Lewis Temple

Lewis Temple - blackinventor.comLewis Temple was born in 1800 as a slave in Richmond, Virginia. He obtained his freedom and moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1829 where he worked as a blacksmith.

Later that year he married Mary Clark, with whom he would later have three children. He also opened a whalecraft store although he had no experience with whaling or as a seaman. In 1845, Temple was enjoying so much success that he was able to open a larger whalecraft store.

The New England region was the capital of the whaling industry. Whale meat and oil was very valuable and the industry provided jobs to seamen and seafront businesses. A big concern for these people was the inability to develop a surefire method of successfully hunting whales. The existing methods of the day often ended in failure as the whales were disengage themselves from the whalers harpoons by spinning and thrashing about.

In 1848 Temple set out to make an improved harpoon that could withstand the enormous strength of the large mammals and would be difficult to escape from. He developed a harpoon with a pivoting head that stayed embedded within the creature. Calling the invention Temple’s Toggle or Temple’s Iron, the harpoon was actually very similar to hunting tolls used by whale hunters during prehistoric times. His harpoon became a great success, but he never patented it. As such, many blacksmiths began copying the device and selling it as their own. Nonetheless, he enjoyed enough success that he needed to build an even larger shop.

Unfortunately, in 1854 while the new shop was under construction, Temple fell into a hole near the shop and was unable to work. The hole was the result of construction by the city and Temple successfully sued and was awarded $2,000.00 by the court. He never received any of the payment, for he died a few short weeks later as a result of his injuries. All of the profits he had made on his harpoon and his business went to paying for his debts and his family was unable to collect on the money awarded by the court – a strange and ironic tragedy that a made who did so much for the town during his life, would be ignored in death.

Though the City of New Bedford did not recognize their obligation to debt to him at his death, the industry owed him much more because of his invention. Experts after his death agreed with Clifford Ashley, who announced that his Temple’s harpoon was “the single most important invention in the whole history of whaling.”

Lloyd Hall - blackinventor.com

Lloyd Hall

Lloyd Hall - blackinventor.comLloyd Hall was born on June 20, 1894 in Elgin, Illinois. He was an honor student while attending West Side High School in Aurora, Illinois and captained the school debate team while competing in baseball, football and track. Lloyd graduated High School in the top 10 of his class and had to choose between four college scholarship offers. He decided to attend nearby Northwestern University, earning a Bachelor Degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry in 1916.

While at Northwestern, Hall attended classes with a fellow student named Carroll L. Griffith who would later go on to become the founder of Griffith Laboratories. After graduation, Hall earned a graduate degree from the University of Chicago.

Hall was soon hired by the Western Electric Company through a telephone interview. When he showed up for his first day, however, he was told by a personnel officer that “we don’t take niggers.” Recovering from this slight, he began working for the Chicago Department of Health as a chemist and was promoted in 1917 to senior chemist. The next year he moved to Ottumwa, Iowa where he held the position of chief chemist at the John Morrell Company. During this time, World War I broke out and Hall received an appointment as Chief Inspector of Powder and Explosives for the United States Ordnance Department.

On September 23, 1919 Lloyd married Myrrhene Newsome, a teacher from Macomb, Illinois. Two years later, the couple moved to Chicago where Lloyd began working for the Boyer Chemical Laboratory where he took the position of chief chemist and focused on the emerging field of food chemistry, and began looking at a way of preserving meats with chemicals. In 1922 he moved on to Chemical Products Corporation where he served as President and Chemical director of their consulting laboratory and often consulted with Griffith Laboratories. In 1925, Hall was offered a position with Griffith Laboratories as chief chemist and director of research. Griffith Laboratories, of course, had been founded by Hall’s former classmate Carroll Griffith and after years of moving from company to company, Hall accepted the position and remained there for the next 34 years.

