Scientists & Inventors

There are numerous African American scientists and inventors who have made notable inventions and creations in different fields. After the Civil War and Reconstruction Period, the United States entered and era of rapid industrial and technological development between1870 and 1900.

African Americans played an important part in this development. The history of these inventors and scientists is one of the untold heroic stories of achievements against the odds.Read their stories and discover the impact these African American inventors had on not only the United States but the world

Unlike black slaves, free blacks prior to the Civil War were entitled to receive patents for their inventions. Despite this legal ability it was an unlikely scenerio due to the limits they faced in education, time and money.

Despite these limitations, some African American found a way to beat the odds and let their genius shine. They created useful and important inventions they shaped America's future.Thomas Jennings, the first known African American to hold a patent, used the money he earned from his invention to fund abolitionist causes.

Some slaves, who were skilled craftsmen, did create devices or techniques that benefited their masters' enterprises. According to a decision by the federal government in 1858, though, neither the slave nor the slave owner could claim ownership rights to such an invention.

In 1870, following the Civil War, the U.S. patent laws were revised so that anyone, regardless of race, could hold a patent. Consequently the number of patents issued to African Americans soared.

While the masses of African Americans were part of the hardworking labor forces in agriculture and industry, members of the "talented tenth" were hard at work creating inventions that helped transform America into an industrial giant. Not enough is known about these creative and ingenious individuals who achieved their success against enormous obstacles.

Since Benjamin Banneker and George Washington Carver left their marks on American science, African Americans have made great strides as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and inventors. It's a story of success in the face of great odds in a racist society. However, there's still much room for progress, because even today blacks are sorely underrepresented as science students, teachers, and professionals.

Click on the links below for detailed information and photos on African American scientists and inventors who rose to the top of their field

Experts in Medicine

There is a well-documented trend of growth among black or African American female medical school graduates. Since 1986, the proportion of female graduates has increased 53%, and the proportion of male graduates has declined 39%.

Lost in Space

In 2001, Tyson was appointed by President Bush to serve on a 12-member commission that studied the Future of the US Aerospace Industry.


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