If there is any book one can positively judge from the cover, Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success is one of them, writes Andrew Ose Phiri. The groundbreaking tome chronicles thousands of inventions by black people from 1769 to 2007. It is an inspiring read.
The book sleeve tells it all. A picture of Carver G. Washington and Marjorie Stewart Joyner, with a globe signifying not only the global presence of African peoples but the contributions responsible for world progress in technology.
Washington, though born in slavery, is one of the world’s prolific inventors and became the first and greatest agricultural chemist, who single- handedly saved Southern USA from environmental waste by developing hundreds of products from peanuts, sweet potatoes and other plants.
He introduced an innovative method of crop rotation as well as the planting of legumes to enrich soils, and his expertise was sought by many governments, including even the Soviet Union under Stalin.
Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success is a groundbreaking book that highlights the inventions by people of African descent globally. Written by Keith C. Holmes, an African-American who painstakingly spent over 20 years researching and gathering information on thousands of inventions by black people from the year 1769 to 2007, the book is an inspiring must-read for Africans at home and in the Diaspora, if only to engender the self-confidence in African peoples necessary to reclaim the 21st century, especially in the crucial areas of science and technology.
It starts with the contributions of ancient black Africans who resided in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and their inventions and innovations in mining, agriculture, writing, architecture, animal husbandry, tool making, beverages, textiles, food processing, medicine, religion, social organisation, speech and material sciences, which laid the foundations of today’s science and technology.
This short chapter on ancient contributions left me hungry for more as the author employed very little narrative. It would have been enriched had the author included more materials, such as the impressive scientific traditions outlined in books such as Blacks in Science, edited by the veritable scholar Ivan van Sertima, Cheikh Anta Diop’s Civilisation or Barbarism and Hunter Havelin Adams’ African and African-American Contributions to Science and Technology.
However, one remarkable aspect of Holmes’ book that sets it apart from previous books on black inventors is its comprehensive global coverage. Detailed in this book are black inventors from diverse places, such as Russia, Australia, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean, and practically all European and African countries, as well as all the fifty states of the United States.
The Ghanaian Kofi Afolabi A. Makinwa, Holmes informs us, pioneered inventions in computers with over 50 domestic and foreign patents, mostly assigned to the American brand Phillips, while Samuel Ayodele Sangokoya has over 50 chemical processes patents assigned to Albamarle Corporation. Tisafaye Shifferaw is an Ethiopian inventor of exercise equipment.
Mark E. Dean, a US National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee, has over 200 domestic and foreign patents in computer technology, mostly assigned to IBM. Other African American inventors profiled include the more famous ones such as Jan Matzeliger, Elijah McCoy, Benjamin Banneker, William B. Purvis, Granville T. Woods, Norbert Rillieux, Lewis Latimer, Charles Drew, Percy Lavon Julian, James E. West, George Carruthers, Lonnie Johnson, Marc Hannah, David N. Crosthwait, Patricia Bath, Madame C.J. Walker, Lloyd Augustus Hall, Frederick McKinley Jones, Garret Morgan and many others whose inventions generate billions of dollars, span a broad spectrum and laid the foundations of some global industries.