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Scientists and Inventors

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) – Benjamin Banneker was a self-educated scientist, astronomer, inventor, writer, and antislavery publicist. He built a striking clock entirely from wood, published a Farmers' Almanac, and actively campaigned against slavery. He was one of the first African Americans to gain distinction in science.

Andrew Jackson Beard (1849-1921) – Andrew Beard was a farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, a railroad worker, a businessman and an inventor. In 1881, he patented his first invention, a plow and sold patent rights for $4000 in 1884. In 1887, Andrew Beard patented a second plow and sold it for $5200. In 1892, he patented a rotary steam engine. In 1897, Andrew Beard patented an improvement to railroad car couplers called Jenny Coupler. Andrew Beard received $50,000 for his patent rights to his Jenny coupler.

Otis Boykin (1920-1982) – Otis Boykin was an electronic scientist and an inventor. He was responsible for inventing the electrical device used in all guided missiles and IBM computers, plus 26 other electronic devices including a control unit for an artificial heart stimulator (pacemaker). Otis Boykin invented an improved electrical resistor used in computers, radios, television sets, and a variety of electronic devices. Also, he invented a burglar-proof cash register and chemical air filter.

Charles W. Buggs (1906-1991) – Charles W. Buggs was a scientist and an educator. He conducted special research on why some bacteria (germs) do not react to certain medicines. In several articles, he presented his ideas on penicillin and skin grafting, and the value of chemicals in treating bone fractures. In 1944, he contributed some of the results of his research to the world through 12 studies he helped to write. Three years later he wrote an important article on how to use germ-killing chemicals (antibiotics) to prevent and cure certain diseases. He also taught college biology, and made studies and suggestions on premedical education for African Americans. Dr. Buggs' research and teaching contributed to a better understanding of health and of the human body.

George R. Carruthers (1939- ) – George Carruthers was a physicist and an inventor. George Carruthers first major contribution to science was to lead the team that invented the far ultraviolet camera spectrograph. Dr. George Carruthers received a patent for his invention the "Image Converter for Detecting Electromagnetic Radiation especially in Short Wave Lengths" on November 11, 1969. He developed the first moon-based space observatory, an ultraviolet camera that was carried to the moon by Apollo 16 astronauts in 1972. The camera was positioned on the moon's surface and allowed researchers to examine the Earth's atmosphere for concentrations of pollutants.

John B. Christian (1927- ) –John Christian was working as an Air Force, Materials Research Engineer, when he invented and patented new lubricants, used in high flying aircraft and NASA space missions. The lubricants worked well under a wider temperature range than previous products, from minus 50 to 600 degrees. They were used in the helicopter fuel lines, astronaut's back-pack life support systems, and in the four-wheel drive of the "moon-buggy".

Rufus Stokes (1922-1986) - In 1968, Rufus Stokes was granted a patent on an air-purification device to reduce the gas and ash emissions of furnace and power plant smokestack emissions. The filtered output from the stacks became almost transparent. Stokes tested and demonstrated several models of stack filters, termed the "clean air machine", in Chicago and elsewhere to show its versatility. The system benefited the respiratory health of people, but also eased the health risks to plants and animals. A side-effect of reduced industrial stack emissions was the improved appearance and durability of buildings, cars, and objects exposed to outdoor pollution for lengthy periods.

J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr. (1923- ) - Ernest Wilkins, Jr. first attracted nationwide attention when he received his college degree at age 17 and his doctorate from the University of Chicago at 19. He received his Bachelor of Science in 1941, Master of Science in 1941, and Ph.D. in Mathematics in 1942. J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr. primary achievement has been the development of radiation shielding against gamma radiation, emitted during electron decay of the Sun and other nuclear sources. He developed mathematical models by which the amount of gamma radiation absorbed by a given material can be calculated. This technique of calculating radioactive absorption is widely used among researcher in space and nuclear science projects.

Meredith Gourdine (1929-1998) – Meredith Gourdine pioneered the research of electrogasdynamics. Electrogasdynamics is a way to disperse fog and smoke. By applying strong electrical forces to either you can control those elements. He was responsible for the engineering technique termed Incineraid for aiding in the removal of smoke from buildings. His work on gas dispersion developed techniques for dispersing fog from airport runways. Meredith Gourdine also created a generator that allowed for the cheaper transmission of electricity. He held more than 40 patents for various inventions.

