Black History Month: The people behind the inventions

Black History Month: The people behind the inventions

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Cynthia Rossi, Staff Writer

In the year 1893, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams became the first documented person in the world to successfully perform an open heart surgery. This was not only an incredible advancement in the world of medicine, it opened up opportunities for the black community to finally share their talents after centuries of oppression.  Along with performing the first successful open heart surgery, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams opened up the first interracial hospital, providing a safe work environment for people of all races and ethnicities to prove their worth in the practice of medicine and surgery. 

In 1923, Garrett Morgan patented his invention of the three-position traffic signal. Other traffic signs that appeared first in London did not have the yellow warning light incorporated in it. After Morgan witnessed a severe car crash, he became inspired to implement today’s current yellow light into the original invention. In addition to advancing the traffic signal, Garrett Morgan also invented a breathing device called the “safety hood” that filtered out unwanted pollutants from air being inhaled including smoke and other toxic gases. His invention was most heavily used during World War I. However, Morgan knew that if he was the face of his company, no one would buy his product. He hired a white actor to star as him in his advertisements to ensure that people would still purchase his invention. 

In 1884, Marcellus Gilmore Edson patented peanut butter. His tasty invention was coined the name “peanut paste” as it didn’t have the same consistency as peanut butter we consume today, but was a very similar concept. It is commonly believed that George Washington Carver invented peanut butter and although he utilized peanuts in over three hundred products, Marcellus Gilmore Edson was ultimately the one to patent “peanut paste.” 

Patricia E. Bath invented a technique for performing laser eye cataract surgery called “laserphaco.” In 1988, Bath became the first African American woman to receive a patent for an invention pertaining to medicine. Her invention has saved the eyesight of millions.

African Americans have contributed widely to society and the advancement of technology, but are not properly recognized for their efforts. Black History Month is a time to reflect and celebrate black history and the large number of black people that are not represented in the media, but have excelled and succeeded beyond society’s expectations of them.