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Black History Month: African American Inventors that Changed the World

Posted on Holidays, News, The Cooler Blog February 10, 2015

February was selected as Black History month because abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglas and President Abraham Lincoln were both born this month. In honor of Black History month, we’ve put together a list of the African American inventors who contributed life-saving, life-bettering, and life-changing technologies that have improved our everyday lives.

Frederick McKinley Jones

Jones designed portable refrigeration units that helped preserve perishable food while it was being transported by truck. This same invention also contributed to saving lives during World War II by helping to preserve much need blood for transfusions, kept medicine at a controlled temperature, and kept food from spoiling in transit. All of these items were used to help save the lives of soldiers.

Charles R. Drew

Drew was a key contributor to the Blood for Britain project which sought to collect and transport blood from the US to Britain to help save the lives of those fighting in, or being impacted by, World War II. He set up the main station to collect donated blood, set up testing standards for the blood that was collected, and oversaw the processing and handling of the blood to ensure safety and avoid contamination. Using the standards he set forth, the American Red Cross was formed and is still in operation today.

David Crosthwait

David’s most notable achievement was heating Radio City Music hall; however, he developed and refined several technologies in the HVAC field. He held 39 US patents and 80 international patents all related to the temperature regulating technologies.

Otis Boykin

Boykin developed over 25 electronic devices, but his most notable was a control unit for the heart pacemaker. This lifesaving device helps to regulate the heart’s electrical activity ensuring a consistent heartbeat.

Charles W. Chappelle

Charles Chappelle designed a long-distance airplane and was the only African American to invent and display an airplane at the first airplane show held in 1911, winning him a medal. Chappelle was also a key member of the first African American airplane company.

Samuel L. Kountz

Kountz made medical history in 1961 when he completed the first successful kidney transplant using a non-twin donor. He went on to develop anti-rejection strategies to help increase the body’s ability to integrate a transplanted organ, along with research to help improve the overall success rate of kidney transplant surgery between unrelated donors and recipients.
We’ve selected just a few inventors out of the thousands of African American inventors, activists, writers, artists, and notable figures that have made our society what it is today. We hope you’ve learned something about these incredible pioneers and inventors and you’ll share this knowledge with your friends and family!

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