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

Charles B. Brooks

While most people will never actually get behind the wheel of a self-propelled street sweeper, without the Brooks-designed truck — equipped with trash-and-debris-pushing brushes — city streets would probably be much less clean. The Newark, New Jersey, native’s two other successful 1890s patents included dust-proof collection bags for his street sweeper, as well as a ticket punch that collected the tiny circular paper discards instead … Continue reading Charles B. Brooks

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist, poet and award-winning author known for her acclaimed 1969 memoir, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ and her numerous poetry and essay collections. Who Was Maya Angelou? Maya Angelou was an American author, actress, screenwriter, dancer, poet and civil rights activist best known for her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made literary history … Continue reading Maya Angelou

Thomas L. Jennings

The aforementioned first African American U.S. patent recipient was working as a tailor and businessman in New York City when he invented a process for dry-cleaning delicate clothing known as “dry-scouring.” Jennings applied for a patent in 1820 and received his history-making approval the following year. With the money he earned from his invention, the formerly enslaved person both donated to abolitionist causes and even … Continue reading Thomas L. Jennings