Inventions changed our lives

Published 5:20 pm Saturday, February 26, 2005

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS - The list is endless.
From when you look at your clock in the morning, "Black inventions touch your everyday life, from the time you put on your shoes, to the time you are lowered into the ground," William Bradley explained Thursday at the Cass County Council on Aging (COA).
Bradley and Kereemah El-Amin, a poet from South Bend, Ind., presented "Colors of Innovation," which discusses the contributions from African American inventors throughout history.
Highlighted were the triumphs and struggles the inventors faced, including having their inventions credited and patented to white men.
The many innovations have affected nearly all aspects of American culture, affecting every age and race.
The two traced the history of inventions in America from its roots, presenting a timeline which reached around the room with inventions listed by dates.
Slaves were prohibited from receiving patents in their name, and even when free black African Americans could legally hold patents, many sold the rights to white men, Bradley said. They added, women also who wished to have a patent on their invention, often had to have it in their husband's name.
Much of what we know of the history of patents can be attributed to Henry Baker, an assistant in the Patent office, Bradley explained. Baker's research produced four volumes on black inventors, Bradley added. Nowdays, race is not listed on patent applications, but it was in the 1900s.
Benjamin Banneker not only invented the first wooden clock, he is also responsible for the first Farmer's Almanac. He is often referred to as the "first African American inventor."
It was Jan Ernst Matzeliger's patent in 1883 which made way for an automatic method of shoe making, which allowed mass production and lower costs.
A method to lower caskets into the ground, invented by an African American, is still in use today, Bradley said.
Although locomotives, x-rays and ironing boards may touch our lives at one time or another, the remote control, from James Matthew Allen, is probably never far from our hand.
Where would our kids be without the Super Soaker, invented by Lonnie Johnson, who by the way, also invented thermodynamics.
And many of us would be lost without our peanut butter, which we attribute to George Washington Carver, but he is responsible for much more. Carver's list also includes mainstays like: bleach, chili sauce, instant coffee, linoleum, mayonnaise, paper, plastic, shaving cream, talcum powder, ink, pavement, and adhesives.
African American inventors are responsible for advances in every area of science and technology. Ever hear the expression "the real McCoy?"
Elijah McCoy's automatic oil-dripping machine was so good, customers whould ask if they were getting "the real McCoy."
Millions of lives have been saved by Dr. Charles Drew's method for storing blood, which in turn created the first blood bank. Needing a transfusion, the doctor himself died needing a transfusion, because he was black.