As part of our Black History Month celebrations at Extreme Networks, our employee resource group Black at Extreme (BEX) has been highlighting African American inventors and technologists that have made an impact on society. It’s been a great exercise and many of us have learned something new. With National Inventor’s Day approaching on 2/11, I wanted to highlight some of the inventors we’ve been celebrating that you might not know, but definitely should.
For instance, did you know that an African American woman was behind the math and orbital mechanics to analyze the flight paths of some of NASA’s most successful missions? Or that a Black man in the 1800s patented the telephone transmitter that would pave the way for modern telephones? Did you know that the inventor of Industry Standard Architecture also helped develop the first color PC monitor and first gigahertz chip? What about the first team from Bell Laboratories to introduce digital cellular technology in the United States was led by a Black engineer? Or that the home security system you have installed is actually an improvement on the original closed-circuited system co-invented by an African American nurse who wanted to feel safe when her husband wasn’t home at night?
If you weren’t aware of the above, I implore you to learn more about each of these inventors and their contributions to society, below!
Katherine Johnson grew up determined to leave a positive impact in the fight against racism. Katherine was one of the first African American women to work as a NASA scientist. She used her skills in math and orbital mechanics to analyze flight paths of spacecrafts, including many of the first US flights. Some of these flights included Apollo, the first mission to Mars, Project Mercury, and later in her career the Freedom 7 which was the flight that sent Alan B. Shepard Jr. to space making him the first American to visit outer space.
Granville Wood grew up in Ohio and started working in his teens as a railroad engineer in steel shops and on the railroad tracks. Wood patented his invention of the telephone transmitter – which was later purchased by Alexander Bell. This telegraph invention paved the way for more modern telephones to later be produced. His invention also decreased train accidents since communications increased and were faster.
Mark E. Dean was born in Tennessee and grew up loving to construct things alongside his father. He went to the University of Tennessee for engineering and graduated at the top of his class. After college, Dean secured a job at IBM where he became a prominent name in the company. Dean invented the Industry Standard Architecture that allowed disk drives, printers, and monitors to be plugged directly into computers. Following that invention, he also worked on major projects such as developing the first color PC monitor and gigahertz chip. Dean was the first African American to become an IBM fellow (in 1996).
Jesse Russell was a pioneer in the field of cellular and wireless communications. Russell led the first team from Bell Laboratories to introduce digital cellular technology in the United States in 1988. In 1992, Russell was named US Black Engineer of the Year for his outstanding contributions in the digital cellular and microcellular industry of technology. Some of his patents include the “Base Station for Mobile Radio Telecommunications Systems,” (1992), the “Mobile Data Telephone,” (1993), and the “Wireless Communication Base Station” (1998).
Marie Van Brittan Brown was born in New York and started off her career as a nurse. She lived in a high-crime neighborhood, and both she and her husband worked long and irregular hours. For that reason, Marie developed a home security system (US patent 3,482,037), the first closed-circuit television system, in 1966 with the help of her husband Albert. Her invention paved the way for modern security systems that are used not only in homes but also in banks, offices, stores, and apartment complexes.
These five inventors were pioneers of their time and made a lasting impact on technology. They were able to innovate and create a path for the future by building a framework for inventors and engineers after them to build from and create evolving designs that will adapt throughout time. BEX highlighted these inventors due to their inspiring stories and inventions.
Here at Extreme, we encourage all employees to pursue their passions. Our employee resource groups, including BEX, are created and managed by our employees. These groups are for those interested in advancing the future, creating an inclusive workplace environment, and developing opportunities for others. BEX helps to support workplace diversity by embracing cultural, ethnic, and racial differences by providing programming that promotes inclusion in recruitment activities, offers formalized development, and enables a more collaborative and diverse work environment.
To learn more about BEX and our other ERGs and Diversity and Inclusion efforts, please visit https://www.extremenetworks.com/company/csr/.