February is Black History Month! Rosedale Tech is proud to recognize some of the prominent African American figures in the STEM related fields throughout history. Here is a list of some figures we’d like to recognize:
Charles Richard Patterson: Charles Richard Patterson was the founder of C.R. Patterson & Sons, a carriage building firm and the first African American-owned automobile manufacturer. Patterson was born into slavery in April 1833 on a plantation in Virginia. He later escaped slavery in 1861 and headed west, setline in Greenfield, Ohio around 1862.
While in Ohio, Patterson went to work as a blacksmith for the carriage-building business, Dines and Simpson. Patterson went into partnership with J.P. Lowe, another Greenfield-based carriage manufacturer. Over the next twenty years, Patterson and Lowe developed a highly successful carriage-building business. In 1893 Patterson bought out J.P. Lowe’s share of the business and reorganized it as C.R. Patterson & Sons Company. The company built 28 types of horse-drawn vehicles and employed approximately 10-15 individuals. While the company managed to find success selling carriages and buggies, the dawn of the automobile was quickly approaching. In 1910, Patterson died, leaving the company to his son Frederick. In his new role, Frederick decided to change gears from manufacturing buggies to automobiles. In 1915, the first Patterson-Greenfield car debuted, selling for $850. The car had a four-cylinder Continental engine and was comparable to the contemporary Ford Model T. Historians estimate that approximately 150 Patterson-Greenfield cars were produced.
Lewis H. Latimer: Lewis H. Latimer was an African American renaissance man who in the late 19th century helped not only invent the lightbulb, but also create the electric industry as we know it today. While it’s true that Thomas Edison is credited for inventing and patenting the light bulb and the first electric light power station, he would not have gotten to that point without the help of Latimer, who literally wrote the book on both, titled Incandescent Electric Lighting: A Practical Description of the Edison System. Prior to working with Edison, Latimer had already been involved in a major invention, having helped Alexander Graham Bell patent the telephone in 1876. In 1880, Latimer began working for the United States Electric Lighting Company, which was run by Edison’s rival Hiram S. Maxim.
Latimer had no formal training in science, but believed technology and innovation could help advance the plight of African Americans still reeling from slavery.
Bessie Coleman: Bessie Coleman was the first woman of African American descent, and the first Native American descent, to hold a pilot license. Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas to a family of sharecroppers. While working in the cotton fields at a young age, Coleman also attended a small segregated school. She furthered her education and attended one term of college at Langston University. She developed an interest in flying at an early age, but was unable to pursue her dream right away because neither African Americans nor women had the opportunity to attend flight school in the United States. After saving up her money, Coleman headed to France in 1920 to earn her pilot license. Upon earning her license, Coleman became a successful air show stunt pilot in the United States. In 1926, she died in a plane crash while testing her new aircraft.
Frederick McKinley Jones: Anytime you see a refrigeration truck on the highway, you’re seeing the work of Frederick McKinley Jones. As one of the most prolific African American inventors ever, Jones patented more than 60 inventions in his lifetime. Over 40 of those patents were in the field of refrigeration, but he is most famous for inventing an automatic refrigeration system for long haul trucks and railroad cars. Before Jones’ invention, the only way to keep food cold in trucks was to load them with ice. After speaking with a truck driver who lost his whole cargo of chicken, Jones was inspired to develop his roof-mounted cooling system to ensure food stayed fresh in transport.