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

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Lonnie G. Johnson

(1949– )

He was an engineer for NASA, but Johnson may be most famous for inventing the Super Soaker!

Background: Johnson was born in Mobile, Ala., and attended college at Tuskegee University. After completing his master's degree, he joined the U.S. Air Force.

Invention: Johnson began working as an engineer for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1979. During his time at NASA, Johnson worked on the Galileo mission to Jupiter, the Mars Observer project, and the Cassini mission to Saturn. He earned multiple awards from NASA for his spacecraft control systems.

But Johnson is possibly best known for inventing the Super Soaker water gun. The inspiration hit him while he was working on an eco-friendly heat pump. "I accidentally shot a stream of water across a bathroom where I was doing the experiment and thought to myself, 'This would make a great gun'," Johnson said. The Super Soaker's success allowed him to work for himself and fund his own research in green technology. Johnson holds more than 100 patents.

Did You Know? Johnson considers a robot that he built in high school one of his top three inventions, along with the Super Soaker and his work for the Galileo project.