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Innovation on Display

The National Inventors Hall of Fame Celebrates Black History Month with Panel Exhibit

In honor of Black History Month, throughout February the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Museum will be displaying a panel exhibit highlighting four influential African- American Inventors.

Located in the atrium of the United States Patent and Trademark Office headquarters, this exhibit features the accomplishments and patents of NIHF Inductees who pioneered technology essential to connecting billions of people across America.

While learning more about the contributions of these NIHF Inductees below, we encourage you to nominate an African-American inventor for consideration in our 2020 class of Inductees!

Jim West, 1999 Inductee

Jim West shares a patent with co-Inductee Gerhard Sessler for inventing the electret microphone in 1962 during their time at Bell Laboratories. Because of the device’s high performance and low cost, the technology was widely adopted, and 90 percent of today’s microphones are electret in nature. Additionally, this technology can be found in everyday items such as telephones, sound and music recording equipment, and hearing aids.

Granville Woods, 2006 Inductee

Granville Woods is credited with inventing the railroad telegraph. Using static electricity from the existing telegraph lines running parallel to the train tracks, this device enabled moving trains to communicate with each other and with rail stations for the first time. Before Woods’ crucial invention, moving trains were unable to coordinate with each other, resulting in dangerous situations.

W. Lincoln Hawkins, 2010 Inductee

The first African American to join the technical staff at Bell Labs, W. Lincoln Hawkins helped make universal telephone service accessible and economical. His co-invention of the polymer cable sheath allowed telephone cables to withstand changes in temperature and other environmental factors, helping to maintain a stable connection.

Victor Lawrence, 2016 Inductee

We have Victor Lawrence to thank for advancing the fields of data encoding and transmission, enabling the development of high-speed internet. His patents relating to signal processing in telecommunications helped to substantially increase the amount of data transferable across signals. Today, he is an advocate for bringing internet access to the world’s poorest countries.

Thank you for joining us in celebrating Black History Month by recognizing the accomplishments of influential African-American inventors who have improved the lives of people everywhere.

We invite you to see our Black History Month panel exhibit in person, by visiting our museum in Alexandria, Virginia.

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