Black History Month not only pays tribute to the past but also emphasises the present and future, recognising the profound impact of numerous individuals from the African diaspora who have shaped the UK's narrative, significantly influencing our national and cultural life and contributing to a better Britain.
This year we wanted to pay tribute to some remarkable inventors and pioneers who have left an indelible mark on society, even influencing the technology we use today.
Why Celebrate Black History Month?
Honouring Cultural Diversity: The UK is a brilliantly diverse nation with people from various cultural backgrounds. Black History Month serves as an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the rich tapestry of cultures that have contributed to the nation's identity.
Educational Value: Black History Month provides a platform for learning about the often-overlooked history and achievements of people from the African diaspora. It encourages a more inclusive and accurate representation of history in school curricula.
Inspiration and Empowerment: By highlighting the accomplishments of Black leaders, artists, scientists, and activists, Black History Month inspires people of all backgrounds and ages.
Now, let's delve into the remarkable individuals who have made significant contributions to technology and science, shaping the world we live in today:
1. James E. West - Electret Microphone (1964)
Have you ever used a microphone to amplify your voice or capture sound? Chances are, you've encountered the electret microphone, co-invented by Dr. James E. West. While working at Bell Labs in 1960, West and his colleague Gerhard Sessler developed this compact and sensitive microphone. It was not only groundbreaking but also cost-effective, leading to its widespread use in devices like hearing aids, telephones, and tape recorders.
2. Lewis Latimer - Carbon Light Bulb Filament (1881)
Thomas Edison may have perfected the light bulb, but it was Lewis Latimer who revolutionised it. Latimer's invention of a longer-lasting light bulb filament, using carbon instead of bamboo or other combustible materials, significantly extended the life of light bulbs. This innovation made electric lighting more practical for everyday use.
3. Jade LB - Creative and academic writer.
Jade's writing explores topics including Black women and relationships, Black British culture and the Black British working-class experience.
In 2005, aged 13, Jade began releasing chapters of her seminal work, Keisha The Sket. Shared among young people on Piczo, Keisha The Sket went on to become a viral modern classic of Black British culture, pioneering both online serialisation and viral content, as well as youth-authored youth experience. Keisha The Sket was acquired by #Merky Books in October 21.
4. Mark Dean - Colour IBM PC Monitor and Gigahertz Chip (c. 1980 and 1999)
Before the era of flat screens and high-definition monitors were the norm, Mark Dean, an African American inventor and engineer, played a pivotal role in advancing personal computing. Dean was part of the team that developed the first IBM PC and later led the team responsible for creating the first gigahertz processor. These innovations laid the foundation for the modern computing experience we enjoy today.
5. Dorticus - Improved Film Washer and Embossing Photo Machine (1895)
Dorticus, of Afro-Cuban descent, contributed to the field of photography with his invention of an improved film washer. Before his innovation, photographs and negatives required time-consuming chemical baths for development. His invention streamlined the process and reduced the risk of bleaching and staining, making photography more efficient. Dorticus also pioneered an embossing photo machine, adding a 3D impression to photographs.
6. Dame Elizabeth Anionwu - Healthcare and Advocacy
Dame Elizabeth Anionwu's contributions to healthcare are immeasurable. She helped establish the first nurse-led sickle cell and thalassaemia screening and counselling centre, leading to nationwide screening for babies. Her lifelong dedication to healthcare and advocacy has significantly improved the lives of people with sickle cell disease and thalassaemia.
7. Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE - Space Scientist and Science Communicator
Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock is a prominent space scientist and science communicator. Her work includes developing instruments to detect landmines and managing observation instruments on satellites to investigate climate change. She also passionately engages with audiences, inspiring the next generation of astronauts, engineers, and scientists.
8. Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon - Mathematician and Tech Entrepreneur
Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon founded Stemettes, a social enterprise aimed at encouraging young women to pursue careers in STEM fields. Her efforts earned her an MBE in 2017 for her contributions to young women and the STEM sectors.
Check it out here: https://stemettes.org
These exceptional individuals are just a glimpse of the countless pioneers who have made significant contributions to various fields. Their innovations and accomplishments underscore the importance of celebrating Black History Month in the UK and worldwide. This month is not only about reflecting on the past but also about recognising and supporting the ongoing efforts of Black individuals in shaping our future.