African American Inventions And How They Advanced America

This list of black inventors and scientists documents many of the African Americans who have invented a multitude of items or made discoveries in the course of their lives. These have ranged from practical everyday devices to applications and scientific discoveries in diverse fields, including physics, biology, mathematics, plus the medical, nuclear and space sciences.

Among the earliest was George Washington Carver, whose reputation was based on his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, which aided in nutrition for farm families. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their way of life. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes using peanuts. He also developed and promoted about 100 products made from peanuts that were useful for the house and farm. He received numerous honors for his work, including the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP.

A later renowned scientist was Percy Lavon Julian, a research chemist and a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants. He was the first to synthesize the natural product physostigmine, and a pioneer in the industrial large-scale chemical synthesis of the human hormones, steroids, progesterone, and testosterone, from plant sterols such as stigmasterol and sitosterol. His work would lay the foundation for the steroid drug industry’s production of cortisone, other corticosteroids, and birth control pills.

A contemporary example of a modern-day inventor is Lonnie George Johnson, an engineer. Johnson invented the Super Soaker water gun, which was the top-selling toy in the United States in 1991 and 1992. In 1980 Johnson formed his own law firm and licensed the Super Soaker water gun to Larami Corporation. Two years later the Super Soaker generated over $200 million in retail sales and became the best selling toy in America. Larami Corporation was eventually purchased by Hasbro, the second largest toy manufacturer in the world. Over the years, Super Soaker sales have totaled close to one billion dollars. Johnson reinvested a majority of his earnings from the Super Soaker into research and development for his energy technology companies – “It’s who I am, it’s what I do.” Currently,[when?] Johnson holds over 80 patents, with over 20 more pending, and is the author of several publications on spacecraft power systems