Interestingly enough, he also developed the invention right here in New Jersey. Not only was he an inventor, but West also helped with an initiative for more women and minorities in science and technology careers.

Garrett Morgan- three-position traffic signal

Whenever you speed past or slow down at a yellow light while driving, think of Garrett Morgan. He did not invent the traffic signal itself, but patented the three-position traffic signal, so it was not just “stop” and “go”. Apparently, when Morgan witnessed an accident, he came up with the idea for the yellow light so that drivers would have a few extra seconds to clear intersections or slow down. This helped to make driving much safer, and is still a familiar sight in all traffic signals today.

Clearly, there are many valuable inventions in the United States that were created due to the genius of black scientists. A lot of the activities we do wouldn’t be the same without these inventions: donating blood, using your home security system, buying a bed, speaking into a microphone and driving. Black History Month is not only a time to learn about the inventions these individuals created, but also to acknowledge the inventors’ stories and histories surrounding the invention.