Black History Month: 5 Inventors Who Impacted the Tech Industry

Black History Month: 5 Inventors Who Impacted the Tech Industry

The month of February is celebrated as Black History month. Over the course of history, Black Americans have shaped the way the technology industry has evolved and developed. Without their contributions, technology as we know it would not include many of the inventions that we have today. Here are 5 Black tech pioneers and their noteworthy creations.

Mark Dean

mark-dean-headshot As one of the most notable African-American inventors, Mark Dean helped design the original IBM PC. He also aided in the development of the first gigahertz chip and the color PC monitor. Dean holds over 40 patents, and three of those are from IBM’s original nine PC patents. In 1997, Mark Dean received the Black Engineer of the Year award. He paved the way for the Information Technology industry in many ways through his various contributions.

Jesse Russell


He is most known for his patented invention of the digital cellular base station. Technically, no one created the cell phone, as the creation itself is compiled of many innovations throughout history. However, Russell’s contributions have helped shape the Wireless communication industry immensely. Currently, he is the chairman and CEO of incNETWORKS, inc., a company working with 4G broadband wireless communications.

Valerie L. Thomas

valerie-thomas-headshotValerie L. Thomas is a mathematician, data scientist, and inventor. She received a patent for her illusion transmitter, which produces optical illusion images. She began by experimenting with both flat mirrors and concave mirrors, and used the research to explore these findings with image and video data. This launched the longest-running satellite program imaging the Earth’s surface. NASA uses this technology today and scientists are looking to incorporate it into televisions and video screens as well.

Granville T. Woods

granville-woods-headshotGranville Woods was also known as the “Black Edison” because of his many developments in the electrical industry. Woods has invented 15 appliances for electric railways and did the research for the “third rail” which is present in most subway systems. One of his notable inventions is called the “troller” which allowed street cars to get electrical power from overhead wires. Over the years, he registered about 60 patents, including a telephone transmitter and the multiplex telegraph. Many of these inventions are prevalent now and we see them used in our everyday lives.

Henry T. Sampson

Henry_SampsonFor starters, Sampson was actually the first African-American to earn a Ph.D in Nuclear Engineering in the U.S., and he was an engineering pioneer. Following his academic success was his patent he received for the invention of the gamma-electric cell. This is a device that converts energy generated from high energy gamma rays to electricity. His other notable patents include a binder system for rocket propellants (fuels) and explosives.

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