Hall had been working for a number of years exploring different areas of food chemistry and upon joining Griffith Laboratories began looking into methods for preserving foods. Up to that point, foods, and especially meats had been preserved by using sodium chloride (table salt). As well, nitrogen-containing chemicals were also used to preserve meats. It was found that nitrates chemically changed into nitrites and then into nitrous acid which caused the meats to maintain a healthy, red color (the process was referred to as curing meat). Hall found, however, that when sodium chloride, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite were used in order to preserve and cure the meat, the nitrates and nitrites penetrated the meat much faster than did the sodium chloride. In doing so, the nitrates and nitrites adversely affected the meat by breaking it down before the sodium chloride had a chance to preserve it. In order to correct this, Hall found a while of encasing the nitrates and nitrites within a sodium chloride “shell” by utilizing a process called “flash-drying” the crystals over heated rollers. This allowed the sodium nitrate to be introduced to the meats first and dissolved, and then the nitrates and nitrites were able to penetrate the “preserved” meat and therefore “cure” it.

Hall next addressed a problem which arose when meats were stored in containers. The sodium chloride/nitrate/nitrite combination tended to absorb the moisture from the air inside or the container and caused them to form a caked mass on top of the meat. Hall was able to determine that by adding a glycerine and alkali metal tartrate to the original combination, the glycerine and tartrate would effectively absorb the moisture without “caking” and thus preventing the chloride/nitrate/nitrite combination from absorbing it.

Hall also maintained an interest in sterilizing foods, utensils and tools. Although many people thought that certain spices and flavorings also had the added benefit of preserving foods, Hall found that many of these agents actually exposed the foods to an abundance of germs, molds and bacteria. Hall set out to prevent this while at the same time allowing the spices and flavorings to retain the aroma and color (many of these lost their color and aroma and flavor when exposed to high (sterilizing temperatures.) He eventually found a gas called ethylene oxide, which he introduced to the foods within a vacuumed environment which eliminated the germs and bacteria while maintaining appearances, taste and aroma.

These contributions to food preservation and sterilization revolutionized the way foods were processed, prepared, packed and transported, eliminating spoilage and health hazards and improving efficiency and profitability for food suppliers. In the course of his work, Hall would publish more than 5 scientific papers and receive more than 100 patents. He also served as an advisor to the United States during two World Wars, served on dozens of advisory panels and boards and received hundreds of awards and accolades.

In 1959 Hall retired from Griffith Laboratories and moved to Pasadena, California where he died in 1971. He left behind a legacy as a pioneer in the field of food chemistry and is responsible for improving health conditions in all areas of the food industry.

Lonnie Johnson - blackinventor.com

Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson - blackinventor.comYou don’t have to be a rocket scientist to come up with a great idea, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. For Lonnie Johnson, a lifetime of achievement and success at various levels on government and private sector projects could not prepare him for the success the he would ultimately achieve – by building a better squirt-gun.

Lonnie Johnson was born on October 6, 1949 in Mobile, Alabama. His father worked as a civilian driver at Brookley Air Force Base, and his mother was a homemaker who worked part time as a nurse’s aide. His father taught Robert and his brothers how to repair various household items, prompting the boys to create their own toys. The boys once made a go-kart out of household items and a lawn mower motor. Although his parents were excited about his interest in science and inventing, they weren’t prepared for the time he decided to experiment with a rocket fuel he created with sugar and saltpeter which exploded and burned up part of the kitchen. His talents were more refined when he attended Williamson High School and in 1968, as a senior, took part in a national science competition sponsored by the University of Alabama. There he displayed a remote controlled robot named “Linex” which he built from scraps found at a junkyard and parts of his brothers’ walkie-talkie and his sisters’ reel-to-reel tape recorder. He placed first in the competition and entered Tuskeegee University on a mathematics scholarship. At Tuskeegee he was elected into the Pi Tau Sigma National Engineering Honor Society and graduated with distinction in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He continued on at Tuskeegee and received a Master’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering in 1975.

