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African-American Women Scientists and Inventors

African-American Women Scientists and Inventors

African-American women scientists and inventors have made significant contributions in the field of science and technology, but it was only after the Civil War that they could file and receive their patents. These women had to face many hurdles to reach their goals.
ScienceStruck Staff
Women all over the world have suffered due to sex discrimination. In the United States, it was altogether a different story; besides sexism, there also was racial discrimination too. Hence, it became almost impossible for African-American women to overcome the shadow of hate and discrimination.
Sarah P. Goode
She was born into slavery in 1850. She invented the cabinet bed, and was the first African-American woman to be granted a patent in USA. She owned a furniture store, and noted that city apartment dwellers often had less space for beds. Hence, she came up with a design, which we now know as a 'hide away' bed. When not used as a bed, it can be used as a desk.
Madam C.J. Walker
She was a businesswoman, hair care entrepreneur, and a philanthropist. She was born as Sarah Breedlove Walker in Delta, Louisiana. She developed a conditioning system for straightening hair, and marketed a huge successful line of hair care products. She went door to door to market her cosmetics, and made a fortune out of it. She was the first American women to become a millionaire through her own efforts. It was only when she started going bald due to dandruff and other hair disorders, that she initiated the idea of developing hair care products. She left 2/3rd of her wealth to charities, and also employed thousands of African-American women as commissioned agents.
Sarah Boone
She invented a device to iron clothes effectively. Prior to her inventions, people were forced to use a table for ironing clothes. In 1892, she received a patent for the device. Her invention was very effective in ironing the sleeves of ladies garments.
Roger Arliner Young
She was born in Clifton Forge, Virginia in 1899. She was a zoologist and biologist, and the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate in zoology. She enrolled at Howard University in Washington DC to study music. But later, took up a science course under the guidance of Ernest Everett Just, who was her mentor and a prominent black biologist. While pursuing her Master's at Chicago University, she was asked to join Sigma XI, a scientific research society. In 1924, she made a significant contribution to the study of structures, which control salt concentration in paramecium.
Bessie Blount Griffin
She was born on November 24, 1914 in Hickory, Virginia. She was a multi-talentaed physical therapist, inventor, and a forensic scientist. She worked with the injured soldiers during World War II; which inspired her to devise a feeding apparatus to help the amputees to feed themselves. In 1951, she invented an electronic feeding device, which delivered food through the feeding tube, and was controlled by biting down on the tube.
Her invention was rejected by the American Veterans Administration, and hence, she sold her idea to France. She designed the disposable cardboard emesis basin, which was developed with Theodore Edison, son of famous inventor Thomas Edison. Later, she sold the invention to Belgium.
Marie Brown
She was born on October 30, 1922 in Queens, New York. In 1966, she applied for a patent of closed circuit television security system. This system included a motorized camera, which could slide up and down peeping through a set of 4 peep holes. Images that were captured were shown on a monitor. She got the patent in 1969.
Annie Easley
She was born on April 23, 1933 in Birmingham, Alabama. She is an African-American computer scientist who worked for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and its predecessor agency, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics's Lewis Research Center. She was one of the first African-American women in the team, which developed software for the Centaur rocket stage.
In her 34 years of career, she developed and implemented a computer code that analyzed substitute power technologies. She also helped to determine energy conversion systems and alternate systems to solve energy problems.
Patricia Bath
She was born on November 4, 1942 in Harlem, New York. She is an ophthalmologist and a laser scientist. Her significant achievement includes the invention of a new device and technique for cataract known as laserphaco. She was appointed as the first woman chair of ophthalmology in the United States, at Drew-UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), in 1983.
In 1988, she received a patent for a device, designed to remove cataracts with fiber optic lasers. She was the first woman ophthalmologist at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute, and the first African-American surgeon at UCLA Medical Center.
Mae C. Jemison
One of the most famous woman astronauts, Mae Carol Jemison was born on October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama. On September 12, 1992, she became the first African-American woman to travel in space aboard Space Shuttle Endeavor. She was the youngest child in her family, and was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. She says, "The best way to make dreams come true is to wake up."
She graduated from Stanford University, receiving a B.S. in chemical engineering. Later, she obtained her Doctor of Medicine degree from Cornell Medical College (now known as Weill Medical College of Cornell University). She served in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Her first application for NASA's astronaut program was rejected. However, her second application was accepted, and she was one of the 15 candidates selected from over 2,000 applicants. She completed her astronaut training in August 1988, and became the fifth black astronaut and first female black astronaut in the history of NASA.