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February 27th, 2013

Did you know about all these inventors?

Lillie Howard

Did you know that prolific African American inventor Granville T. Woods patented over one hundred inventions? His first patent was in 1884 for an improved steam boiler furnace. In 1887, he patented his most important invention - the Induction Telegraphy System - which permitted communications between moving trains and the stations, thus making rail travel safer. Thomas Edison attempted twice to claim priority in this invention, but Woods won both cases and was certified by the U.S. patent office as the real inventor.

Granville’s other inventions include a telephone transmitter (1884); an apparatus for transmission of telephone and electric messages (1885) which was bought by the American Bell Telephone; an electro-mechanical brake and apparatus (1904-1905) both of which were sold to Westinghouse Electric Company, and an electric railway (1901) which was sold to the General Electric Company of Thomas Edison. Edison tried to hire him, but he remained independent, forming his own company, Woods Electric Company.

Did you know there were, of course, other significant inventors and inventions during this period including John Parker, a screw for tobacco presses (1884); William Purvis, over a dozen inventions in machinery for making paper bags; J.A. Burr, the lawn mower (1899); G. Grant, the golf tee (1899); J. Winters, the fire escape ladder (1878); J. Standard, the refrigerator (1891); and A. Niles, the elevator (1887)? The importance of these inventions lies not only in their value to industrial growth, but also in their being a model of achievement under the most severe discrimination and oppression.

Did you know that F.J. Ferrell created the apparatus for melting snow on May 27, 1890?

Did you know that F.M. Jones invented the Ticket Dispensing Machine on June 27, 1939, the air conditioning unit on July 12, 1949, and the System for Controlling Operation of Refrigeration Units on May 23, 1950?

Did you know that Harlem-born ophthalmologist Patricia Bath, born November 4, 1942, was the first black woman to receive a patent in medicine? Her 1986 invention, the Laserphaco Probe, painlessly treats cataracts and has restored vision to countless sufferers worldwide. She is also founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.

Did you know that Ursula Burns, raised by a single mother in the projects in New York City, grew up to become the first African American woman to be CEO of a Fortune 500 Company? And to think, she started at Xerox as a summer intern.

Did you know that the stunning ivory wedding gown that Jacqueline Bouvier wore on the day she married John F. Kennedy was designed by African American designer Ann Lowe? Lowe was once described by the Saturday Evening Post as "society’s best kept secret."

Did you know that "Hela" cells - used to develop the polio vaccine as well as in cancer and AIDS research - were originally taken from Henrietta Lacks, a Black wife and mother of five from Virginia? She died of cancer in 1951 at age 31, but her miraculous medical legacy lives on.

The many inventions and achievements that I have shared with you throughout my series celebrating African American History Month have contributed to making life better and easier for millions of people throughout the world, and they were accomplished by my people against all odds.

What will it take to make those who have and still look upon many of us as being the "wretched of the earth" realize that we matter too? Seriously think on that! This is Lillie’s Point of View!

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