After graduation, he took a position at the Savannah River National Laboratory, conducting thermal analysis on plutonium fuel spheres. He later served as a research engineer, developing cooling systems at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He then joined the Air Force and was assigned to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he served as the Acting Chief of the Space Nuclear Power Safety Section. In 1973, he left the Air Force and took over as Senior Systems Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. He worked on the Galileo Mission to Jupiter, but returned in 1982 to his military career. He worked at the Strategic Air Command (SAC) facility in Bellevue, Nebraska and then moved to the SAC Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in Edwards, California where he worked on the Stealth Bomber. He also worked as Acting Chief at the Space Nuclear Power Safety Section of the Air Force Weapon Laboratory at Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico. A Captain, he was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal. In 1987, Johnson returned to his work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he worked on the Mars Observer project, and served as the fault protection engineer on the Saturn Cassini mission project. He later worked as a project engineer for the Kraft mission which studied asteroids.

Earlier, around 1982, he was working on developing a heat pump that would work by circulating water rather than expensive and environmentally unfriendly freon. In his basement at home, he took some tubing with a specially devised nozzle on the other end and connected it to a bathroom sink. When he turned on the faucet, a stream of water shot out of the nozzle across the room with such force that the air currents caused the curtain to move. His first thought was “this would make a great water gun.”

Johnson set out to develop a pressurized water gun that was safe enough for children to play with. Water guns at the time very unsophisticated and cheaply made, able to shoot streams of water about eight feet. Using basic tools, he combined a PVC pipe, a piece of plexiglas and an empty plastic soda bottle. His invention worked by partially filling a reservoir tank with water and then using a handle to force air into the chamber. When the trigger was pulled, the air pressure would force water to exit through a narrow hole, launching a blast of water more than 25 feet. He called his invention a “pneumatic water gun” and he continue revising it until it could shoot almost 50 feet. When he had developed a working model (which he called the Power Drencher), he and his partner Bruce D’Andrade began trying to market it while trying to secure a patent for it. They first tried to market it to Daisy Manufacturing, the BB Gun manufacturing giant, but no deal could be worked out after two years of negotiations. After securing the patent in 1991 (the toy was now called the Super Soaker), Johnson was introduced to Al Davis, an executive with Larimi Corp. at a New York City Toy Fair. Two weeks later Johnson was in Larimi’s headquarters in Philadelphia. The executives watching the demonstration all exclaimed “Wow!” Their only concern was whether anyone would pay $10.00 for a squirt gun. After signing a deal with Johnson’s company (Johnson Research and Development Co., Inc.) they would all be in for a big surprise.

Within a year, all involved knew they had a runaway hit. On the popular Tonight Show, host Johnny Carson used a Super Soaker to drench his sidekick Ed McMahon. Within 10 years more than 200 million Super Soakers had been sold. The gun had gone through many modifications and expansions, with new product lines, and became the toy of the decade. Johnson continued inventing and would eventually hold more than 80 patents. For his contributions to science (and in light of his great success with the Super Soaker) Johnson was inducted into the Inventor Hall of Fame in 2000. His company has continued to innovate, creating improved radon detectors, heat pumps and lithium battery products as well as new toy concepts.

Lonnie Johnson didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to become a worldwide success…. but it sure gave him something to fall back upon.


CNBC Spotlight on Lonnie Johnson


Mark Dean - blackinventor.com

Mark Dean

Mark Dean - blackinventor.comBorn in Jefferson City, Tennessee on March 2, 1957, Mark Dean found that success ran in his bloodlines. His grandfather was a high school principal and his father worked as a supervisor for the Tennessee Valley Authority Dam. A bright and energetic child, he often endured questions from grade school classmates, asking if he was really Black because Black people were not supposed to be that smart. Mark was an outstanding high school athlete as well as a straight A student. His success continued in college as he graduated at the top of his class with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979.

