8 Brilliant African American Inventors You Need to Know About

February is Black History Month, a time for us all to reflect on and highlight the incredible, but often overlooked, contributions that brilliant African American scientists, activists, freedom fighters, teachers, doctors, etc. have made towards the success of this great nation and their own communities.

Today, we’re remembering these 8 African American inventors who shaped the world we live in today.

#1. Jan Ernst Matzeliger

Photo Credit: Public Domain

The common person struggled to afford shoes in the 19th century, but that fact changed when Dutch Guiana immigrant Jan Ernst Matzeliger invented an automated machine that attached a shoe’s upper part to its sole. The device could make 700 pairs of shoes a day, while a worker was only able to sew about 50.

The lowered production costs led to lower shoe prices, and the average American foot thanked him.

#2. Mark E. Dean

Photo Credit: University of Tennessee

Dean was a computer scientists and engineer who worked for IBM leading the team that designed the ISA bus – a hardware interface that allowed multiple devices like printers, modems, and keyboards to all be plugged into a computer.

He also helped develop the first color computer monitor, and in 1999 helped create the world’s first gigahertz chip. He holds 3 of IBM’s original 9 patents and 20 overall.

He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1997 and is currently a professor at the University of Tennessee.

#3. George Carruthers

Photo Credit: Public Domain

An astrophysicist who spent his career working with the Space Science Division of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., George Carruthers is most famous for creating the ultraviolet camera/spectograph. NASA used the technology to launch Apollo 16 in 1972, and it helped prove that molecular hydrogen existed in space. It was used again in 1974 to help scientists observe Halley’s Comet on the U.S.’s first space station.

He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2003.

#4. Dr. Patricia Bath

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Dr. Bath revolutionized the field of ophthalmology by inventing a device that refined laser cataract surgery. She patented the Laserphaco Probe in 1988 and is the first female African American doctor to receive a medical patent.

Her research on health disparities between African American patients and other patients created a new discipline called community ophthalmology. She and other volunteers continue to offer primary care and treatment to under-served populations.

#5. Marie Van Brittan Brown

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A nurse and inventor, Marie Van Brittan Brown invented a precursor to the modern home TV security system. Her invention was born of a desire to feel safe in her NYC neighborhood, where she and her husband developed a way for a motorized camera to project images onto a TV monitor.

They filed for their patent in 1966 and it was approved in 1969.

#6. Thomas L. Jennings

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Jennings was the first African American person to receive a U.S. patent – he invented an early method of dry cleaning in 1821. He fought for his right as a free man to apply for and receive the patent despite his skin color and paved the way for future inventors of color to gain rights for their own inventions.

He used the money he earned to free the rest of his family and to donate to abolitionist causes.

#7. Alexander Miles

Photo Credit: Pixabay

We don’t know much about the life of Alexander Miles, who lived from 1830-1918, other than the fact that he was living in Duluth, MN, when he designed the first automatic doors for elevators. The safety feature saved travelers from accidentally falling into the shaft as they manually opened and closed the doors, and today’s elevators use similar technology.

#8. Charles Richard Drew

Dr. Drew with his wife and children
Photo Credit: NIH

Charles Richard Drew was a surgeon who created America’s first major blood banks. He studied transfusion medicine and refined key methods of collecting, processing, and storing plasma.

He’s also responsible for introducing “bloodmobiles,” and was the first African American doctor chosen as an examiner for the American Board of Surgery.

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Undiscovered King Arthur and Merlin Stories Found Hidden in Medieval Texts

The tales of King Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table, and his wizard Merlin have regaled children around the world for hundreds of years. If you happen to be a Camelot-ophile yourself, you may be thrilled to hear that we may be getting more stories soon, thanks to academic Michael Richardson.

Richardson was scouring the University of Bristol’s Special Collections Library for new reading materials for the university’s master’s program in Medieval Studies, when he found something totally unexpected.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Inside some of the 16th century books he was thumbing through were seven  hand-written parchment fragments that contained, upon closer examination, new renderings of the King Arthur, Merlin, and the Holy Grail legends.

