Modern Black Inventors Who Changed the Way We Live


JERRY LAWSON- Video Game Console

Gerald Anderson “Jerry” Lawson (December 1, 1940 – April 9, 2011) was an American electronic engineer known for his work in designing the Fairchild Channel F video game console. During development of in the early to mid 1970s, Lawson was Chief Hardware Engineer and director of engineering and marketing for Fairchild Semiconductor’s video game division. He also founded and ran Videosoft, a video game development company which made software for the Atari 2600 in the early 1980s, as the 2600 had displaced the Channel F as the top system in the market.

Lawson also produced one of the earliest arcade games, Demolition Derby, which debuted in a southern California pizzeria shortly after Pong.

PATRICIA BATH- Laserphaco Probe

Patricia-BathShe is an American ophthalmologist, inventor and academic who is the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. The holder of four patents, she also founded the company of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington, D.C.

Bath holds four patents in the United States. In 1981, she conceived of the Laserphaco Probe, a medical device that improves on the use of lasers to remove cataracts, and “for ablating and removing cataract lenses”. The device was completed in 1986 after Bath conducted research on lasers in Berlin and patented in 1988, making her the first African-American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. The device — which quickly and nearly painlessly dissolves the cataract with a laser, irrigates and cleans the eye and permits the easy insertion of a new lens is used internationally to treat the disease. Bath has continued to improve the device and has successfully restored vision to people who have been unable to see for decades.

Three of Bath’s four patents relate to the Laserphaco Probe. In 2000, she was granted a patent for a method she devised for using ultrasound technology to treat cataracts

MARK DEAN -Computer Engineer

mark deanIs an American inventor and a computer engineer who was part of the team that developed the ISA business system that enables multiple devices, such as modems and printers, to be connected to personal computers and he led a design team for making a one-gigahertz computer processor chip. He holds three of nine PC patents for being the co-creator of the IBM personal computer released in 1981.

Born in Jefferson City, Tennessee on March 2, 1957, Mark Dean 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 and received a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from Florida Atlantic University in 1982.

In addition,  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.

THOMAS MENSAH- Fiber Optics and Nanotechnology

Mensah-bio-photo1Is a Ghanaian chemical engineer and inventor. His works are in fields relating to the developments in Fiber Optics and Nanotechnology. He was awarded 7 USA and worldwide patents in Fiber Optics within a period of six years. In all, he has some 14 patents to his name.[1] On March 20, 2015 Thomas was inducted into the USA National Academy of Inventors at their 4th annual conference held at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

He completed his undergraduate studies at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Chemical Engineering and he received a French government fellowship to study in at Montpellier University in France. Prior to that, he attended Adisadel College in Cape Coast Ghana. He won the National French competition in Ghana, both at the Ordinary Levels (1968) and Advanced Levels 1970 in Accra Ghana.

While at Montpellier University in France he took part in a program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and received a certificate in Modeling and Simulation of Chemical Processes from MIT in 1977. A year later, he graduated with a PhD.


Philip Emeagwali is a Nigerian inventor and scientist. He won the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize ($10,000) for price-performance in high-performance computing applications, in an oil reservoir modeling calculation using a novel mathematical formulation and implementation

He began his studies at Oregon State in 1974 and received a Bachelor Degree in Mathematics in 1977. He then moved to the Washington, D.C. area and received a Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering from George Washington University in 1981 and a second Master’s Degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Maryland in 1986. During the same period of time he received another Master’s Degree from George Washington University, this time in Ocean, Coastal and Marine Engineering.

In 1987, the Emeagwali was accepted into the University of Michigan’s Civil Engineering doctoral program and received a doctoral fellowship. As part of his research he designed a machine that contained up to 65,536 microprocessors interconnected, each with its own RAM and each processing one bit at a time by using a Connection Machine from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (NANL) in New Mexico which was able to perform 3.1 billion calculations per second. The program had also determined the amount of oil in the simulated reservoir, the direction of flow and the speed at which it was flowing at each point. The impact of his experiment was immense. It provided the theory of connecting computers around the world to provide a scalable, network through which to share and process information. Using this concept in conjunction with the existing internet backbone, the World Wide Web would emerge as an new entity for providing communications and enhancing commerce. In 1989, in acknowledgement of his discovery, Emeagwali was awarded the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Gordon Bell Prize which recognizes outstanding achievement in high-performance computing applications.


