1. George Crum – The potato chip
Every time a person crunches into a potato chip, he or she is enjoying the delicious taste of one
of the world's most famous snacks – a treat that might not exist without the contribution of
black inventor George Crum. It all began when a patron who ordered a plate of French-fried
potatoes sent them back to Crum's kitchen because he felt they were too thick and soft. To
teach the picky patron a lesson, Crum sliced a new batch of potatoes as thin as he possibly
could, and then fried them until they were hard and crunchy. Finally, to top them off, he added
a generous heaping of salt. Though Crum never attempted to patent his invention, the snack
was eventually mass-produced and sold in bags – providing thousands of jobs nationwide.
The stoplight, the curling iron, The peanut, hip hop, all invented by people of color… and the list goes on
and on! The potato chip? 3D movies? Who invented the modern video gaming system? The
Take a minute and pay homage to famous black inventors who go
unrecognized for their major contributions to our society.
Notable African American inventors:
2. Marc Hannah- 3D Film Graphics
In 1982, Hannah co-founded Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI) with Jim Clark and five others, a
company that went on to be well-known for its computer graphics technology. In 1986, he was
named the company’s principal scientist for the creation of computer programs like Personal
IRIS, Indigo, Indigo2, and Indy graphics that were used to create effects for movies like Jurassic
Park, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Hunt for Red October, and Field of Dreams. George
Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic used Silicon Graphics’ technology to create Terminator 2.
Hannah’s programs have also been used to create television commercials and the opening
introduction for Monday Night Football.
3. Alexander Miles- Modern Day Elevator Design
Early elevators were different from the mostly automated devices we're familiar with today.
Passengers had to manually open and close the elevator doors, as well as the door leading to
the elevator shaft. If anyone forgot to close the shaft door, other passengers could fall down the
shaft when expecting to step into the elevator. Miles invented a mechanism that triggered the
shaft doors to open and close along with the elevator doors, making the ride safer. The
elevators we ride today still feature automatic shaft doors similar to the invention Miles
patented in 1887. See More
4. Gerald Lawson-The Video Gaming Console
Before disc-based systems like PlayStation, Xbox and Wii transformed the video game industry,
before techno-diversions like Grand Theft Auto and Madden NFL and even before Pac-Man and
Donkey Kong became the obsession of millions of electronic gamers, it was Mr. Lawson who first
made it possible to play a variety of video games at home. Gerald A. Lawson, a largely self-
taught engineer who became a pioneer in electronic video entertainment, created the first
home video game system with interchangeable game cartridges.
5. Lonnie Johnson – The Super Soaker
African-American engineer and inventor Lonnie G. Johnson worked for the U.S. Air Force and the
NASA space program. After tinkering with the invention of a high-powered water gun, Johnson's
Super Soaker became a top-selling item by the early 1990s. He has since been developing
the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter (JTEC), an engine that converts heat directly into