Black Innovators Who Influenced Home Electricity
It’s hard to imagine modern life without electricity, but this fascinating phenomenon is still relatively new. Not only that, many of its original innovators remain unnamed and unknown in most conversations about the history of electricity. In honor of Black History Month, this blog will explore the groundbreaking Black inventors whose contributions are still essential today. From Lewis Latimer, heralded as the “Edison of Electric Lighting,” to Marie Van Brittan Brown and her home security system – these three individuals left an immense legacy that deserves recognition.
Lewis Latimer and the Electric Lightbulb
Lewis Howard Latimer was born in 1848. Without any formal education, he was able to teach himself mechanical drawing. Not only did he work with famous inventors Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, but Lewis Latimer invented his own contributions to home electricity.
Through working with Hiram Maxim, he familiarized himself with electric incandescent lighting and later helped invent carbon filaments for the lightbulb. Through his work, Lewis Latimer created a light bulb that could burn much longer than the standard bulbs of 1883. After working for Thomas Edison’s electric company, he published a book about the field.
James E. West and the Electret Condenser Microphone
James E. West is best known for creating the electret condenser microphone. Microphones are not just used for music or announcements. Smart home devices, cameras, recording devices, and even hearing aids must all use some form of condenser microphone to carry sound.
Currently, James E. West’s condenser microphone can be found in almost 90% of all microphones to this very day. This is because the technology of this instrument allows the device to be small in size. The dielectric material ensures the quality of the microphone so it can be used for multiple years.
There are several different types of electret microphones. The diaphragm type is used most often but also has the lowest quality. The front and back electret refer to the film plates that connect with the transducer. James E. West, along with Gerhard Sessler, created a way that condenser microphones can work without the requirement of polarizing voltage.
Marie Van Brittan Brown and Home Security
Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the first home security system in 1966. While her system may look very different from digital home camera systems today, her technology provided a critical stepping stone for modern technology to keep families safe.
Because of where she lived at the time, Marie Van Brittan Brown created the home security system to keep herself safe. Her system relied on two-way communication and an alarm button that would signal the police when pressed. A voice component was established so homeowners could speak to outside guests or potential intruders. If the guest was deemed trustworthy, they could be allowed into the home with a remote-controlled lock. This voice component is similar to many modern security systems.
Marie Van Brittan Brown was given an award by the National Scientists Committee in 1969 for her potentially life-saving invention. Since then, her patent has been referenced by other inventors. Her security system is still providing a service to systems that have long since gone digital. With her patented technology, homes and businesses are considerably more secure. With one click of a button, help can be signaled quietly and discreetly from inside the building.
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