8 Black Female Inventors You Might Not Know

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Source: Atlantablackstar.com


Dr. Shirley Jackson is an American physicist.  She received her Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973, becoming the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT in nuclear physics. Currently, Jackson is the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

In addition to her academic achievements, she also has an impressive list of inventions to her credit. Her experiments with theoretical physics are responsible for many telecommunications developments, including the touch-tone telephone, the portable fax, caller ID, call waiting and the fiber-optic cable.


Marie Van Brittan Brown received a patent in 1969, making her the first person to develop a patent for closed- circuit television security. Brown’s system was designed with four peepholes and a motorized camera that could slide up and down to look at each one. Her invention became the framework for the modern closed-circuit television system that is widely used for surveillance, crime prevention and traffic monitoring.


Dr. Patricia Bath is an American ophthalmologist, inventor and academic.  She received a doctorate from Howard University College of Medicine and was also the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. In 1981 she received a patent for the Laserphaco Probe, which is used to treat cataracts. Dr. Bath’s laser probe made cataract surgery faster and more accurate, and she has been credited with saving thousands of people from losing their sight.


Betty Harris received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Southern University and a master’s degree in chemistry from Atlanta University and earned a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico.

She worked extensively in the area of explosives and her research in this area led her to obtain a patent for her invention of a spot test for identifying explosives in a field environment. In 1999  she received the New Mexico Governor’s Trailblazer Award for her achievement.


Mildred Kenner joined her sister Mary Davidson in patenting many practical inventions. Neither of the sisters had any technical education, but that didn’t stop them from inventing the Sanitary Belt in 1956. Three years later, Kenner invented the mosture-resistant pocket for the belt. While disabled from multiple sclerosis, Kenner went on to invent The Walker and the toilet-tissue holder.


Sarah Breedlove,  known commonly as Madam C. J. Walker, was an  entrepreneur, philanthropist and the first self-made millionaire woman of any race in America. Walker made her fortune by developing and marketing a hugely successful line of beauty and hair products for black women under the company she founded, Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Co.


Sarah Goode was an entrepreneur and inventor, who was the first African-American woman to receive a U.S. patent.  Goode invented a folding cabinet bed which provided people who lived in small spaces to utilize their space efficiently. When the bed was folded up, it looked like a desk. The desk was fully functional, with spaces for storage. She received a patent for it on July 14, 1885.


Sarah Boone was an African-American inventor who on April 26, 1892, secured U.S. patent rights for her improvements to the ironing board. Boone’s upgrades to the ironing board helped to improve the quality of ironing sleeves and the bodies of women’s garments. The board was narrow, curved, and made of wood. The shape, design and structure made it easy to fit a sleeve and it was reversible, to allow for ironing both sides of the sleeve.







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