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10 Black Innovators and Technologists Who Helped Uplift History

Many everyday essentials, from caller ID to traffic lights, came from the creative minds of Black innovators, inventors and leaders.
By VMware
Black Innovators

Black Americans play a profound role in shaping the world’s technology. Many everyday essentials, from caller ID to traffic lights, came from the creative minds of Black technology inventors, innovators and leaders.

At VMware, we pride ourselves on innovation. So, in honor of Black History Month, we decided to highlight some of the all-time greatest Black engineers, scholars and entrepreneurs. These individuals profoundly progressed science, the tech industry and daily life.

1. Dr. Mark E. Dean

"Throughout all of his work, he focused on predicting where computing was headed. Dean was right on target in the late '90s, when he was dreaming up a magazine-sized tablet that could accept voice commands, play media and replace your PC. He predicted that we'd see that within 10 years, which was pretty much in line with the iPad's debut in 2010." - Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor, Engadget

Ever heard of Dr. Mark E. Dean? He’s a Silicon Valley legend who co-invented the color IBM PC monitor and gigahertz chip. Dean also holds three of IBM’s nine original patents.

2. Dr. James E. West

Did you know that more than 90% of the microphones today, including those in phones and cameras, use technology co-invented by Dr. James E. West? After a long career as an acoustical scientist, West became an educator and advocate for diversity in the sciences.

3. Garrett A. Morgan

The light must be green because these innovations are a go! Today, we celebrate Garrett A. Morgan for patented inventions, including the three-position traffic signal and the first gas mask.

4. Lisa Gelobter

Get ready to reply with your favorite GIF in celebration. Lisa Gelobter was integrally involved with the advent of Shockwave. The technology formed the beginning of web animation, which performed 3.1 billion calculations per second. After working with major organizations (like Hulu, BET and The White House), Gelobter founded tEQuitable, a platform to address bias, harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

5. Dr. Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr.

Dr. Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr. is an acclaimed mathematician and scholar, who contributed to a greater understanding of atomic energy. As the University of Chicago’s youngest student, Wilkins earned a doctorate by age 19. Wilkins’ research in nuclear physics helped explain how gamma radiation works and how to shield the harmful rays.

6. Lewis H. Latimer

Many are familiar with Thomas Edison, but have you ever heard the name Lewis H. Latimer? Edison is often credited with inventing the light bulb. In actuality, Latimer was one of many working to perfect commercial lighting.

7. Janet E. Bashen

Meet Janet E. Bashen, the first Black woman to receive a patent for a web-based software solution. Bashen’s patented invention, LinkLine, is an equal employment opportunity case management and tracking software.

8. Dr. Edward A. Bouchet

Dr. Edward A. Bouchet is the first Black American to hold a doctorate in any subject from an American university. Bouchet earned a doctorate in physics from Yale University in 1876. As an educator later in life, Bouchet continued nurturing other Black students in the sciences.

9. Mary W. Jackson

Mary W. Jackson became NASA’s first Black female engineer in 1958 (yes, the one and the same portrayed in the movie “Hidden Figures”). Jackson contributed to research on aerodynamics for decades. She also “worked hard to impact the hiring and promotion of the next generation of all of NASA’s female mathematicians, engineers and scientists.”

10. Dr. Frank S. Greene, Jr.

Dr. Frank S. Greene, Jr. is considered one of the first Black technologists, earning Greene a place in the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame. Greene worked on developing high-speed semiconductor computer memory systems in the 1960s. Greene also founded the software companies Technology Development Corp. and ZeroOne Systems, Inc., as well as venture firm NewVista Capital.

Previously posted on VMware's Radius: Stories at the Edge and 3BL Media news.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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VMware accelerates its customers’ digital transformation journey by enabling enterprises to master a software-defined approach to business and IT. With VMware solutions, organizations are creating exceptional experiences by mobilizing everything, responding faster to opportunities with modern data and apps hosted across hybrid clouds, and safeguarding customer trust with a defense-in-depth approach to cybersecurity. VMware is a member of the Dell Technologies family of businesses.

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