Marie Van Brittan Brown

Also a New York City resident, Marie Van Brittan Brown created an early version of the modern home security system more than a century later. Feeling unsafe due to her neighborhood’s high crime rate, the full-time nurse rigged a motorized camera to record her home entryway and project images onto a TV monitor. Also included in her setup was a two-way microphone in order to … Continue reading Marie Van Brittan Brown

Alexander Miles

Anyone who’s ridden modern elevators has Alexander Miles to thank for the stair alternative’s automatic doors. Prior to his design’s 1867 patent, riders had to manually open and close two sets of doors when entering and exiting elevator cars. If a passenger happened to forget to close one of the doors, subsequent elevator riders risked a potentially fatal fall down the elevator shaft. Because, as … Continue reading Alexander Miles

Dr. Patricia Bath

A true visionary, Dr. Patricia Bath became the first female African American medical doctor to receive a medical patent when she invented a laser cataract treatment device called a Laserphaco Probe in 1986. (Bath was also the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology.) The co-founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness patented her invention in 1988. Per: History Continue reading Dr. Patricia Bath

Elijah McCoy

Of the 57 patents Elijah McCoy — reportedly the namesake for the popular, complimentary phrase “the real McCoy” — received over his lifetime, the portable ironing board (for which he received patent approval in May 1874) may be one of the most timeless. As the story goes, having to iron on uneven surfaces frustrated his wife, Mary Eleanor Delaney, and so he created the ironing board to … Continue reading Elijah McCoy

Alice H. Parker

The central heating furnace design that Alice H. Parker patented in December 1919 made use of natural gas for the first time to keep homes warm and toasty. Inspiring her innovation: the limited efficiency of fireplaces (along with the smoke and ash they produce) during the cold winters at her Morristown, New Jersey, house. Many modern homes still employ a similar forced air heating system … Continue reading Alice H. Parker