Alexander Miles
  Elijah McCoy
Lewis Latimer
  Jan Ernst Matzeliger
  Granville T. Woods
  George Washington Carver
  Madam C. J. Walker
  Garrett Morgan
  Dr. Charles Richard Drew
  Otis Boykin
  James E. West
  Dr. Patricia Bath
  Lonnie G. Johnson
  Mark Dean

Famous African American Inventors

Courtesy of the Queens Borough Public Library, Long Island Division, Lewis H. Latimer Collection

Lewis Latimer


Latimer made the lightbulb more practical and contributed to the invention of the first telephone.

Background: Latimer was born in Chelsea, Mass. His parents were slaves who had escaped from Virginia. His father, George Latimer, was tried for being a runaway in an extremely famous case, but was ultimately allowed to remain in Massachusetts as a free man.

Lewis Latimer enlisted in the Navy at age fifteen. When the Civil War ended, he returned to Boston and taught himself mechanical drawing while working at a patent law firm.

Invention: Latimer worked with the famous inventor Hiram Maxim at the U.S. Electric Lighting Company. While working there in 1881, Latimer patented a carbon filament for the incandescent lightbulb. The invention helped make electric lighting practical and affordable for the average household.

Did You Know? Latimer kept great company in his career. In addition to working with Maxim, Latimer drafted the drawings that Alexander Graham Bell used to patent the first telephone in 1876. He also worked for Thomas Edison.