Back to Newsroom

‘Breaking Barriers’ Exhibit Honors Extraordinary Black Inventors

ALEXANDRIA, Va. June 8, 2022 — Black inventors have changed the world through science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. However, many of these individuals have not been given the credit they deserve.

In recognition of these world-changing innovators, the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Museum, in partnership with the Black Inventors Hall of Fame (BIHOF), announces a new exhibit — “Breaking Barriers: Honoring Extraordinary Black Inventors” — that seeks to honor and share the stories of Black inventors, including NIHF Inductees, who have helped push society forward.

This new exhibit in the newly reopened NIHF Museum features a video and a collection of artifacts that honor the ingenuity of Black inventors, including:

  • Newspaper clipping and photograph detailing Gladys West’s work on geodesy modeling - During her more than 40 years of service working at the Naval Weapons Laboratory and Naval Surface Warfare Center, Gladys West went from verifying calculations to managing the development of the first satellite capable of remotely sensing oceans. Detailing just a few of her many accomplishments, these articles feature the team that worked on geodetic modeling under her leadership.
  • NIHF Inductee Joseph Lee’s breadcrumber - Troubled by the enormous amount of unsold bread being discarded by restaurants, including his own, NIHF Inductee Joseph Lee invented the breadcrumber to grind the bread into breadcrumbs. The invention was sold to the Goodell Co., a manufacturing firm located in Antrim, New Hampshire, and owned by the state’s former Gov. David H. Goodell. Machines like the one on display were purchased primarily by bakeries, hotels and restaurants.
  • Computer using NIHF Inductee Mark Dean’s microcomputer system with bus control - NIHF Inductee Mark Dean co-invented a microcomputer system that enabled the use of plug-in subsystems and peripherals including speakers, scanners, video gear and disk drives. The computer on display includes various peripherals that are now commonplace, including a hard drive and keyboard. This computer represents the style and functionality of the first IBM system that utilized Dean’s innovation.
  • NIHF Inductee Granville T. Woods’ Black Inventors Hall of Fame Trophy - On loan from BIHOF, this trophy recognizes the contributions of prolific inventor and NIHF Inductee Granville T. Woods. Woods developed the railroad telegraph, a device that transmitted messages through static electricity between moving trains. Additionally, he created an overhead conducting system for rail and trolley cars to run on electric current instead of steam power. Woods was named the first official BIHOF Inductee.

In addition to 30 NIHF Inductees, this inspiring exhibit highlights the stories of groundbreaking Black inventors including Sarah E. Goode, one of the first Black women to be granted a U.S. patent, and Lanny Smoot, a Disney Research Fellow who is working on the next generation of interactive visual and robotic displays.

“Recognizing the significant contributions of Black inventors throughout history has been the mission of the Black Inventors Hall of Fame since its inception,” said BIHOF Executive Director James Howard. “It has been an honor to work with the National Inventors Hall of Fame on the Breaking Barriers Exhibit. This partnership exemplifies the commitment that each organization has made to enlighten the public on the pioneering achievements of Black inventors past and present.”

“To help shape the narrative of future innovation, we must ensure that more stories and experiences of historical and contemporary Black innovators are honored and told,” said NIHF CEO Michael Oister. “The National Inventors Hall of Fame is proud to honor these extraordinary inventors who are inspiring tomorrow’s STEM leaders.”

The National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum is located at the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Madison Building in Alexandria, Virginia. Open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the first Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., admission to the museum is free and open to the public. For more information visit

About the National Inventors Hall of Fame

The National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) is the premier nonprofit organization in America dedicated to recognizing inventors and invention, promoting creativity, and advancing the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. Founded in 1973 in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, NIHF is committed to not only honoring the individuals whose inventions have made the world a better place, but to ensuring American ingenuity continues to thrive in the hands of coming generations through its national, hands-on educational programming and collegiate competitions focused on the exploration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Explore the NIHF Museum digitally in Google Arts & Culture’s “Once Upon a Try” project. For more information, visit To nominate an inventor for Induction, visit

Related Articles