With stories like #OscarsSoWhite heating up the presses, it's clear that the United States has a long road to overcoming systemic racism and fostering better inclusion. February is Black History Month, a time where it is vital to highlight what still needs to be accomplished, and where the gaps exist. But as February comes to a close, it is just as important to look back and celebrate the achievements of black trailblazers and game-changers, who have come up against odds and beaten them.
The voices of black women, especially in STEM, are often overlooked or silenced. Here's a rundown of some of the most important black, female inventors, who you may not have heard of-- but who have certainly improved the lives of millions.
1. Natalie R. Love
Inventor of the T-top cover for convertible cars, built to lock out wind, rain, and dirt. The improvement also meant that convertibles could be covered up more quickly: one reason why owners and their passengers don't end up all wet.
2. Valerie Thomas
Patented the illusion transmitter: one of the earliest forms of 3-D technology. The NASA-employed physicist helped to set the stage for modern 3-D technology in the 1980s, earning her first degree in the 1960s, when most women were discouraged from entering scientific fields.
3. Dr. Shirley Jackson
Dr. Jackson and her team are responsible for a vast number of improvements that have integrated seamlessly into our daily lives. These include: the portable fax machine, solar cells, touch tone telephones, call waiting, caller ID, and the fiber optic cables used to connect oversees calls. She was the first black woman to receive her PhD from MIT in nuclear physics, and the first black woman to be president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
4. Alice H. Parker
Parker patented improvements in the heating furnace. Her inventions conserved more energy than previous models, and made central heating possible. The model regulated heat in multiple rooms for the first time, by controlling a series of burners using a single control panel.
5. Dr. Patricia Bath
At the forefront of cataract technology, Bath holds four patents. She is most famous for her development of the Laserphaco Probe, a painless laser for removing cataracts from the eyes. She is the first black American female to receive a medial patent.
6. Janet Emerson Bashen
Creator of LinkLine, and the first black female to patent software. LinkLine simplifies processes of organization: from intake, to tracking, to claims, document, and report management. Current CEO and founder of Bashen Corporation, she is a human resources expert who is also responsible for fostering start-to-finish Equal Employment Opportunity compliance administration.
7 & 8. Ruane Sharon Jeter & Sheila Lynn Jeter
Do you like toast? Who doesn't. The kitchen, the classroom, and the office just wouldn't be the same without Jeter & Jeter, who between them hold the patents for: the toaster, sheathed scissors, the stapler, the staple remover, the tape rule calculator, multipurpose stationary tool, the simulative toy pencil sharpener and hole punch, the multi-purpose office-use article, the combination of tape measure and pencil sharpener, the carpenter's rule with pencil sharpened, and the medical waste disposal container. Phew!
These ladies are just a few of many whose achievements have changed the way we live today.