Andre Reboucas

Andre Reboucas - blackinventor.comAndre Reboucas was born in 1838 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was trained at the Military School of Rio de Janeiro and became an engineer after studying in Europe. After returning to Brazil, Reboucas was named a lieutenant in the engineering corps in the 1864 Paraguayan War. During the war, as naval vessels became more and more integral, Reboucas designed an immersible device which could be projected underwater, causing an explosion with any ship it hit. The device became known as the torpedo.

After his military career, Reboucas began teaching at the Polytechnical School in Rio de Janeiro and became very wealthy. He used his wealth to aid in the Brazilian abolition movement, trying to end slavery in Brazil. After growing disgusted with conditions in Brazil, Reboucas moved to Funchal, Madeira, off of the coast of Africa where he died in 1898.

Andrew Beard


Andrew BeardAndrew Jackson Beard hailed from Eastlake, Alabama, a small town outside of Birmingham. With the emergence of the railroad industry and its rapid expansion throughout the country, an alarming number of railmen suffered serious injuries to their arms and legs when they were crushed during manual style coupling of railroad cars. During manual coupling, a worker would have to attempt to precisely time the moment when two railroad cars being pushed together would be close enough for that worker to drop a metal pin between their connectors, thus engaging the cars. If the worker was off by one second he might severe damage his arm or leg – many in fact had to undergo amputation.

On November 27, 1897 Beard received a patent for a device he called the Jenny Coupler. Andrew Beard’s Jenny Coupler. The Jenny Coupler automatically joined cars by simply allowing them to bump into each other, or as Beard described it the “horizontal jaws engage each other to connect the cars.” Beard sold the rights to his invention for $50,000.00 and the railroad industry was revolutionized.

Andrew Beard - blackinventor.com

During his lifetime, Beard received a number of other patents, including a steam driven rotary engine, and a double plow.

Benjamin Banneker


Benjamin Banneker - blackinventor.comBenjamin Banneker was born in 1731 just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, the son of a slave. His grandfather had been a member of a royal family in Africa and was wise in agricultural endeavors.His father, Robert, was an African slave who purchased his freedom and his mother, Mary, was the daughter of a freed African slave and an English woman. As a young man, he was allowed to enroll in a school run by Quakers and excelled in his studies, particularly in mathematics. Soon, he had progressed beyond the capabilities of his teacher and would often make up his own math problems in order to solve them.

One day his family was introduced to a man named Josef Levi who owned a watch. Young Benjamin was so fascinated by the object that Mr. Levi gave it to him to keep, explaining how it worked. Over the course of the next few days, Benjamin repeatedly took the watch apart and then put it back together. After borrowing a book on geometry and another on Isaac Newton’s Principia (laws of motion) he made plans to build a larger version of the watch, mimicking a picture he had seen of a clock. After two years of designing the clock and carving each piece by hand, including the gears, Banneker had successfully created the first clock ever built in the United States. For the next thirty years, the clock kept perfect time.

Benjamin Banneker - blackinventor.comIn 1776, the Third Continental Congress met and submitted the Declaration of Independence from England. Soon thereafter, the Revolutionary War broke out and Banneker set out to grow crops of wheat in order to help feed American troops. His knowledge of soil gained from his grandfather allowed him to raise crops in areas which had previously stood barren for years.

When a family friend died and left him a book on astronomy, a telescope and other scientific inventions, Banneker became fascinated with the stars and the skies. His friends Joseph and Joseph Ellicott loaned him books on astronomy as well as other tools and he taught himself astronomy and mathematics. He soon was able to predict events such as solar eclipses and sunrises and sunsets. In 1792, he developed his first almanac, predicting weather and seasonal changes and also included tips on planting crops and medical remedies. Banneker sent a copy of his book to Thomas Jefferson, at that time the Secretary of State and in a twelve page later expressed to Jefferson that Blacks in the United States possessed equal intellectual capacity and mental capabilities as those Whites who were described in the Declaration of Independence. As such, he stated, Blacks should also be afforded the same rights and opportunities afforded to whites. This began a long correspondence between the two men that would extend over several years.

Around the same time, President Washington decided to move the Nation’s Capitol from Philadelphia to an area on the border of Maryland and Virginia and Major Andrew Ellicott asked Banneker to assist in surveying the “Federal Territory”. Major Pierre L’Enfant from France was commissioned to develop the plans for for the new city and at Jefferson’s request, Banneker was included as one of the men appointed to assist him. Banneker consulted frequently with L’Enfant and studied his draft and plans for the Capitol City carefully. L’Enfant was subject to great criticism and hostility because he was a foreigner and abruptly resigned from the project and moved back to France.

Benjamin Banneker

As the remaining members of the team gathered, they began debating as to how they should start from scratch. Banneker surprised them when he asserted that he could reproduce the plans from memory and in two days did exactly as he had promised. The plans he drew were the basis for the layout of streets, buildings and monuments that exist to this day in Washington D.C.

Benjamin Banneker died quietly on October 25, 1806, lying in a field looking at the stars through his telescope. Nations around the world mourned his passing, viewing him as a genius and the United States’ first great Black Inventor. In 1980, the U.S. Postal Service issued a postage stamp in his honor.

