4 Black Inventors Who Have Made Our Lives a Whole Lot Safer

Life in the past wasn’t always this convenient.

We weren’t as ready to face uncertainty as we are now, and we have many Black heroes in our past to thank for that, all of whom are worth celebrating. 

Because we reap the many benefits of their genius today, this Black History Month, we wanted to take a moment to highlight just a few men and women (out of many!) who have made their indelible mark in the realms of personal safety, readiness, and resilience. 

MARY VAN BRITTAN BROWN, Co-Inventor of the home security system

You know all those cameras you’ve got that allow you to see who’s knocking on your door in the middle of the night? The microphone? The alarm that’s triggered? Yeah, for all of that, we have Mary Van Brittan Brown to thank. 

Back in 1966, Brown created a security system that is now the basis for all two-way communication and surveillance features of modern security. According to BlackPast.org, her original invention consisted of peepholes, a camera, monitors, and a two-way microphone. The final element was an alarm button that could be pressed to contact the police immediately.  

She was clearly not messing around, and thanks to her tenacity and inventiveness, many home safety systems have been modeled after her home safety system. 

Here’s a diagram of the invention, for which she and her husband were awarded a patent in 1969.

CHARLES DREW, Inventor of the “Bloodmobile” and groundbreaking discoveries in blood transfusion

Have you ever had a family member get surgery or get into a serious accident? Have you ever needed blood or given blood? Have you survived a natural disaster? Well, without Charles Drew, we’d be out of luck and most definitely out of blood. 

In addition to being an inventor, Charles Drew was also a physician, surgeon, and medical researcher who worked closely with the Red Cross to help bring about major discoveries with blood transfusions. Also, he’s largely responsible for the creation of blood banks and blood plasma programs, something that came about with his help during World War II.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Charles Drew was tapped to lead the Blood for Britain program, an effort to figure out how to ship plasma to our allies.

He oversaw “the collection and distribution to Britain of tens of thousands of units of plasma. Following the conclusion of the project the following year, the Red Cross enlisted him to start a pilot programme that included innovations such as community donation centres in storefronts, factories and ‘bloodmobiles’.” 

So, hats off to Charles Drew, because the entire world was changed for the better because of him. We sure are “bloody” blessed to enjoy his significant contributions to our health and well-being, wouldn’t you say!?

LEWIS LATIMER, Inventor of the carbon filament for longer-lasting light bulbs

Light in the dark is important. Not only does reliable bright light allow us to work at all hours of the night, but it also keeps us safe, helps us signal and rescue each other, and increases our overall well-being and readiness to face any disaster. Before long-lasting light bulbs, life was probably a whole lot gloomier!

Thomas Edison often gets the credit for inventing the light bulb, but most people don’t know it was because of Lewis Latimer, who invented the carbon filament in 1881, that we now have longer lasting light sources. Can you imagine having to change your light bulbs every few days? Before Latimer’s discovery, that was the norm! 

According to Biography.com, Latimer, while first competing with Edison, eventually began working alongside him.

“Latimer's deep knowledge of both patents and electrical engineering made Latimer an indispensable partner to Edison as he promoted and defended his light bulb design.”

So next time you go into a room and flip that switch on, say thank you to Lewis Latimer. He quite literally lit up our world. 

GARRET MORGAN, Inventor of the gas mask and the three-light traffic light

As Popular Mechanics enlightened us, Garrett Morgan’s inventions were notable, life-saving, and are still in use today in some form.

If anyone’s been saved by a heroic firefighter wearing a mask during a house fire, you’ve got Garrett Morgan to thank for that, as he created the first “Safety Hood,” intended for firefighters. It laid the groundwork for gas masks that were then used in both world wars, preventing toxic gas from harming soldiers. 

In addition to the gas mask,, Morgan also created an improved traffic light. Before the three-light traffic lights we all know today, there were just two-light traffic lights, which caused countless accidents, as you can imagine. 

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation,

“After witnessing an accident on a roadway, Morgan decided a device was needed to keep cars, buggies and pedestrians from colliding. His traffic signal was designed to stand on a street corner and notify vehicles and walkers whether they should stop or go.” 

Essentially his design included a “yield” component that warned pedestrians and drivers to stop, without which we wouldn’t be where we are today - safer on the road.

This is just a mini-collection of a few out of many great Black minds that have helped shape our world - and stay safer in it. 

So remember, the next time your alarm goes off in your home, the next time you give or receive blood, the next time you turn on a light, and the next time you’re told to slow down at a stop light with your whole family safely inside your car, take a moment to reflect on these heroes. It’s because of their vision and their hard work that we live the way we do now. 

For more info on Black History Month, and why it’s important for all people to celebrate, check out this info.