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This Black History Month, we’re showcasing ten amazingly influential famous black inventors and their inventions. Did you know that Marian Croak not only invented VOIP, but has over 350 other patented designs? And alongside the achievements below, Dr Philip Emeagwali was also the first living mathematician to be celebrated on postage stamp?

Everyday essentials, from searching the web to GPS technology, originated from the creative minds of forward-thinking black tech leaders. So next time you have a virtual meeting, scroll social media, or make a phone call, keep these influential figures in mind as they build the foundations of our modern tech conveniences.

Top 10 famous black inventors and their inventions

When it comes to recognising the landmark tech pioneers, many go straight to the usual suspects like Douglas Engelbart, Norman Abramson or Jack Nilles. Their contribution cannot be denied, but there were many other black scientists throughout history who made significant contributions to almost every aspect of life through their innovative ideas. Check out our top ten famous black inventors and their inventions:

  •  Dr Philip Emeagwali (1954)

Dr Philip Emeagwali is a computer scientist who achieved computing breakthroughs that helped lead to the development of the internet. Philip designed the program for the fastest computer on earth which was made up of over 60,000 distributed microprocessors and ran more than 3.1 billion calculations per second!

  • Granville T. Woods (1856)

Granville Woods’ most significant invention was the induction telegraph, which allowed people to move away from the traditional postal mode of communication and instead of putting pen to paper, could communicate by voice over telegraph wires. Ultimately, this development was integral to the development of the telephone.

  • Otis Boykin (1920)

Otis Boykind is a great contributor to some of the most popular tech appliances we use today. If you look around your home, you’ll find many devices invented by Otis Boykin, as his work made it possible for our TVs, PCs and radios to become the high-performing innovations they are today. Two of his most remarkable inventions were a wire precision resistor used in TVs and radios and a control unit for the pacemaker.

  •  Dr Shirley Jackson (1946)

Dr Shirley Jackson’s inventions have contributed to multiple advances in science. Her successful experiments and breakthrough scientific research led to the invention of the portable fax machine, touch-tone telephones, solar cells and fibre optic cables that are used to provide caller ID.

  • Gladys West (1930)

Who relies on GPS to get them from A to B? Well Gladys West, a mathematician and a programmer, developed a computer to give calculations for a geodetic earth model which helped make GPS possible. We’d all be lost without Gladys!

  • Mark Dean (1957)

Mark Dean played a key role in the development of several computer technologies, including the colour computer monitor and the first gigahertz chip. He also collaborated with the team who invented the system which allows for computer plug-ins such as disk drives and printers.

  •  James E. West (1931)

90% of the microphones we use today, including those in phones, hearing aids and cameras, use technology invented by Dr James E. West. West is also known for his work with initiatives to encourage women and African-American students to pursue careers in science and technology.

  • Marian R. Croak (1955)

Marian R. Croak is the inventor of Voice Over Internet Protocol, which enables us to use the internet for voice and multimedia communications. This has become increasingly important over the past couple of years during the surge in remote working.

  • Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922)

Marie Van Brittan Brown was a nurse living in New York, though her skills were not just restricted to healthcare! Feeling unsafe in her own home, Marie created an early version of a home security system. Not only did she set up a camera linked to a monitor so she could see who was at her front door, she embedded a two-way microphone so she could communicate with them. If an emergency were to arise, Marie also created a panic button so that she could notify the police immediately!

  • Lisa Gelobter (1971)

Who loves using gifs? Well, you have Lisa Gelobter to thank for those! Lisa was integrally involved with the advent of Shockwave, technology that formed the beginning of web animation which performed 3.1 billion calculations per second!

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