Go Back

Celebrating Black Inventors in the Electrical Field

Meet Three Inventors Who Changed the Modern Home

Since humankind decided that living in a cave was a drag, humans have been on a never-ending mission to find safer and more comfortable dwellings. Progress stalled for thousands of years when humans were content to weather the winter by sitting around a fire in the dark, huddled against the cold. But that changed with the discovery and harnessing of a power that had only been seen in thunderstorms: electricity. 

Once electricity was better understood, its full potential was quickly realized. Almost immediately, people set out to make artificial lighting, telecommunication devices, and systems to promote security. Black History Month is a great time to celebrate the inventors that contributed to revolutionizing electricity use in modern dwellings. Here are three of the most influential black inventors of the last century. 

Lewis Latimer and Carbon Filaments 

lewisLewis Latimer was one of the most prolific inventors during the Age of Industrialization. After being discharged from the US Navy after the Civil War, he became a draftsman. His skill as a draftsman was quickly put to use by other inventors like Alexander Graham Bell, where Latimer helped to draft the sketches that would become the telephone patent. 

After being involved with cutting-edge communication, he came to be employed by one of Thomas Edison’s rivals. While employed under Hiram Maxim, he revolutionized carbon filaments for light bulbs and the process of making them, reducing the cost of production, making them more affordable to the masses, and increasing their durability and longevity. Edison recognized his talent and hired him to write and translate books on lighting and research data. 

James West Revolutionizes the Microphone 

jamesFor over 40 years, the electret microphone was theorized, but no one could devise a workable design. From the earliest attempts at communication, carbon microphones were used. These had poor sound quality, so the race was on to find suitable alternatives. In the 1920s, new microphone designs drastically improved sound quality, but it wasn’t until 1961, with the invention of the electret microphone, that pure sound transmission was achieved. 

James West and Gerhard Sessler developed a highly sensitive microphone for research. Obtaining a patent for their work, they realized their new microphone would revolutionize communications. Today, almost 90% of all microphones used are based on their designs, from the microphones in cell phones to smart home devices and hearing aids. 

Marie Van Brittan Brown Invents the Home Security System 

Living in Queens, NY, in the 1960s was dangerous, and for Marie Van Brittan Brown and her husband, keeping their home safe was particularly difficult. Being a nurse herself and her husband being an electronics technician, they worked odd hours, which left their home vulnerable to break-ins. So, they put their heads together and used their knowledge to develop the first electronic home security system. 

While the home security system would be considered rudimentary by today’s standards, several of her ideas are still in use. Her system used closed-circuit cameras to monitor who was at the door. Additionally, she had a two-way speaker system to speak to visitors without opening the door. Her patent for the design was awarded in 1969, and families everywhere continue to stay safe in their homes because of modern security systems based on her work.  

About Gillece Services

Gillece Services offers a full range of trades for the home. They offer upfront pricing, and their technicians can be reached anytime, day or night, for emergency electrical, plumbing, heating, or air conditioning problems. Call them today for electrical services in Pittsburgh, PA.