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Black History Month – Lewis Howard Latimer

Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928) was an African-American inventor, electrical pioneer, and a son of fugitive slaves. With no access to formal education, Latimer taught himself mechanical drawing while in the Union Navy and eventually became a chief draftsman, patent expert, and inventor.

In the late 19th century, Latimer helped invent the lightbulb and create the electric industry as we know it today. While Thomas Edison patented the first “practical incandescent,” Latimer literally wrote the book on it, Incandescent Electric Lighting: A Practical Description of the Edison System.

Having helped Alexander Graham Bell patent the telephone in 1876, Latimer began working for the United States Electrical Lighting Company in 1880, which was run by Edison’s rival Hiram S. Maxim. According to the Edison Electrical Institute, while working for Maxim, “Latimer invented and patented a process for making carbon filaments for light bulbs” in 1882 and helped install broad-scale lighting systems for New York City, Philadelphia, Montreal, and London. In roughly 1885, he joined forces with Edison and began improving on Edison’s invention.

To learn more, visit https://grist.org/climate-energy/meet-lewis-latimer-the-african-american-who-enlightened-thomas-edison/. You can also read more about Latimer in the (free) book, Lewis Latimer, The First Hidden Figure by Steve Mitnick, or by visiting the Lewis Latimer House Museum online at LewisLatimerHouse.org.

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