Philip Emeagwali, biography, A Father of the Internet, supercomputer pioneer, Nigerian scientist, inventor
Modern African-American Inventors

We searched the country to find those special African-Americans whose creativity and ingenuity have, in one way or another, shaped our lives. Martha Brown of Upscale magazine reports


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Interview of Emeagwali

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We know of the famous African-American inventors of the past, Lewis H. Latimer who provided the filament that made Thomas Edison's light bulb burn so brightly; George Washington Carver, who developed peanut butter and countless other inventions from the peanut; and Garrett Morgan, who invented the first automated stoplight and gas mask. But, what about the inventors of today? We searched the country to find those special African-Americans whose creativity and ingenuity have, in one way or another, shaped our lives.

Dr. Philip Emeagwali

Research Scientist
Saint Paul, Minnesota

Who developed the fastest computer on earth? Dr. Philip Emeagwali, an interdisciplinary computer scientist/inventor, used 65,000 processors to perform the world's fastest computation of 3.1 billion calculations per second. His design was inspired by the complex geometries of nature. From geometrical theories, Emeagwali proved that bees use the most efficient method to construct their honeycombs, so a computer which emulated the honeycomb will be efficient and powerful. Emeagwali's computers are currently being used to forecast the weather and predict future global warming.

Dr. Thomas C. Cannon Jr.

Head of User Devices
Research Department
AT&T Bell Laboratories
Murray Hill, N.J.

Dr. Thomas C. Cannon Jr. lead a group of engineers that developed the Tactical Optical Fiber Connector (TOFC). The TOFC was designed to terminate optical fiber cables used in military combat. Optical fiber cables are preferable to conventional copper cables because they are immune to electrical interference, lightweight, have a high signal carrying capacity, and do not radiate any electromagnetic energy which might be detected by the enemy. TOFC was the first fiber optic connector actually deployed under battlefied conditions, and saw action in the Gulf War where it was used to transmit firing signals to the Patriot missile.

Ernest J. Jamieson
Retired Chemist
Brooklyn, N.Y.

During his tenure at the cities Service Oil Co. in the late '60s, Ernest J. Jamieson patented four inventions on the improvement of current gasoline compositions. One invention improved hydrocarbon fuel compositions for use in internal combustion engines by adding a detergent that prevents icing and corrosion. Another invention improved a hydrocarbon fuel composition by adding a X hydrocarbylacid phosphate salt that reduced icing in the carburetor and 1 improved water tolerance, thus reducing rust and hydrocarbon content in the exhaust.

Kenneth J. Dunkley
President, Holospace Laboratories Inc.
Camp Hill, Pa.

Kenneth J. Dunkley discovered the existence of two points located on the periphery of a person's vision that, if obstructed, will cause an ordinary picture to appear three-dimensional. This discovery led to the invention of the Three-Dimensional Viewing Glasses (3-DVG). The invention achieves 3-D effects without lenses, mirrors or optical elements of any kind.

Ruane Jeter
Industrial Designer
Ruje Designs
Los Angeles

Ruane Jeter invented a toaster with a digital clock. It is called a Tiltster and desired brownness is selected on a control panel. The Tiltster not only toasts bread, but bagels, waffles and Pop Tarts as well. Jeter is currently seeking investors for her invention.

Maxwell R. Mitchell

On-Line/Off-Line Inc.
Capitol Heights, Md.

Applying his many years of experience in photography, Maxwell R. Mitchell has developed a method to reduce documents without losing resolution. The MICRO ID SYSTEM, unlike a microfiche, can be read easily using a special magnifying glass --- no large, cumbersome machine to operate. This special magnifying glass is small enough to hold in your hand. To envision the capability of this device, imagine a 60-page document reduced to a 4 x 6-inch card. The system is relatively inexpensive, costing under $100.

Kedrich Jackson
Hardware Design Engineer
Hewlett Packard
Camas, Wash.

Kedrich Jackson played an integral role in the development of Hewlett Packard's latest printers, HP's DeskJet 850C and 855C. The printers were almost delayed for distribution because of the printer's high noise level. But, Jackson developed a spur gear which dampened the vibration and thus reduced the noise. He also invented a method to improve the print quality of the printers.

Dr. Patricia E. Bath
Professor Emeritus of Ophthalmology
Los Angeles

Dr. Patricia E. Bath is a world-renowned scientist who has dedicated most of her life to the prevention and treatment of blindness in African-Americans. She revolutionized, cataract surgery by inventing a laser called the Laserphaco Probe. She currently has four patents on this probe, covering the United states, Canada, Japan and Europe.

Dr. Thomas Mensah
Supercond Technology Inc.
Norcross, Ga.

During the Gulf War, Smart Weapons, including the Patriot missile and laser guided bombs, made a significant difference in the outcome of the confrontation between the United States and Iraq. Dr. Thomas Mensah, inventor, scientist and entrepreneur, is leading the design of such advanced laser guided weapons. He holds seven patents in fiber optics, three on fiber optic guided missile technology and four on manufacturing fiber optics inexpensively. This will impact how we use a fax, electronic banking and other electronic communication.

James McLurkin

Research Scientist
Cambridge, Mass.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

James McLurkin is currently designing microbots that work together in accomplishing a particular task. Each robot has a small computer, three motors and 17 sensors. Inspiration for this research comes from ant colonies. An ant, which is virtually powerless as a single entity, can perform the most impossible tasks when a group of ants work together. Applications include foraging cluster bombs, remote surveillance, pipe inspection and even picking up crumbs off the floor.

Dr. Joycelyn Simpson
Research Scientist
NASA Langley Research Center
Hampton, Ma.

Dr. Joycelyn Simpson co-developed a novel class of high performance piezoelectric polymers which have superior properties over conventional materials. A piezoelectric material generates electricity when pressure is applied. The inventors envision that this new polymer technology may dramatically improve power generation by providing a new, low cost, environmentally safe source of electricity. An array of their new durable piezoelectric polymers, covering fives square miles subjected to pressure fluctuations generated by wind or ocean waves, could conceivably supply electricity for 7.5 million people at a cost of only two to four cents per kilo-watt hour.

Lonnie G. Johnson
Johnson Research & Development Co.
Smyrna, Ga.

As a child, Lonnie G. Johnson tinkered with toys. Now, as president of his own company, he has over 20 patents, which include environmentally friendly heat pumps and toy water guns. His most popular invention, the Super Soaker, has been hailed as the world's most successful toy water gun generating over $100 million in retail sales. Philip Emeagwali, biography, A Father of the Internet, supercomputer pioneer, Nigerian scientist, inventor

For more information on the inventors profiled in this article, contact Lady Saga Shabazz, Curator, Black Inventions Museum Inc., R O. Box 76122, Los Angeles, Calif. 90076, (310) 859-4602.

Reported in the February 1996 issue of Upscale magazine.

Philip Emeagwali, biography, A Father of the Internet, supercomputer pioneer, Nigerian scientist, inventor

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Philip Emeagwali, biography, A Father of the Internet, supercomputer pioneer, Nigerian scientist, inventor