Richardson contacted Leah Tether, the President of the International Arthurian Society, and together they found the fragments told familiar – though at times significantly different – stories. Tether expounded on their findings in a statement.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

“These fragments of the Story of Merlin are a wonderfully exciting find, which may have implications for the study not just of this text but also of other related and later texts that have shaped our modern understanding of the Arthurian legend.”

The new fragments depict longer, more detailed accounts of the stories of Arthur, Merlin, and Gawain preparing for battle against Lancelot’s father, King Claudas, and include many unique details.

The fragments were found in books that are believed to have been printed in Strasbourg between 1494 and 1502, and then sent to England unbound. Researchers believe the Arthurian parchments were probably used as extra material during the binding process in order to save money.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Based on the content of the parchments, Tether and others theorize they come from an old French text called the Vulgate Cycle (aka the Lacelot-Grail Cycle), which were used as the primary source for the work of Sir Thomas Mallory. He penned the most famous account of King Arthur – the one that inspired most modern retellings of the tales – Le Morte D’Arthur.

“Time and research will reveal what further secrets about the legends of Arthur, Merlin and the Holy Grail these fragments might hold,” says Tether.

King Arthur fans around the world, rejoice!

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Pineapples Were Once So Expensive, People Rented Them by the Hour

Pineapples are available almost year-round in most grocery stores across the United States these days, but it wasn’t always this way. Pineapples actually have quite a long and storied history. They weren’t always as readily available as they are today, and much like anything that’s simultaneously desirable and scarce, they quickly became a symbol of wealth and status.

Between the 16th and 18th century in Europe, pineapples were actually so rare that they were put on display like fine works of art. It’s hard to estimate how much a single, whole pineapple would have cost in today’s money, guesses range between $5k-$10k – definitely not chump change for something that would eventually rot. So, why was it that valuable?

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The pineapple is indigenous to South America, which is where Europeans first encountered it. The European royals loved the fruit for its natural sweetness, but having them imported was hit-or-miss. Only the fastest ships (and ideal weather conditions) would deliver the fruit while still edible, while finding a way to grow it back home turned out to be an expensive – and not at all simple – endeavor.

We don’t know who, exactly, was responsible for first growing a pineapple in a non-tropical climate, but the consensus is that it happened in Holland in the late 1600s. The Dutch West India Company had a stranglehold on Caribbean trade that allowed them to import pineapple plants to experiment on, which almost certainly led to them being the first ones to crack the growing-tropical-fruit-in-the-cold problem.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

In fact, Dutch cloth merchant Pieter de la Court invented the hotroom – spaces kept warm and humid – to try and accomplish the task. His design worked, though issues with ventilation, the release of hot fumes, and the stability of soil and air temperatures all presented constant and evolving challenges.

England wanted pineapples, too, and so sent men to Holland in search of the secret to putting the tropical fruit on royal tables on a much more regular basis. It would be many years, however, before a pineapple was grown on English soil – and when it was (around 1715), it was a Dutchman named Henry Telende who accomplished the feat.

His method, which involved a hothouse, special soil, pits lined with pebbles, manure, and tanners bark, was a delicate balance even in the best of times, but once he got it down to a science, more English were able to afford the fruits. But even though pineapples became more available, many nobles still declined to eat something they were spending so much cash on. Instead of serving the fruit to guests, they would display the pineapples around their homes.

For lesser nobles and regular rich people (as opposed to filthy rich people), it became fashionable to rent a pineapple just for a party, then pass it around to others having parties before returning the fruit to the person who could actually afford to eat it (if they so chose).

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The fact that refined sugar was also a rare and expensive commodity only added to the allure of actually eating the fruit. Charles II was said to love pineapple – both because of its sweetness and partly because he thought the fruit looked to be wearing a tiny crown (he referred to it as “King-pine”).

People remained obsessed with the pineapple well into the colonial period, and you’ll see it carved into any number of wooden and stone pieces in both the old and new world. The fruit remained a symbol of wealth, and eventually morphed into a symbol of hospitality as well.

Fun fact: this is why you’ll still find pineapple designs on bedposts, gateposts, bath towels, and other items often left out for guests.

