African, African-American Inventors You should know: Part 1


Frederick McKinley Jones (1893-1961) was one of the most prolific Black inventors ever.  

Frederick Jones patented more than 60 inventions, however, he is best known for inventing an automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks in 1935 (a roof-mounted cooling device). Jones was the first person to invent a practical, mechanical refrigeration system for trucks and railroad cars, which eliminated the risk of food spoilage during long-distance shipping trips. 

The system was, in turn, adapted to a variety of other common carriers, including ships. Frederick Jones was issued the patent on July 12, 1940.

Sameera Moussa (1917-1952) was an Egyptian nuclear scientist who held a doctorate in atomic radiation and worked to make the medical use of nuclear technology affordable to all. 

She organised the Atomic Energy for Peace Conference and sponsored a call for setting an international conference under the banner “Atoms for Peace”.

Moussa believed in “Atoms for Peace” and said “I’ll make nuclear treatment as available and as cheap as Aspirin”. She worked hard for this purpose and throughout her intensive research, she came up with a historic equation that would help break the atoms of cheap metals such as copper, paving the way for a cheap nuclear bomb.

She organised the Atomic Energy for Peace Conference and sponsored a call for setting an international conference under the banner “Atom for Peace”, where many prominent scientists were invited. 

The conference made a number of recommendations for setting up a committee to protect against nuclear hazards, for which she strongly advocated. 

Moussa also volunteered to help treat cancer patients at various hospitals especially since her mother went through a fierce battle against this disease.

Seyi Oyesola is a Nigerian doctor, who co-invented “hospital in a box”.

Fed up with hospitals that were always short in supplies and prone to outages, Dr Oyesola co-invented hospital in a box, a mini hospital run with solar energy or off grid and completely mobile.

Physicist George Edward Alcorn, Jr (born 1940) is best known for his development of the imaging X-ray spectrometer. An X-ray spectrometer assists scientists in identifying a material by producing an X-ray spectrum of it, allowing it to be examined visually. 

This is especially advantageous when the material is not able to be broken down physically. 

Alcorn patented his “method for fabricating an imaging X-ray spectrometer” in 1984. He was cited for his method’s innovative use of the thermomigration of aluminum. For this achievement he was recognized with the NASA/GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center) Inventor of the Year Award.

Gebisa Ejeta (born 1950) is an Ethiopian plant breeder, geneticist and Professor at Purdue University. In 2009, he won the World Food Prize for his major contributions in the production of sorghum.

During primary school, Ejeta planned to study engineering when he reached college age, but his mother convinced him he could do more working in agriculture. 

With aid from Oklahoma State University, he attended an agriculture and technical secondary school in Oromia-Ethiopia and also studied at what is now Haramaya University. 

The university and the US Agency for International Development helped him earn a doctorate from Purdue.

Working in Sudan during the early 1980s, Ejeta developed Africa’s first commercial hybrid variety of sorghum tolerant to drought. 

Later, with a Purdue University colleague in Indiana, he discovered the chemical basis of the relationship between the deadly parasitic weed striga and sorghum, and was able to produce sorghum varieties resistant to both drought and striga.

On 2011 President Barack Obama appointed Gebisa Ejeta as Member, Board for International Food and Agricultural Development

King Ibrahim Mbouombouo Njoya (1860–1933) was 17th in a long dynasty of kings that ruled over Bamum and its people in western Cameroon dating back to the 14th century. He succeeded his father Nsangu (hn-SAH-hn-goo), and ruled from 1886 or 1887 until his death in 1933, when he was succeeded by his son, Seidou Njimoluh Njoya. He ruled from the ancient walled city of Fumban.

Ibrahim Njoya is credited with developing the Bamum script, a syllabic system for writing in the Bamum language. 

Prior to his reign at the end of the 19th century, the long history of the Bamum people was preserved primarily through oral transmission from one generation to the next in the manner of the African Griot tradition.

Recognizing the inherent danger of important historical facts being omitted or corrupted, he set out to establish a means of written recording of Bamum history. When his work was completed, his alphabet, called, A-ka-u-ku, contained 73 signs.

Njoya is also credited with having invented a hand-powered mill for grinding corn.

His grandson, Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya, a present-day Sultan in Cameroon and the latest ruler in the Bamoun Dynasty, has established a school in the palace built by his grandfather, in which schoolchildren are once again learning the Bamum script developed by Ibrahim Njoya.  –

November 2014
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