As a child, Valerie Thomas became fascinated with the mysteries of technology, tinkering with electronics with her father and reading books on electronics written for adolescent boys. Thomas enrolled at Morgan State University and performed exceedingly well as a student, graduating with a degree in physics (one of only two women in her class to do so). She accepted a position with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), serving as a data analyst. After establishing herself within the agency, she was asked to manage the “Landsat” project, an image processing system that would allow a satellite to transmit images from space.

In 1977 she began experimenting with flat mirrors and concave mirrors. Flat mirrors, of course, provide a reflection of an object which appears to lie behind the glass surface. A concave mirror, on the other hand, presents a reflection that appears to exist in front of the glass, thereby providing the illusion that they exist in a three-dimensional manner. Thomas believed that images, presented in this way could provide a more accurate, if not more interesting, manner of representing video data. She not only viewed the process as a potential breakthrough for commercial television, but also as scientific tool for NASA and its image delivery system.

Thomas applied for a patent for her process on December 28, 1978 and the patent was issued on October 21, 1980. The invention was similar to the technique of holographic production of image recording which uses coherent radiation and employs front wave reconstruction techniques which render the process unfeasible due to the enormous expense and complicated setup. Parabolic mirrors, however, can render these optical illusions with the use of a concave mirror near the subject image and a second concave mirror at a remote site. In the description of her patent, the process is explained. “Optical illusions may be produced by parabolic mirrors wherein such images produced thereby are possessed with three dimensional attributes. The optical effect may be explained by the fact that the human eyes see an object from two viewpoints separated laterally by about six centimeters. The two views show slightly different spatial relationships between near and near distant objects and the visual process fuses these stereoscopic views to a single three dimensional impression. The same parallax view of an object may be experienced upon reflection of an object seen from a concave mirror.” ( The Illusion Transmitter would thus enable the users to render three-dimensional illusions in real-time.

JANET EMERSON BASHEN- Human Resources Software

janetebashenJanet Emerson Bashen is an American inventor, entrepreneur, and business consultant. She patented a software program to assist with web-based equal employment opportunity investigations. She founded a human resource consulting firm focusing on equal opportunity employment compliance, which investigated civil rights violations and employee misconduct. In May 2000, she testified before the U.S. House of Representatives that civil rights and employee misconduct investigations should be exempt from the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In 2012, she was named to Ebony magazine’s list of the 100 most influential African-Americans in entertainment, politics, sports and business, called the Power 100 List.

KWADO SAFO – Electric car and Sports Utility Vehicle

Kantanka-GhanaKantanka Car is an electric car manufacturing company founded by Kwadwo Safo and headquartered in Kumasi, Ghana. The manufacturing base in Accra can produce up to 100 cars month. The Kantanka range of cars includes electric four wheel drive vehicles like the Nkunimdie model, the electric Kantanka Onatafuo 4×4 pickup and the electric Kantanka Opasuo range as well as the electric Otumfo sport utility vehicle. The Kantanka electric cars are powered by 12 rechargeable batteries so the car can power up by just plugging the charger into an ordinary socket.

One of their unique selling points is that these cars are designed and made to survive bad roads. Another feature unique to Kantanka is that their cars can be controlled with voice commands. The company is also supplying the military and police in Ghana. The sticker price of the Kantanka line starts at about $18,000 up to $35,000. A cheaper vehicle is projected to hit the market later.

SANGULANI MAX CHIKUMBUTSO – Self Charging Electric car

Sangulani Max Chikumbutso became the first Zimbabwean to design and make a hybrid engine-powered helicopter, an electric car, a magnetic converter, a ‘green’ power generator and a special drone. His designs were launched through his company, Saith Technologies. The Saith Fully Electric Vehicle was designed and made locally by Chikumbutso through Saith Technologies. The video below explains how the Saith Fully Electric Vehicle (FEV) operates. It has a top speed of 90km/h. The automobile doesn’t need charging from a source of electricity. It needs just 5 normal gel batteries to begin producing sufficient capacity to start the vehicle and charge the batteries as it moves.

