African American Inventors

Mark Dean

Mark Dean and his co-inventor Dennis Moeller created a microcomputer system with bus control means for peripheral processing devices. Their invention paved the way for the growth in the information technology industry. We can plug into our computers peripherals like disk drives, video gear, speakers, and scanners.

Dean was born in Jefferson City, Tennessee, on March 2, 1957. He received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, his MSEE from Florida Atlantic University, and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Early in his career at IBM, Dean was chief engineer working with IBM personal computers.

The IBM PS/2 Models 70 and 80 and the Color Graphic Adapter are among his early work. He holds three of IBMís original nine PC patents. Currently, Dean is vice president of performance for the RS/6000 Division. He was named an IBM fellow in 1996 and in 1997, received the Black Engineer of the Year Presidentís Award. Dean holds more than 20 patents.

He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1997.

George Washington Carver

"He could have added fortune to fame, but, caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world." George Washington Carverís epitaph sums up a life-time of innovative discovery. Born into slavery, freed as a child, curious throughout life, Carver profoundly affected the lives of people throughout the nation. He successfully shifted Southern farming away from risky cotton, which depletes soil of its nutrients, to nitrate-producing crops such as peanuts, peas, sweet potatoes, pecans, and soybeans.

Farmers began rotating crops of cotton one year with peanuts the next. Carver spent his early childhood with a German couple who encouraged his education and early interest in plants. He received his early education in Missouri and Kansas. He was accepted into Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, in 1877 and in 1891, transferred to Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) where he earned a B.S. in 1894 and an M.S. in 1897.

Later that year Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute, convinced Carver to serve as the schoolís director of agriculture. From his laboratory at Tuskegee, Carver developed 325 different uses for peanuts--until then considered lowly food fit for hogs--and 118 products from the sweet potato. Other Carver innovations include synthetic marble from sawdust, plastics from woodshavings, and writing paper from wisteria vines.

Carver only patented three of his many discoveries. "God gave them to me," he said, "How can I sell them to someone else?" Upon his death, Carver contributed his life savings to establish a research institute at Tuskegee. His birthplace was declared a national monument in 1953, and he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990.

Charles Drew

Charles Drew, a Washington, D.C. native, excelled in academics and sports during his graduate studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts. He was also a honor student at McGill University Medical School in Montreal, where he specialized in physiological anatomy.

It was during his work at Columbia University in New York City where he made his discoveries relating to the preservation of blood. By separating the liquid red blood cells from the near solid plasma and freezing the two separately, he found that blood could be preserved and reconstituted at a later date.

The British military used his process extensively during World War II, establishing mobile blood banks to aid in the treatment of wounded soldiers at the front lines. After the war, Drew was appointed the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank. He received the Spingarn Medal in 1944 for his contributions. He died at the early age of 46 from injuries suffered in a car accident in North Carolina.


Benjamin Banneker was an inventor, a mathemetician, an astronomer, a surveyor, and an essayist. As an inventor, he built a wooden clock which kept accurate titme until he died in 1802 at the age of 75. This homemade clock is believed to have been the first clock totaly built in America.

Born free in ELlicott, Maryland, Banneker was a self-taught man who used his mathematics skills to develop and publish a widely used almanac which was issued each year frorm 1792 to 1806. He spent many nights studying the stars in order to make his almanac as accurate as possible. As a surveyor, he helped lay out the streets and buildings of Washington D.C. And as an essayist, he wrote about the evils of slavery.


Garrett A. Morgan was a prize-winning inventor who developed a safety helmet breathing device widely used by firemen in many American cities in the early 1900's.

His invention became popular after he and his brother used it to rescue over two dozen men who were trapped under Lake Erie, at Cleveland, Ohio, when an explosion occurred in a tunnel which was under construction. He was awarded a hold medal by the City of Cleveland for his heroic rescue.

He later received a gold medal at the Second International Exposition of Safety and Sanitation, in New York, in 1914. Morgan is best remembered for his invention of the automatic stop sign. This invention, now called the traffic or "stop light" controls the flow of vehicles through street intersections.


Founder of a hospital which still exists in Chicago, medical physician Dr, Daniel H. Williams is credited with having performed the first "open-heart" surgery July 9, 1893, long before this kind of surgery was developed.

Dr. Williams saved the life of a knifing victim by "sewing up his heart." Working in a makeshift operating room too small for the six-man operating team which helped him, he opened the patient's chest, exposed the beating heart, and stitched the knife wound a fraction of an inch from the heart without the aid of X-rays, blood transfusions or modern "miracle drugs." On August 2, Dr. Williams operated again to remove some fluid from the chest cavity. On August 30, the patient walked out of the hospital, and was known to be alive and well 20 years later.

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