Fun fact #2: in colonial times, serving a pineapple upside-down cake would be a subtle way of suggesting your guests were overstaying their welcome and should make plans to depart.

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8 Facts to Know About W.E.B. Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois was a highly influential activist and scholar who lived during the time between the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. Unfortunately, as has too often been the case with prominent African-Americans of that era, his contributions have been largely relegated to history books instead of celebrated the way they deserve to be.

In the spirit of Black History Month, here are 8 things you should learn about W.E.B. Du Bois.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

1. He wrote The Souls of Black Folk.

The book was a collection of sociological essays that discussed the challenges of life as an African American. One essay discussed the death of his first child, who passed from diphtheria after Du Bois spent the night looking for one of the three black doctors in Atlanta, as no white doctors would treat his son.

2. He opposed Booker T. Washington.

Du Bois publicly opposed Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise,” which placed vocational access over equality. In response, Du Bois helped found the Niagara Movement, which advocated for equal rights.

The founders of the Niagara Movement, with Du Bois in the middle row wearing the white hat
Photo Credit: Public Domain

3. He published a groundbreaking study in 1899.

His study, “The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study,” was the first major case study of a black community and one of the first data-driven social science studies.

4. He organized Pan-African Conferences.

He helped organize several Pan-African Conferences to fight racism and help end European colonialism.

5. He was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University and studied abroad at the University of Berlin in 1892. He earned his Ph.D. in 1895.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

6. He co-founded the NAACP.

Du Bois co-founded the NAACP in 1909. He acted as the organization’s director of publicity and research until 1934.

7. He became a citizen of Ghana.

Du Bois moved to Ghana at the invitation of the country’s president and became a citizen, although he never renounced his American citizenship.

Du Bois (middle) at his 95th birthday party in Ghana, 1963

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

8. He died the day before the “I Have a Dream Speech.”

Du Bois died at age 95 in Ghana on August 27, 1963. The next day Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his iconic speech at the March on Washington.

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Here’s How Some of History’s Most Successful People Started Their Mornings

Everyone has their morning routines, and starting your day off on the right foot is vital to the success of your day. Some of us find it a lot harder to start our days out productively, but it’s a new year so what better time than now to get inspired for a little self-improvement?

And, what better place to get started than taking advice from some of history’s most successful people? Here are morning routines from some names you will definitely recognize. It might be time to incorporate some of these tasks into your daily routine.

1. Meditate.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Morning meditation can help get your head on straight and help you focus on what you need to achieve throughout the upcoming day. It also helps reduce anxiety.

Philosopher Immanuel Kant was a huge proponent of meditating each morning before he began his work day.

2. Treat yourself.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Even though it may feel like you’re procrastinating, doing something that you enjoy or that helps you relax each morning is very important. Before jumping into their work days, Freud had a barber trim his beard each morning, and Napoleon and Mozart spent a good amount of time primping and getting dressed.

3. Make a new resolution each morning.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Let’s look to Benjamin Franklin for this one. One of America’s greatest figures followed the same routine each day: He arose at 5 a.m. and said to himself, “What good shall I do this day?” Make each day count, just like Mr. Franklin did!

4. Take a walk.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Is there anything more relaxing and mind-clearing than taking a long walk? I think not, and I’m in good company. Charles Darwin and Georgia O’Keeffe are two examples of brilliant minds who took morning walks in order to get the creative juices flowing.

5. Work from your bed.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This one may sound a little odd, but look at the proof: The legendary French writer Voltaire regularly worked from bed and he was incredibly productive during his life, writing more than 50 plays. He was known to work 18 hour days, too, so he was clearly not a lazy guy.

Winston Churchill was also a prolific bed worker, working from there for hours each morning.

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8 Fun Facts to Spruce Up Your Conversation Skills

If you’re the type of person who gets nervous during conversations for lack of something interesting to say, fear not – we’ve got you covered. These fun facts are great at starting or maintaining conversations, whether it’s at a work function, or just to impress a guy or gal at your local bar.

