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Colors of Innovation

Contemporary African American Inventors

By

Valerie Thomas

Valerie Thomas

NASA
What are contemporary African American scientists and inventors achieving today?

Meridith Groudine

Dr. Meridith Groudine was born in New Jersey in 1929 and grew up in the streets of Harlem and Brooklyn. He attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and received a Ph.D. in Engineering Science from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. Gourdine built a multi-million dollar corporation that is based on his ideas in the field of electrogasdynamics (EGD). Using the principles of EGD, Gourdine successfully converted natural gas to electricity for everyday use. Applications of EGD include refrigeration, desalination of sea water, and reducing the pollutants in smoke. He holds more than 40 patents for various inventions. In 1964, served on the President’s Panel on Energy.

Henry Green Parks, Jr

The aroma of sausage and scrapple cooking in kitchens along the east coast of American has made it a little easier for kids to get up in the morning. With quickened steps to the breakfast table, families enjoy the fruits of the diligence and hard work of Henry Green Parks, Jr. He started the Parks Sausage Company in 1951 using distinctive, tasty southern recipes he developed for sausage and other products.

Parks registered several trademarks, but the radio and television commercial featuring a child’s voice demanding "More Parks Sausages, mom," is probably the most famous. After consumer complaints about the youngster’s perceived disrespect, Parks added the word "please" to his slogan.

The company, with meager beginnings in an abandoned dairy plant in Baltimore, Maryland, and two employees, grew into a multi-million dollar operation with more than 240 employees and annual sales exceeding $14 million. Black Enterprise continually cited H. G. Parks, Inc., as one of the top 100 black firms in the country.

Parks sold his interest in the company for $1.58 million in 1977, but remained on the board of directors until 1980. Parks also served on the corporate boards of Magnovox, First Penn Corp., Warner Lambert Co., and W.R. Grace Co., and was a trustee of Goucher College of Baltimore. He died on April 14, 1989, at the age of 72.

Mark Dean

Mark Dean and his co-inventor Dennis Moeller created a microcomputer system with bus control means for peripheral processing devices. Their invention paved the way for the growth in the information technology industry. We can plug into our computers peripherals like disk drives, video gear, speakers, and scanners. Dean was born in Jefferson City, Tennessee, on March 2, 1957. He received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, his MSEE from Florida Atlantic University, and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Early in his career at IBM, Mark Dean was chief engineer working with IBM personal computers. The IBM PS/2 Models 70 and 80 and the Color Graphic Adapter are among his early work. He holds three of IBM’s original nine PC patents.

Currently, Mark Dean is vice president of performance for the RS/6000 Division. He was named an IBM fellow in 1996 and in 1997, received the Black Engineer of the Year President’s Award. Dean holds more than 20 patents. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1997.

James West

James West, Ph.D., is a Bell Laboratories Fellow at Lucent Technologies where he specializes in electro, physical, and architectural acoustics. His research in the early 1960s led to the development of foil-electret transducers for sound recording and voice communication that are used in 90% of all microphones built today and at the heart of most new telephones being manufactured.

James West holds 47 U.S. and more than 200 foreign patents on microphones and techniques for making polymer foil-electrets. He has authored more than 100 papers and contributed to books on acoustics, solid state physics, and material science. West has received numerous awards including the Golden Torch Award in 1998 sponsored by the National Society of Black Engineers, the Lewis Howard Latimer Light Switch and Socket Award in 1989, and was chosen New Jersey Inventor of the Year for 1995.

Dennis Weatherby

While employed by Procter & Gamble, Dennis Weatherby developed and received a patent for the automatic dishwasher detergent known by the tradename Cascade. He received his Master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Dayton in 1984. Cascade is a registered trademark of the Procter & Gamble Company.

Frank Crossley

Dr. Frank Crossley is a pioneer in the field of titanium metallurgy. He began his work in metals at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago after receiving his graduate degrees in metallurgical engineering. In the 1950s, few African Americans were visible in the engineering fields, but Frank Crossley excelled in his field. He received seven patents, five in titanium base alloys that greatly improved the aircraft and aerospace industry.

Michel Molaire

Originally from Haiti, Michel Molaire is currently a research associate at the Office Imaging Research and Development Group of Eastman Kodak. You can thank him for some of your most treasured Kodak Moments.

Michel Molaire received his B.S. degree in chemistry, M.S. degree in chemical engineering, and M.B.A. degree from the University of Rochester. He has been with Kodak since 1974. After receiving more than 20 patents, Molaire was inducted into Eastman Kodak’s Distinguished Inventor’s Gallery in 1994.

Valerie Thomas

In addition to a long, distinguished career at NASA, Valerie Thomas is also the inventor of an illusion transmitter. Thomas’ invention transmits by cable or electromagnetic means a three-dimensional, real-time image. One day you may be able to watch your favorite entertainers move around your living room while they are performing miles away.
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