Did you know, Black women are behind some of the most important or influential inventions of modern society? You may be surprised to find some of these out…
MARIE VAN BRITTAN BROWN INVENTED THE FIRST HOME SECURITY SYSTEM IN THE 1960S.
In 1966, Brown was working as a nurse and living in a high-crime neighbourhood when she invented the device. She developed the system to give her a view of her front door. The security system consisted of a sliding camera, television monitors, two-way microphones, and four peepholes, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The sliding camera used the peepholes to capture images of people at different heights, while the microphone allowed Brown to speak with the person outside. MIT also notes that Brown’s invention marked the first time closed-circuit television, or CCTV, was used in a security system.
SARAH BOONE INVENTED AND PATENTED THE FIRST MODERN IRONING BOARD IN 1892.
According to the New Britain Industrial Museum in Connecticut, Boone was born enslaved in North Carolina in 1832. She and her husband had eight children when she moved to New Haven, Connecticut, in the 1850s. Boone was working as a dressmaker in 1892 when she came up with the idea for a better ironing board with collapsible legs. “My improved device is not only adapted for pressing the inside and outside seams of the sleeves of ladies waists and mens’ coats, but will be found particularly convenient, also, in pressing curved waist-seams wherever they occur,” her patent application stated, per the museum.
MARY BEATRICE DAVIDSON KENNER’S SANITARY BELT WAS THE PREDECESSOR TO THE MENSTRUAL PAD.
After dropping out of Howard University due to financial pressure in the 1930s, Kenner held a number of odd jobs while working on her inventions on the side. She eventually saved up enough money to file her first patent-a belt for a sanitary napkin – by 1957. Kenner’s design consisted of an adjustable belt with a moisture-proof napkin pocket built inside. Vice reported in 2018 that the contraption made it less likely that menstrual blood would leak out and stain clothes.
DR. PATRICIA BATH WAS AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST WHO INVENTED A CUTTING-EDGE DEVICE FOR CATARACT SURGERY.
After Dr Bath’s Laserphaco probe and technique led to her posthumous induction to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2021. She and engineer Marian Croak became the first two Black women to be inducted into the organisation. The doctor was also the first Black female physician to receive a medical patent, the first Black woman to complete a residency in ophthalmology at New York University, and the first woman to chair an ophthalmology residency program in the US, according to NPR.
VALERIE THOMAS WAS BEHIND THE ILLUSION TRANSMITTER, WHICH NASA LATER USED IN ITS SATELLITE TECHNOLOGY.
Thomas was one of only two omen in her class at Morgan State University to major in physics. She eventually landed a position as a data and mathematical analyst at NASA, where she managed the development of image-processing systems for the “Landsat” satellite. After seeing a light illusion at an exhibit in 1976, Thomas was inspired to create the illusion transmitter, which uses concave mirrors to produce optical illusion images, per MIT. She received a patent for her invention in 1980.
The trailblazing scientists’ technology led to the development of 3-D imaging.
Here’s what you can do to make a difference
Whether you seek to break barriers in your industry or organise your communities, BYP Mentors allow you to connect with those who have already paved the way for our current success. Also, you can visit the BYP job board and post a job today.
Plus, why not attend an event to hear, learn and amplify the messages from numerous female Black trailblazers and pioneers? Our annual BYP Leadership conference has seen the likes of child prodigy and mathemetician, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, CTO of Compare the Market, Renee Hunt, and many more, not to mention our own CEO and Founder, Kike Oniwinde Agoro. Register your interest now to be the first to receive early bird tickets, programme updates and more.