Black Inventors Who Transformed Home Electricity

Meet Three Important Inventors in Honor of Black History Month 

Black inventors were key players in the development of home electricity, a technology that has profoundly impacted how society functions today. From developing unique gadgets and tools to innovating entirely new methods of harnessing power, these creative minds put great effort into creating solutions for everyday needs — including electric lighting and power devices. As a result, countless households now enjoy modern comforts made possible by their ingenuity. 

By making electricity reliable, accessible, and affordable for everyone, black inventors earned an important place in history — one we should celebrate! This blog post will discuss some African American inventors who transformed home electricity as we know it today.

Lewis Latimer, the Mind Behind Carbon Light Bulb Filaments 

lewisLewis Latimer was born in September 1848 to formerly enslaved people. His childhood wasn’t easy; enslaved people needed documentation proving their freedom. His parents did not have such documentation, so they split the family up to keep them safe. 

When he was 16 years old, Latimer joined the U.S. Navy. After being honorably discharged after less than two years, he started working in a patent office. There, he discovered his love of inventing. He was skilled in playing classical instruments, speaking foreign languages, and even dabbling in literature. 

Perhaps Latimer’s most significant accomplishment was inventing a more durable carbon filament for light bulbs and modifying a process that made manufacturing them easier. This allowed factories to make more light bulbs than before, making them more affordable and accessible to many. His invention also made the light bulbs longer lasting. 

Latimer passed away in 1928, but his legacy lives on. Today, history buffs can visit his home in Queens, New York. It was deemed historically significant after his passing and doubles as a museum. 

James West, the Co-Inventor of the Condenser Microphone 

jamesJames West was born in 1931 to Matilda West, who was one of the “hidden figures” who worked for NASA. After graduating high school, West hoped to be a medical doctor, but he was drafted into the military. West was discharged after suffering wounds in the Korean War and started studying physics. He graduated from Temple University in 1957. 

Per Johns Hopkins University (where West is a professor), West co-invented the condenser microphone, a groundbreaking technology. More than 90 percent of smartphones, smart home devices, microphones, and other electronics rely on the technology West pioneered. Today, he holds more than 60 U.S. patents and more than 200 international ones. He’s also passionate about mentoring minorities and disadvantaged students in science, technology, math, and science. 

Marie Van Brittan Brown, the Inventor of the Home Security System 

Marie Van Brittan Brown was born in October 1922. While living in Queens, New York, she realized that many homeowners could benefit from having security systems. So, with the help of her husband (who was an electronics technician), she created a rudimentary security system. 

Per BlackPast, this system was comprised of peepholes, cameras, a monitor, and a two-way microphone. At one point, it also featured a “panic button” that allowed people to press it to call 911 during home invasions. Van Brittan Brown and her husband filed a patent for their security system in 1966. It was approved three years later, in 1969. 

Before she passed away in 1999, Van Brittan Brown had been interviewed by the New York Times and received an award from the National Scientists Committee. Smart home device inventors still cite her original patent, showing how groundbreaking her invention truly was. 

About Modern Electrical Services 

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