Theodore K. Lawless (1892-1971) - Theodore Lawless was an African-American dermatologist, philanthropist, and medical pioneer. He worked to find a cure for leprosy and made several strides in the treatment of both leprosy and syphilis. As a physician, Lawless was often consulted by other doctors he was noted for his equal treatment of patients regardless of class or race. He also donated funds for a research laboratory, equipped with the latest technology, at Provident Hospital in Chicago. In addition he supported several Jewish related causes in appreciation for the support he received from Jewish physicians when he sought letters of reference to study in Europe; of the 12 references he received, 11 were from Jewish physicians. He created the Lawless Department of Dermatology in Beilison Hospital, Tel-Aviv, Israel; the T. K. Lawless Student Summer Program at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovoth, Israel; the Lawless Clinical and Research Laboratory in Dermatology of the Hebrew Medical School, Jerusalem; Roosevelt University's Chemical Laboratory and Lecture Auditorium, Chicago; and Lawless Memorial Chapel, Dillard University, New Orleans.

Percy Julian (1899-1975) – Percy Julian developed a process for isolating and preparing soy bean protein, which could be used to coat and size paper, to create cold water paints, and to size textiles. During World War II, Percy Julian used a soy protein to produce AeroFoam, which suffocates gasoline and oil fires. Percy Julian continued his success as he next developed a way to inexpensively develop male and female hormones from soy beans. These hormones would help to prevent miscarriages in pregnant women and would be used to fight cancer and other ailments. He next set out to provide a synthetic version of cortisone, a product which greatly relieved the pain of suffered by sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis. The real cortisone was extremely expensive and only rich people could afford it. With his discovery of the soy-based substitute, millions of sufferers around the world found relief at a reasonable price.

Louis T. Wright (1891-1952) - A physician and surgeon, Dr. Louis T. Wright originated a method of operating on fractures about the knee joint, a brace for fractures of the spine, and a vaccination against smallpox, and supervised the first test of a miracle drug (aureomycin) on humans. He also advanced a new theory on the treatment of skull fractures and engaged in early cancer research. Graduating with highest honors from the Harvard Medical School in 1915, he was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant in the Medical Section of the Officers Reserve Corps in 1917, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army during World War I. In 191, he became the first African American to be appointed to a New York City Municipal Hospital (Harlem Hospital) where he helped lower the death rate and increase the professional standards.

Madame C.J. Walker (1867 – 1919) –Sarah Breedlove Mc Williams Walker better known as Madame C.J. Walker revolutionized the African American hair care and cosmetics industry for women in the early 20th century. During the 1890s, Sarah began to suffer from a scalp ailment that caused her to lose some of her hair. Embarrassed by her appearance, she experimented with a variety of home-made remedies and products made by another black woman entrepreneur, Annie Malone. In 1905, Sarah became a sales agent for Malone and moved to Denver, where she married Charles Joseph Walker.

Changing her name to Madame CJ Walker, she founded her own business and began selling Madam Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower, a scalp conditioning and healing formula. To promote her products, she embarked on an exhausting sales drive throughout the South and Southeast selling her products door to door, giving demonstrations, and working on sales and marketing strategies. In 1908, she opened a college in Pittsburgh to train her "hair culturists."

Eventually, her products formed the basis of a thriving national corporation employing at one point over 3,000 people. Her Walker System, which included a broad offering of cosmetics, licensed Walker Agents, and Walker Schools offered meaningful employment and personal growth to thousands of Black women. Madame Walker’s aggressive marketing strategy combined with relentless ambition led her to be labeled as the first known African-American woman to become a self-made millionaire.

Frederick McKinley Jones (1893-1961) - Frederick Jones was one of the most prolific Black inventors ever. Frederick Jones patented more than sixty inventions, however, he is best known for inventing an automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks in 1935 (a roof-mounted cooling device). Jones was the first person to invent a practical, mechanical refrigeration system for trucks and railroad cars, which eliminated the risk of food spoilage during long-distance shipping trips. The system was, in turn, adapted to a variety of other common carriers, including ships.

Frederick Jones was issued the patent on July 12, 1940 (#2,303,857). Frederick Jones also invented a self-starting gas engine and a series of devices for movie projectors: adapting silent movie projectors for talking films, and developing box office equipment that delivered tickets and gave change.

Frederick McKinley Jones was granted more than 40 patents in the field of refrigeration. Frederick Jones' inspiration for the refrigeration unit was a conversation with a truck driver who had lost a shipment of chickens because the trip took too long and the truck's storage compartment overheated.

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