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Innovation on Display

Learn About This Year’s Black History Month Exhibit at the NIHF Museum

Just inside the doors of the United States Patent and Trademark Office headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, the National Inventors Hall of Fame® has unveiled a new exhibit in honor of Black History Month.

We are proud to share that this exhibit celebrates six influential inventors who have shaped the telecommunications industry, helping us all stay more connected. Read on to learn more about the inventors featured in this special exhibit.


Granville Woods

In 1887, Inductee Granville Woods invented railroad telegraphy, using static electricity from existing telegraph lines to transmit messages between moving trains. Users of Woods’ device could switch between voice and Morse code, and moving trains could communicate with rail stations, as well as with each other. He also invented an overhead conducting system for rail and trolley cars, created a third rail that is still often used on many rail lines and improved the automatic air brake used by railroad cars.


W. Lincoln Hawkins

Inductee Lincoln Hawkins and his colleagues at Bell Labs invented the polymer cable sheath, helping make universal telephone service possible. Previously, a lead-based coating was used to insulate cables, but it was both expensive and too heavy to use in the multi-cable conduits needed to serve millions of people. Hawkins’ team developed a way to stabilize polyethylene and created a durable plastic cable insulation. Patented in 1961, this invention not only eliminated the use of lead, an environmental toxin, but also greatly reduced the costs of building and maintaining modern telephone systems.


James West

Inductee Jim West co-invented the electret microphone, which surpassed earlier microphones in many ways, including accuracy, reliability, cost, size and weight. Patented in 1964, this invention has advanced the sound industry and become the standard microphone used in a wide array of products, from recording equipment and professional sound measurement instruments to phones, hearing aids, baby monitors and toys. In fact, 90% of the 2 billion microphones manufactured yearly are electret microphones.


Victor Lawrence

Since the 1970s, Inductee Victor Lawrence has led major advances in data encoding and transmission, modem technology, silicon chip design, ATM switching and protocols, DSL, speech and audio coding, and digital video. His work has improved transmission for the modern internet, made high-speed connections more available and stimulated the growth of the global internet. Lawrence has long been an advocate of bringing internet access to low-resource communities around the world.


Mark Dean

Inductee Mark Dean co-invented a microcomputer system with bus control means for peripheral processing devices. Patented in 1985, this invention paved the way for significant growth in the information technology industry by allowing the use of plug-in subsystems and peripherals like disk drives, video gear, speakers and scanners.


Marian Croak

Inductee Marian Croak, a visionary engineer, invented Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technologies, converting voice data into digital signals that can be easily transmitted over the internet rather than using traditional phone lines. Today, the widespread use of VoIP technology is vital for remote work and conferencing, as well as personal communications. Additionally, Croak and her team created a text-to-donate system for charitable organizations.


Learn More About National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees

To meet more of the world-changing patent holders we have inducted so far, visit our website.

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