Black History: Special Delivery!!



Joseph N. Jackson:  Inventor of A TV Remote Control

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Dr. Joseph N. Jackson

Joseph N. Jackson (1929 – ) holds 6 U.S. patents for telecommunications and fertility prediction inventions. Jackson’s first patent was for his contribution to a v-chip device that allowed users to block selected content on cable television. This type of technology is commonly used for parental controls. He also holds patents for TV remote control devices. Jackson was not the first person to invent the remote control.  The first TV remote controls introduced in the U.S. were created by Zenith in 1950.  The remote was called, “Lazy Bones”.  However it was not wireless.  It was attached to the TV by a long cord.  Consumers didn’t like it because it was a frequent trip hazard.   Development of a remote control patent goes back much further than 1950.   The first wireless remote control device, the “Flash-Matic” was developed in 1955 by Zenith engineer, Eugene Polley.  Continue reading “Joseph N. Jackson:  Inventor of A TV Remote Control”

Dr. Betty Wright Harris:  African American Chemist And Inventor Who Patented Test To Detect Explosives

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Dr. Betty Wright Harris (1940 – )

Dr. Betty Wright Harris (1940 – ) was born in Monroe, Louisiana. She was the 7th of 12 children. Her parents were farmers. Her mother was also a school teacher who encouraged her children to pursue education. Harris started college at the age of 16. In 1961, She received a bachelor of science degree in chemistry with a minor in Mathematics from Southern University, a historically black college. In 1963, she earned her master of science degree in chemistry from Atlanta University, also a historically black college. She would then teach chemistry and math at the college level for ten years. During this time she worked at Mississippi Valley State University as well as Southern University.

She briefly worked for IBM before taking a position at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Harris obtained her Ph.D from New Mexico State University. It was at LANL that she began to specialize in the study of explosives and nuclear weapons. She developed an expertise in the clean up of environmental hazards as well as environmental restoration. She is recognized as a leading expert in these areas. In 1986 she received a patent for a “sensitive spot test” that she created to detect the presence of 1,3,5-triamino-2,4,6 trinitrobeneze (TATB). This invention made it possible for the military as well as private industry to identify the presence of explosive materials. The Department of Homeland Security also utilizes the spot test to screen for nitroaromatic explosives.

Continue reading “Dr. Betty Wright Harris:  African American Chemist And Inventor Who Patented Test To Detect Explosives”

Gladys West:  African American Mathematician Who Helped Develop GPS Technology 

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Gladys and Ira West
Gladys & Ira West

There is no doubt of the pivotal role GPS technology plays in so many facets of our lives. Gladys West, an African American mathematician, was part of the scientific and engineering team that developed Global Positioning System (GPS) technology during the 1950’s and 60’s. 87 year old Gladys West worked at the naval base in Dahlgren, Virginia for 42 years. West’s career started in 1956. She was the second African American woman hired at Dahlgren Naval Base. At the time, she was one of only four black employees; one of which, named Ira West, would become her husband. Gladys West’s work in the development of GPS technology, was discovered when she was preparing a bio for a sorority function. West is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

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Dr. George Carruthers:  Developed The 1st Moon-Based Space Observatory Used In The Apollo 16 Space Mission

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George Carruthers (1939 – )


George Carruthers (1939 – ) was born in Cincinnati, OH.  His father was a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Air Corp.  He was the oldest of four children.  His father encouraged his interest in science.  At the age of 10, Carruthers built his first telescope with cardboard tubing and a mail-order lens with money he earned as a delivery boy.  Carruthers was not an especially strong student in math and physics as a child.  Still he won awards at several science competitions.

His father died when he was 12 years old.  Carruther’s mother, relocated the family to her hometown of Chicago, IL where she began working for the U.S. Postal Service.  Carruthers graduated from Englewood High School and then enrolled in the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  There he earned a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1961, a master’s degree in nuclear engineering in 1962 and a doctorate in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1964.  Continue reading “Dr. George Carruthers:  Developed The 1st Moon-Based Space Observatory Used In The Apollo 16 Space Mission”

Kenneth Dunkley: African American Inventor Who Gave Us 3D Glasses

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African American Inventor Kenneth Dunkley (1939- ) created 3D glasses in 1986.


Thank Dr. Clarence Ellis When You Click An Icon On Your Computer!

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Dr. Clarence “Skip” Ellis (1943 – 2014)

Dr. Clarence “Skip” Ellis (1943-2014) earned a Ph.D in Computer Science from the University of Illinois. He was the first African American to gain a Ph.D in this area of study.  A dedicated educator, he loved to teach students who were new to the field of study and who lacked experience.  Ellis was born and raised on the south side of Chicago.  Ellis was also instrumental in the development of “groupware” technology. This technology makes it possible for several people to collaborate on a document at the same time.  His work made it possible for programs such as Google Docs and Sharepoint software to be developed.  He is also credited with inventing the technology we now use to click “icons” on a computer screen to execute computer commands.

Continue reading “Thank Dr. Clarence Ellis When You Click An Icon On Your Computer!”

Dr. Ayanna Howard: African American Roboticist & Artificial Intelligence Scientist

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Dr. Ayanna Howard (1972 – ) has some impressive credentials. She is a noted expert in the area of Artificial Intelligence. She is often referred to as an “old school Blerd” (Black Nerd). Her motivation to pursue a career in the sciences was fueled by watching TV shows such as, The Bionic Woman, Star Trek, and Wonder Woman” as a child. Since 2005, Dr. Howard has worked as a roboticist and Motorola Foundation Professor at Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines. She received a bachelors degree in Engineering from Brown University and a masters degree from the University of Southern California and a Ph.D in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California. Her research has centered on artificial intelligence (also known as humanized intelligence).

In 2003, Howard was named to the MIT Technology Review TR100 as one of the top 100 innovators under age 35 in the world. In 2008, she garnered world wide press for her “SnoMote” robots which were designed to study the impact of global warming in the Antarctic. The robots were remote control snowmobiles that aided scientists in collecting climate data. These robots made data collection possible without forcing scientist out into the harsh elements. The robots were programmed to work together and to monitor targeted areas. They were mounted with sensors and cameras to collect data including temperature and barometric readings.
Continue reading “Dr. Ayanna Howard: African American Roboticist & Artificial Intelligence Scientist”

The Ishango Bone: Early Tool Used For Mathematic Computations

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Ishango Bones


The Ishango Bone is likely one of the oldest mathematical tools in existence. Sources differ regarding the date of its discovery with some indicating that it was discovered in 1950 while others site 1960 as the date of discovery. The bone was found amongst the ruins of a settlement near Lake Edward that was buried after a volcanic explosion. The Ishango Bone was discovered by geologist, Jean de Heinzelin de Braucort (1920-1998) in the Ishango region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The bone is believed to be the fibula of a baboon. It measures approximately 10cm-14cm in length and is inscribed with a organized series of notches. At one end of the tool is a sharp quartz edge that is believed to have been used as a writing instrument. The Ishango Bones discovered by Heinzelin de Braucourt are housed at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. Continue reading “The Ishango Bone: Early Tool Used For Mathematic Computations”

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