So you have my permission to use these in conversation as you see fit. Good luck!

1. Not the same story

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2. Based on history

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4. No more edits

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5. Bet you didn’t know that

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6. That’s a long way to travel

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7. GW

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8. That’s why that happens

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Brilliant Map of Indigenous Lands Shows Whose Property You’re Currently Occupying

Holidays like Thanksgiving and Columbus Day, along with the way we teach colonization of the Americas in general, have all come under scrutiny over the last few years, and not without reason — the true roles of indigenous peoples is almost entirely glossed over and watered down. One effort to amend that has been for some communities choosing to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on October 8th instead of Columbus Day.

But there’s much more we can all do to educate ourselves and our children about the people who populated North America before European settlers arrived.

Enter this pretty cool use of Google Maps, created by a company called Native-Land. It shows you which Indigenous tribes resided in what parts of the country over the centuries.

Photo Credit: Native-Land.ca

But the maps include more than the Americas.

Hold onto your hats, Aussies and New Zealanders.

Photo Credit: Native-Land.ca

Canadian developer Victor G Temprano started the company in 2015 during a time of a lot of local development projects, according to the company’s website:

While mapping out pipeline projects and learning more about them for the sake of public awareness, I started to ask myself whose territories all these projects were happening on. Once I started finding the geographic data and mapping, well, it just kind of exploded from there.

Photo Credit: Native-Land.ca

Controversial development projects like the Trans Mountain and Dakota Access pipelines not only helped him to be more culturally aware, it made him wonder where else modernization might be infringing on native lands.

He continues to explain on the site:

I feel that Western maps of Indigenous nations are very often inherently colonial, in that they delegate power according to imposed borders that don’t really exist in many nations throughout history. They were rarely created in good faith, and are often used in wrong ways.

Photo Credit: Native-Land.ca

The maps are not part of any academic project and feature input from users that causes them to change constantly, but Temprano did recently announce that he’s hired a research assistant to ensure all of the information is as accurate and complete as possible.

It’s a great site to visit with your kids around the holidays or anytime you want to discuss cultural appropriation and western civilization.

As one does.

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10 of the Most Brutal Revenge Stories in History

Confession time: I’m actually a bit of a history nerd (or buff, if you prefer). History is full of so many interesting moments if you know where to look.

So go ahead and thank these 10 people in advance for telling some pretty amazing, true historical stories, this time about revenge.

#1. The best and the wisest out of the way

“Princess Olga of Kiev. Her husband was murdered by the Drevlians. So she was in charge of the city. Then the Drevlians wanted her to marry their prince. They sent 20 of their best men to convince her to marry their prince. She had them buried alive.

She then sent a message that she accepted the proposal, but required the Drevlians to send their best men to accompany her on her journey in order for the common people to accept the transition.

They sent the best and wisest men who governed their land. When they arrived she sent them up and offered them a bath house to get cleaned up and relax after the long journey. Once inside she barred the doors and burned it down.

With the best and wisest out of the way, she invited more of them over for a funeral service. And somehow not sensing the trap, 5,000 of them showed up. Once they were good and drunk she had her men kill all of them.

She then placed their city under siege. And after several days she asked for 3 pigeons and 3 sparrows from each household, claiming she didn’t want to burden their city any further. The people happily complied.

Olga then had her soldiers each take a bird and attach a burning coal to it (somehow) and released the birds and they all flew back to the city and it burned to the ground.

Damn it’s good to be gangster.”

#2. The Indian Slayer

“Maybe not the most satisfying but, the story of Tom Quick the Indian Slayer is pretty insane and fucked up. The Quick’s were one of the first white families to settle on the Delaware river near Milford PA. Initially they had good relation with the natives but after a group of them killed Tom Quick Sr., Jr. swore he would never rest until he killed the entire Lenape tribe, who were responsible. He supposedly killed 99 of them in his lifetime and on his death bed asked his son to bring him one more so he could make it an even 100. His son refused but after his death members of the Lenape stole his body, cut it up and sent parts to all the neighboring clans. Each clan had a pow-wow where they burnt their part of the body as a celebration of the death of their long time foe. The only problem was Tom Quick died of small pox and these pow-wow effectively spread the illness to nearly the entirely of the Lenape people. He swore he wouldn’t rest until he destroyed the tribe and in death, he did just that.