In 1980, Dean was invited to join IBM as an engineer. Despite his new position, he continued his education and received a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from Florida Atlantic University in 1982. In his capacity as an engineer for IBM, he didn’t take long to make a big impact, serving as the chief engineer for the team that developed the IBM PC/AT, the original home/office computer. Along with his colleague Dennis Moeller, he developed the Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) systems bus, a component that allowed multiple peripheral devices such as a modems and printers to be connected to a PC, thus making the PC a practical and affordable component of the home or small business office. Dean would own three of the original nine patents that all PCs are based upon. Dean followed up with PS/2 Models 70 or 80, and the Color Graphics Adapter (which allowed for color display on the PC).

Despite his enormous success, Dean realized that there was more to learn and more than he could achieve, so he entered Stanford University and in 1992 received a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. Five years later he was named as the director of the Austin Research Laboratory and director of Advanced Technology Development for the IBM Enterprise Server Group. Under his leadership, in 1999 his team made several significant breakthroughs including the testing of the first gigahertz CMOS microprocessor. With this great success he was named the vice president for Systems Research at IBM’s Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, then as a vice president in IBM’s Storage Technology Group, focused on the company’s storage systems strategy and technology roadmap. He was later named vice president for hardware and systems architecture in IBM’s Systems and Technology Group (STG) in Tucson, Arizona and finally the vice president of the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California.

In addition to the prestigious titles with their inherent responsibilities, Dr. Dean was named an IBM fellow, the highest technical honor awarded by the company (only 50 of IBM’s 310,000 employees are IBM Fellows and he was the first Black person so honored). In 1997, along with his friend Dennis Moeller, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (with Hall membership at around 150) and in 2001 was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineers. With more than 40 patents or patents pending, Dr. Dean is poised to continue his far reaching impact on the world of science and the home and workplace.


Black Man Developed 1st PC AT Computer – Mark Dean


Marjorie Joyner - blackinventor.com

Marjorie Joyner

Marjorie Joyner - blackinventor.comMarjorie Stewart Joyner was born in Monterey, Virginia on October 24, 1896, the granddaughter of a slave and a slave-owner. In 1912, an eager Marjorie moved to Chicago, Illinois to pursue a career in cosmetology. She enrolled in the A.B. Molar Beauty School and in 1916 became the first Black women to graduate from the school. Following graduation, the 20 year old married podiatrist Robert E. Joyner and opened a beauty salon.

She was introduced to Madame C.J. Walker, a well-known Black businesswoman, specializing in beauty products and services. Walker supplied beauty products to a number of the most prominent Black figures of the time, including singer Josephine Baker. With her fame, Ms. Walker was able to open over 200 beauty salon shops across the United States. After Madame Walker’s death in 1919, Marjorie was hired to oversee the Madame C.J. Walker Beauty Colleges as national supervisor.

A dilemma existed for Black women in the 1920’s. In order to straighten tightly-curled hair, they could so so only by using a stove-heated curling iron. This was very time-consuming and frustrating as only one iron could be used at a time. In 1926, Joyner set out to make this process faster, easier and more efficient. She imagined that if a number of curling irons could be arranged above a women’s head, they could work at the same time to straighten her hair all at once. According to the Smithsonian Institute, Joyner remembered that “It all came to me in the kitchen when I was making a pot roast one day, looking at these long, thin rods that held the pot roast together and heated it up from the inside. I figured you could use them like hair rollers, then heat them up to cook a permanent curl into the hair.” Thus, she sought a solution to not only straighten but also provide a curl in a convenient manner.

Joyner developed her concept by connecting 16 rods to a single electric cord inside of a standard drying hood. A women would thus wear the hood for the prescribed period of time and her hair would be straightened or curled. After two years Joyner completed her invention and patented it in 1928, calling it the “Permanent Waving Machine.” She thus became the first Black woman to receive a patent and her device enjoyed enormous and immediate success. It performed even better than anticipated as the curl that it added would often stay in place for several days, whereas curls from standard curling iron would generally last only one day.