 



 

Benjamin Montgomery

Benjamin Montgomery - blackinventor.comBenjamin Montgomery was born into slavery in 1819 in Loudon County, Virginia. He was sold to Joseph E. Davis, a Mississippi planter. Davis was the older brother of Jefferson Davis who would later serve as the President of the Confederate States of America. After a period time, Davis could see great talent within Montgomery and assigned to him the responsibility of running his general store on the Davis Bend plantation. Montgomery, who by this time had learned to read and write (he was taught by the Davis children), excelled at running the store and served both white customers and slaves who could trade poultry and other items in return for dry goods. Impressed with his knowledge and abilities to run the store, Davis placed Montgomery in charge of overseeing the entirety of his purchasing and shipping operations on the plantation.

In addition to being able to read and write, Montgomery also learned a number of other difficult tasks, including land surveying, techniques for flood control and the drafting of architectural plans. He was also a skilled mechanic and a born inventor. At the time commerce often flowed through the rivers connecting counties and states. With differences in the depths of water in different spots throughout the river, navigation could become difficult. If a steamboat were to run adrift, the merchandise would be delayed for days, if not weeks.

Montgomery decided to address the problem and created a propellor that could cut into the water at different angles, thus allowing the boat to navigate more easily though shallow water. Joseph Davis attempted to patent the device but the patent was denied on June 10, 1858, on the basis that Ben, as a slave, was not a citizen of the United States, and thus could not apply for a patent in his name. Later, both Joseph and Jefferson Davis attempted to patent the device in their names but were denied because they were not the “true inventor.” Ironically, when Jefferson Davis later assumed the Presidency of the Confederacy, he signed into law the legislation that would allow a slaves to receive patent protection for their inventions. On June 28, 1864, Montgomery, no longer a slave, filed a patent application for his devise, but the patent office again rejected his application.

Upon the end of the Civil War, Joseph Davis sold his plantation as well as other properties to Montgomery, along with his son Isaiah. The sale was made based on a long-term loan in the amount of $300,000.00. Benjamin and Isaiah decided to pursue a dream of using the property to establish a community of freed slaves, but natural disasters decimated their crops, leaving them unable to pay off the loan. The Davis Bend property reverted back to the Davis family and Benjamin died the following year. Undeterred, Isaiah took up his father’s dream and later purchased 840 acres of land and along with a number of other former slaves, and founded the town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi in 1887. Isaiah was named the town first mayor soon thereafter.

While Benjamin Montgomery’s story sounds sad in it’s telling, it served as a lesson to whites and black in the Civil War period, demonstrating the power of education and the ability for blacks to contribute to commerce and industry in the American south.

David Crosthwait

David Crosthwait - blackinventor.comDavid Crosthwait was born in Nashville, Tennessee and moved to Kansas City, Missouri where he attended high school. He went on to attend Purdue University where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in 1913 and a Master of Engineering degree in 1920.

In 1913 Crosthwait moved to Marshalltown, Iowa where he began working for the Durham Company, designing heating installations. In 1925 he was named the director of the research department, overseeing a staff of engineers and chemists.

David Crosthwait - blackinventor.com

His research concerned heating and ventilating and in the coming years he obtained 39 patents for various devices including heating systems, vacuum pumps, refrigeration methods and processes and temperature regulating devices.His most famous creation was the heating system for New York’s famous Radio City Music Hall.

Ernest Just

Ernest Everett Just - blackinventor.comErnest Just was born on August 14, 1883 in Charleston, South Carolina. His mother worked as a school teacher and his father, a dock worker, died when Ernest was only four years old, forcing him to have to work in the fields after school each day. Because high schools in the South provided such poor education at that time, Ernest’s mother decided to send him North to receive better schooling. Through hard work, Ernest was able to earn enough money to attend the Kimball Academy in New Hampshire. The Kimball Academy was an exclusive school and Just proved himself worthy by excelling in his classes. As the editor of the school newspaper and President of the debating team, Ernest completed the four year program in only three, graduating with honors as the valedictorian of his class.

In 1903, Just entered Dartmouth College and decided to become a research biologist specializing in cytology (the study of cells). Learning under the guidance of world famous zoologist William Patten, Just excelled and received degrees in history and biology. Upon graduation in 1907, he had already been elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honors fraternity, was named class valedictorian and was the only member of his class to graduate Magna Cum Laude.

In October 1907, Ernest Just was hired by Howard University in Washington, D.C. and would eventually become the head of the biology department while also heading the physiology department and serving as a member of the Medical School’s faculty. With all of these responsibilities, Just was still able to pursue a Ph.D. in Zoology, which he received in 1916 from the University of Chicago. He experimented with the reproductive systems and cells of marine animals in the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. His research and papers on Marine biology were so well received that in 1915, at age 32, Just was awarded the first Spingarn Medal by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Over the next 20 years, Just would perform studies on marine animals and their eggs as well as on their cell structures. He believed that in learning about healthy cells and cell structures, man could hope to understand and find cures for cellular irregularities and diseases such as sickle cell anemia and cancer. He also researched parthenogenesis (developing marine eggs without fertilization). He quickly became one of the most respected scientists in his field, but much of that recognition came from abroad as racial bigotry in the United States caused much of his work and his achievements to go unrewarded.

In other countries, he was treated as a a pioneer, recruited to work with Russian scientists and invited to be a guest worker at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biology, at the time the world’s greatest scientific research laboratory. He was also welcomed with open arms at the Naples Zoological Station in Italy and the Sorbonne in France, where he conducted research and shared his ideas.

Ernest Just died on October 27, 1941 of cancer, leaving behind a wife, Ethel, and three children. He also left behind a world which would eventually recognize him as the most outstanding zoologist of his time.

 




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