Here’s a write up from 1851 that paints him as a hero: http://www.jrbooksonline.com/HTML-docs/tom_quick_1851.htm”

#3. The men who killed his father

“Frank Eaton, who became a sharpshooter when he was 15 by outshooting everyone at a nearby fort, then personally hunted and shot down all the men who killed his father. One of the men was killed before Eaton could get to him, so he went to his funeral to make sure he was dead.”

#4. Long game revenge

“Count of monte Cristo is a pretty good one. That book is practically a standard for long game revenge.”

#5. A queen’s vengeance


(According to Tacitus’ version of events which are much more fucking metal).

Boudica, as queen of the Iceni after the death of her husband King Prasutagus, saw the Romans rape her daughters, confiscate her lands and then publicly flog her. So doing the sensible thing, she raises an army and marches on Camulodunum (Colchester) in AD60.

She massacres the population, methodically burns the city, and displays the bodies for miles around. After effectively destroying the IX Legion sent to relieve it, she marches on Londinium (London). This she also burns, to such an extent that a fine red layer of pottery fragments and brick ash is visible under London’s streets, and then does the same to Verulamium (St. Albans).

Boudica is only finally defeated by Governor Suetonius Paulinus, who marches down from his campaigns in Wales to halt her at the Battle of Wattling Street in AD. 61. By this point though, she’d killed around 80,000 Roman citizens and auxiliaries.”

#6. Without retribution

“The Cask of Amontillado, specifically because of the main character’s insistence on not only having revenge, but having it without retribution, and such that Fortunado knew that it was him who did it.”

#7. Not history, but it’s too good to leave out

“The giving tree.”

#8. Too sore to defend themselves

“The story of Dinah from the Old Testament.

TL;DR- Dude rapes girl, then asks her family to marry her. Family says sure, but all of your people need to be circumsized first.

After the circumcisions happened, the family fell on them and slaughtered the men while they were too sore to defend themselves.”

#9. Rural American Punisher

“Buford Hayse Pusser, he was sheriff, they killed his wife and he went on a one man war to rid his county of all crime. He was basically rural America Punisher.”

#10. A pretty good one

“Titus Andronicus is a pretty good one and an overall interesting book.”

I’m off to fall into a Wikipedia hole!

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10+ Facts About Climate Change That’ll Light a Fire Under Your A**

Climate change is REAL! Seriously.  I know some people like to claim it isn’t, but the science is pretty damning. We need to take drastic action, collectively as a species, and we need to do it fast. Hopefully, these alarming facts will make you pay more attention to the issue.

1. Virus

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2. The Pole is moving

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3. Renewable

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4. Fascinating

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5. Brilliant girls

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6. Recycle!

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7. A major event

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8. Let’s do it!

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9. A good example

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10. Achieve that goal!

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11. With his own eyes

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12. WOW

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13. Ecocapsule

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14. Hopefully things have changed in the past few years

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15. Terrible

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Wake up, people! And do your part!

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10 Facts About America’s Presidents That Most People Don’t Know

Donald Trump is America’s 45th President, but did you know that he’s only the 44th man to have ever held that distinction? That’s because Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms, so he’s counted twice. Now there’s a way to remember Grover Cleveland – the President so nice, they counted him twice!

Here are some interesting facts about some of those men who once held the highest position in the land.

1. That’s why he had a beard

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Okay, that’s adorable.

2. Come here, Satan!

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I love this.

3. Academic

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Is there nothing this man can’t do?

4. Never elected

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Ford had friends in high places.

5. JFK and Santa

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Well, as long as he checked with Santa first…

6. First!

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Of course Obama would want to move a woman forward.

7. What a coincidence

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They also happened to be good friends.

8. Left that one off

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He was humble even in death.

9. American Badass

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Now that’s what I call a US President.

10. Foresight

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Well, that was quite brilliant.

How many of those did you know?

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