HILLARY RONO – Portable Eye Examination Kit

Dr hillary ronoDr. Hillary Rono in collaboration with a team of technologists, eye specialists, public health doctors and product designers have designed a unique smartphone-based system for comprehensive eye testing suitable in any part of the world. The mobile phone app can serve as an alternative to an ophthalmoscope. Ophthalmoscopes tend to be difficult to transport and expensive while PEEK (portable eye examination kit), uses high quality retinal images from your phone to conduct an eye exam. Peek Acuity, the app used to test eyesight easily and affordably using a smartphone, has been found to be as accurate as traditional charts.

Dr. Hillary Rono is an ophthalmologist and zonal eye surgeon for North Rift Region in Kenya. He currently serves a population of over 1.5 million, with a range of eye health conditions, the most prevalent being trachoma and cataract and childhood blindness.  The North Rift Region, where Dr. Rono is based covers 3 counties in Kenya, made up of Tranizoia, West Pokot and Turkana.

Dr. Hillary Rono has a Master of Science (MSc) in Public Health (Eye care) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a Master’s in Medicine and Surgery (Ophthalmology) from the University of Nairobi and a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (M.B.B.S.) from Moi University. He has several research publications.

DAYO OLAKULEHIN- Battery powered ventilator

Dbox bannerDayo Olakulehin, has invented a cheap, portable, rechargeable and easy to use battery-powered ventilator. A ventilator is a machine designed to mechanically move breathable air into and out of the lungs, to provide the mechanism of breathing for a patient who is physically unable to breathe, or breathing insufficiently.

The D-Box is an innovative ventilator designed to automate Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) bags and deliver controlled breaths to patients with respiratory problems. Conventional ventilators cost on average $30,000 while low-cost alternatives can be bought for about $3,000. Dr. Olakulehin’s invention is also revolutionary because it starts at about $300.

Dr. Olakulehin studied at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL)/Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).  He is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and founder of LigandCorp and the founder of Africa’s first of its kind Medical Innovation Hub, PAMIH. D-Box is a joint venture product of the Canadian product development firm Inertia Engineering + Design, headed up by Ray Minato and LigandCorp.

The D-Box ventilator is expected on the market in about 16 months.

ARTHUR ZANG- The Cardiopad

Andrew ZangThe cardiopad is the brain child of Arthur Zang of Cameron. Zang, a computer scientist who harnessed the power of education, collaboration, technology and social media to become a game changer in the medical industry not just in Cameroon but  in the world.

At one point there were only 30-40 cardiologists in the nation of 20 million people and these cardiologists were concentrated in the capital city, Yaounde. This meant that patients especially from the rural areas had to travel long distances to get their heart examinations limiting the quality of care they could get. So Zang developed a cardiopad which is basically a mobile electrocardiogram. This is a tablet that uses mobile networks to track heart examinations and monitors heart conditions in patients. He applied his education to solve real world problems. It was during his universities studies working on a project in the local hospital that Zang met a cardiologist, Professor Samuel Kingué who became a mentor and collaborated with him by offering  his medical expertise to produce the cardiopad.


Pfoofy motorcyclesCharles Ogingo, Robert Achoge and James Ogola all final year students have built a system they call Ecotran, which captures the sun’s energy, stores it in batteries, and uses it to charge a motorcycle’s electric motor. Ecotran is part of the energy company, Pfoofy Power and Light Ltd. After successfully trying out the Ecotran technology on three locally bought motorcycles in Kisumu County’s Nyakach area, the young innovators are now expanding the project, and powering 40 more bikes.

Pfoofy motorcycles. The young entrepreneurs have set up a “fueling” station with 40 solar photo-voltaic units, each generating 250 watts of electricity. The energy is stored in batteries before being transformed by powerful inverters into the alternating current needed by the motorcycle. The motorbike uses a small portable battery which, fully charged, can run for 70 kilometers (40 miles), after which it must return to the station to be recharged while another charged battery is fitted to the bike.

The students will lease the bikes to 40 riders who they have trained in road safety because most motorcyclists in Kenya, have no bikes of their own but ride leased machines. Riders like Alfred Omondi, used a petrol motorcycle to make 1,000 shillings ($9.60) on a good day, but would spend about 350 shillings on fuel and another 300 to lease the bike from its owner. Now it costs him 100 shillings (96 cents) to recharge the electric motorbike, saving him money even as he helps the environment by curbing pollution and climate-changing emissions.

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