New patents are submitted every day. In fact, most patent submissions are improvements upon existing inventions. They make our lives easier and more efficient, and yet, how much do we really know about the people who created them? In reverence of Black History Month, these statistics are focused on Black Inventors from both past and present.

Male Inventors
• Benjamin Banneker (1793-1806) was called the “first African American inventor” and is known for publishing a Farmer’s Almanac as well as building a striking clock entirely of wood. The one-of-a-kind striking clock ran for 40 years until it was destroyed by fire in 1806.
• Thomas Jennings was the first black man to receive a patent. He invented a dry cleaning process called, “dry-scouring” and was issued a patent on March 3, 1821. 100% of his profits from the patent went to legal fees.
• Most portable pencil sharpeners can be attributed to John Lee Love for his patent called the “Love Sharpener,” issued on November 23, 1897. For over 50 years, the “Love Sharpener” dominated the market until the late 1940s when Hammacher Schlemmer adapted it into an electric version.
• From Cleveland, Ohio, Garret Morgan developed patents for both the Gas Mask (1914) and Traffic Signal. On November 20, 1923 Morgan improved upon an existing patent and added the third light in-between “stop” and “go” to allow drivers more reaction time. He sold the rights to his invention to General Electric for $40,000.
• Nigerian born Dr. Philip Emeagwali won the Gordon Bell Prize in 1989 for his work on super computers. Dr. Emeagwali submitted over 41 patents for his work and is highly revered in his field. Though most supercomputers were worth between $10 and $30 million dollars, Dr. Emeagwali was rewarded $1,000 for producing the world’s fastest computer—3.1 million computations per second!

Female Inventors
• The first U.S. patent given to a black woman, Sarah Goode, was for her folding cabinet bed designed on July 14, 1885. Two current patents—US6851139 and US7574758—cite Goode’s patent as a source of inspiration.
• Miriam Benjamin’s invention called “A Gong and a Signal Chair in Hotels” from July 17, 1888 was the second patent issued to a black woman in the United States. Her design was eventually adapted by the House of Representatives and by airlines to signal stewardesses.
• Madame CJ Walker revolutionized women’s hair care when she developed a method for smoothing hair. She started her own business and opened a college in 1908 to train her own “hair culturists.” By her death on May 25, 1919, her business was worth over $1 million.
• Janet Emerson Bashen became the first black woman to hold a software patent in January 2006 for her software LinkLine. Her business, the Bashen Corporation, had an increase in sales of 552% from 2002 to 2003.