In addition to the success found in Madame Walker’s salons, the device was a hit in white salons as well, allowing white patrons to enjoy the beauty of their “permanent curl” or “perm” for days. Although popular, the process could be painful as well, so Marjorie patented a scalp protector that could be used to make the experience more pleasant. This too proved to be a major success. Despite her accomplishments and success, Marjorie received none of the proceeds of her inventions as the patents were created within the scope of her employment with Madame Walker’s company, which therefore received all patent rights and royalties. Undeterred,in 1945 Joyner co-founded the United Beauty School Owners and Teachers Association along with Mary Bethune McLeod. She tirelessly helped to raise money for Black colleges and founded the Alpha Chi Pi Omega Sorority and Fraternity in an effort to raise professional standards for beauticians. In 1973, at the age of 77, she was awarded a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Marjorie Joyner died on December 7, 1994 at the age of 98. She left behind her a legacy of creativity, ingenuity and selflessness that served to inspire many generations.

Meredith Gourdine

Meredith Gourdine - blackinventor.comMeredith Charles “Flash” Gourdine was born on September 26, 1929 in Newark, New Jersey. His father worked as a painter and janitor and instilled within his son the importance of a strong work ethic. Meredith attended Brooklyn Technical High School and after classes he helped his father on various jobs, often working eight hour days. However, his father believed that education was more important than just developing into a hard worker and he told him “If you don’t want to be a laborer all your life, stay in school.” Meredith minded his father’s advice, excelling in academics. He was also an excellent athlete, competing in track and field and swimming during his senior year. He did well enough in swimming to be offered a scholarship to the University of Michigan, but he turned it down to enter Cornell University. He paid his way through Cornell for his first two years before receiving a track and field scholarship after his sophomore year. He competed in sprints, hurdles and the long jump. Standing 6′ and weighing 175 lbs., he starred for his school, winning four titles at the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America championship and led Cornell to a second place finish at the 1952 NCAA Track and Field Championship (The University of Southern California won the meet but boasted 36 athletes while Cornell had only five c). Gourdine was so heralded that he was chosen to represent the United States at the 1952 Summer Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland. He received a silver medal in the long jump competition, losing to fellow American Jerome Biffle by one and a half inches. “I Would have rather lost by a foot,” he would later say. “I still have nightmares about it.”

After graduating from Cornell with a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering Physics in 1953, he entered the United States Navy as an officer. He soon returned to academia, entering the California Institute of Technology, the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. He received a Ph.D. in Engineering Science in 1960. During his time at Cal. Tech., he served on the Technical Staff of the Ramo-Woolridge Corporation and then as a Senior Research Scientist at the Cal. Tech. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After graduation, he became a Lab Director for the Plasmodyne Corporation until 1962 when he joined the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, serving as Chief Scientist.

In 1964, Gourdine borrowed $200,000.00 from family and friends and opened Gourdine Laboratories, a research laboratory located in Livingston, New Jersey and at its height he employed 150 people. In 1973, he founded and served as CEO for Energy Innovation, Inc. in Houston, Texas which produced direct-energy conversion devices (converting low-grade coal into inexpensive, transportable and high-voltage electrical energy). Meredith GourdineHis company’s performed research and development, specifically in the fields of electrogasdynamics. Electrogasdynamics refers to the generation of energy from the motion of ionized (electrically charged) gas molecules under high pressure. His biggest creation was the Incineraid system, which was used to disperse smoke from burning buildings and could be used to disperse fog on airport runways. The Incineraid system worked by negatively charging smoke or fog, causing the airborne particles within to be electro magnetically charged and then to fall to the ground. The result was clean air and a clear area. He also received patents for the Focus Flow Heat Sink, which was used to cool computer chips as well as for processes for desalinating sea water, for developing acoustic imaging, and for a high-powered industrial paint spray.

Over his career Gourdine held over 30 patents and many of his creations serve as the basis for allergen-filtration devices common to households across the world. He was inducted into the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame in 1994. Towards his latter years, he suffered from diabetes, and lost his sight as well as one leg due to the disease.

Meredith Gourdine died on November 20, 1998, due to complications from multiples strokes. He left behind a legacy of research, design and innovation that will continue to have an impact for many years.


Meredith Gourdine