The first time I heard of Black History Month, I was in high school. There was a display set up in a trophy case, highlighting some books that had been set aside in the library to mark the month. That was it. But it was just enough to pique my interest.
What I read in those books that day blew my mind. So many of the things I took for granted, were invented by African-Americans — everyday items and innovations, from the simple to the profound, that have permanently changed our lives.
Here are just a few of them:
Imagine life without potato chips — impossible! Potato chips were invented by chef George Crum in 1853. A customer sent back the french fries he’d prepared, complaining that they were cut too thick. Chef Crum took a potato, sliced it as thin as he could and fried the pieces. The result was the first potato chip ever made!
OPEN HEART SURGERY
Open heart surgery is commonplace today, but in 1893? That’s the year African-American cardiologist Daniel Hale Williams performed one of the world’s first open heart surgeries. He repaired the torn pericardium of a patient with a knife wound.
Ever drop a letter in a big blue mailbox? The first mailbox with a drop-hinge door was patented in 1891, by African-American inventor Philip Downing.
Are you a blood donor? Today’s blood banks are the result of the work done by Dr. Charles Drew in the 1930s.
Garrett Morgan invented the gas mask in 1912 and saved countless lives during WWI. He was also the first person to patent the traffic light.
Tick tock goes the clock. In the late 1750’s, Benjamin Banneker, took apart a pocket watch, studied its components and then created the first clock made in the U.S. He made the entire thing out of wooden pieces he carved himself.
Frederick McKinley Jones invented the automatic refrigeration system used in long-haul trucks and railroad cars. He also invented air conditioning units used in military field hospitals, and portable x-ray machines.
Do your kids have a Super Soaker Water Gun? If so, you can thank Lonnie Johnson for creating it in 1988!
SURGICAL STITCHING TECHNIQUE
In 2010, then-15-year-old Tony Hansberry II, a student at a magnet high school for medicine, created a new surgical technique to sew up hysterectomy patients to lessen their risk of complications. Fifteen years old!..
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