Africans and peoples of African ancestry have been inventors and scientists, contributing to global human knowledge, across various fields, despite often difficult and discriminatory conditions.
Machine-making. Jan Ernst Matzeliger, an African-Surinamese, invented an automated shoe-making machine in 1883, producing ten times more shoes than existing methods in America, cutting production costs/prices, and revolutionizing footwear.
Electrical and chemical systems. Otis Boykin was a 20th-century African-American inventor and engineer who invented an improved electrical resistor used in computers and televisions, control units for heart pacemakers, variable resistors used in guided missiles, burglar-proof cash registers and chemical air filters.
Space exploration. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, African-American mathematicians, were integral in developing the mathematics behind NASA’s first successful space missions. The movie “Hidden Figures” is about them.
Healthcare. Jane Cooke Wright was an African-American cancer researcher and surgeon who developed the technique of using human tissue culture rather than mice to test effects of drugs on cancer cells. She pioneered usage of the drug methotrexate to treat breast and skin cancer.
Agriculture. Gebisa Ejeta is an Ethiopian plant breeder, geneticist and professor. He won the 2009 World Food Prize for developing a variety of high-yielding hybrid sorghum that is resistant to both drought and the deadly weed striga, helping counter famine in some African countries.
Automotive industry. Bisi Ezerioha is a Nigerian engineer and engine builder. His firm, Bisimoto Engineering, founded in 1994, has designed and created some of the most powerful and efficient engines for Honda, Hyundai and Porsche, becoming among the most recognized engine design and tuning companies globally.
Internet technology. Marian Croak is an African-American engineer who developed the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology that is the backbone of online audio/video communication. She holds over 200 patents, is Vice President of Engineering at Google, and has managed teams of 2,000 engineers, developers and designers.
By Rahim Mawji
(Image: Black Inventors Poster)