Before Black History Month comes to a close, Bishop Diehl & Lee would like to celebrate by recognizing some of the leading African American inventors of our time.

Dr. Patricia Bath
As a young girl growing up in New York City, Dr. Bath had a strong affinity for science.  Encouraged by her parents, she graduated high school in two years and moved on to Hunter College, where she received her bachelor’s degree.  Bath went on to graduate from Howard University Medical School with honors and received a fellowship in ophthalmology from Columbia University.  Aside from her most impressive academic achievements, Dr. Bath was also an inventor.  In 1981, with the use of laser technology, she invented a more precise and less painful way to treat cataracts.  The Laserphaco Probe made Dr. Bath the first African American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose.

Dennis Weatherby
Dennis Weatherby was an African American inventor born in Brighton, Alabama.  He graduated from Central State University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and went on to the University of Dayton to receive his master’s degree in chemical engineering.  After his graduate studies, he secured a job with Procter & Gamble where he helped develop a solution consisting of category dyes which could be used in products containing bleach.  He was also able to give the soap a lemon-yellow color which prevented dishes and dishwashers from developing stains from the dyes.  On Dec. 22, 1987, Mr. Weatherby along with his co-inventor Brian J. Roselle, received a patent for their unique dishwasher detergent composition.  This composition is still the basic formula for many lemon-scented, bleach containing, cleaning products today.

Valerie Thomas
Originally from Maryland, Valerie Thomas fell in love with science at a very young age.  However, at that time, women were still encouraged to pursue more traditional roles.  Nevertheless, she decided to attend Morgan State University and became one of only two women in her class majoring in physics.  After Morgan State, she obtained a position as a mathematical/data analyst for NASA.  In 1976, she was inspired by a scientific exhibit using a concave mirror to produce the illusion of a glowing light bulb that had been removed from a lamp.  She used this inspiration to create and patent an illusion transmitter, which uses concave mirrors on both the producing end and receiving end to create optical illusion images.  Not only does NASA currently use this technology, but it also has potential applications in medicine and entertainment which are being researched today.

James West
Born in Virginia, James West had a fascination with taking apart appliances and understanding how they worked.  He knew he wanted to pursue science academically, so he attended Temple University to study physics.  After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in physics, he was hired at Bell Labs as an acoustical scientist.  While at Bell, he along with fellow scientist Gerhard M. Sessler, developed an inexpensive, highly sensitive, compact microphone.  This technology went on to become the industry standard and is still used in 90 percent of all contemporary microphones.  He currently holds over 250 foreign and U.S. patents.

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