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Thursday, May 31, 2012



1. Introduction

The absurd and false notion that one race is superior to another is founded either on absolute lack of knowledge about or deliberate denials of the contributions of different races to human civilization; it has nothing to do with skin colour. Human civilization as we know it today cannot be solely attributed to a single race or region of the world. Today's revolution in science and technology is a cumulative outcome of the ideas of all great human minds from all parts of the planet earth during the past six millennia of recorded history of human civilization. As a cradle of all human races, Africa remains undisputed origin of the early human civilization.

Ancient Egyptians, who claimed to have originated in the heart of Africa from around Mount Ruwenzori range in East Africa, are credited for various inventions that laid foundation for today's development in science and technology. The first farming technique, oxen-driven plow, which revolutionized the agricultural production, was invented by ancient Egyptians in 2700 B.C. It was the ancient Egyptians who introduced to the world the technique of mining of precious metals: gold, tin, iron, copper and so on. The ancient Africans (Egyptians) were also the first to bestow the world with writing and papers. They invented paper from papyrus plant abundant around the Nile river. Not only that the English name, paper, was derived from the African Papyrus but the advances in western education and science would not have been possible without papers from Africa. Moreover, the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics was one of the two first writing systems invented by human beings, the other one being the Sumerian script.

It was the ancient Egyptians who invented the first wooden lock. They invented locks to prevent repeated robberies that plagued their prosperous ancient kingdom. The locks were made from a wooden crossbar that was almost entirely enclosed except for some space for the key and the pins.

Moreover, the world's first major stone building that laid foundation for today's construction industry was the Step-Pyramid at Saqqara, near Memphis in ancient Egypt. The pyramid was designed by an African, Imhotep, an architect, a priest, and a father of scientific medicine who was an advisor to King Djoser of the third Dynasty of Egypt at around 2630 B.C.

It was an ancient Egyptian King, Akhenaten, who first introduced the concept of monotheism, belief in one God, long before Jesus and the Old Testament. Although Akhenaten's one God referred to sun, it was a major departure from the belief system based on multiple gods that exists in many parts of the world even today.

2. Black inventions and the scientific and technological revolution

In his remarkable book, "Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success" , Keith C. Holmes (2008) unraveled the origin of inventions and the contributions of black inventors to the global advancement in science and technology. He has spent more than twenty years researching information on inventions by Black people from five continents, over seventy countries, including almost all fifty states in the United States, Australia, Barbados, Canada, France, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, citing a number of black inventors from 1769 - 2007, making the book one of the most comprehensive recent works on black Inventors.

His book documents "a number of inventions, patents and labor saving devices conceived by black inventors. Africans, before the period of their enslavement, developed agricultural tools, building materials, medicinal herbs, cloth and weapons, among many other inventions. Though millions of black people were brought to Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the United States in chains and under the yoke of slavery, it is relatively unknown that thousands of Africans and their descendants developed numerous labor saving devices and inventions that spawned companies which generated money and jobs, worldwide".

Holmes finds that black inventors, from the very beginning of their involvement in the invention and patenting process, have had an important and earth shattering impact on the world. Commenting on his book Giorgio Migliavacca (Island Sun Newspaper, British Virgin Island, 2010) states: "His book proves that without the inventors, innovators, designers and laborers of African descent, in Africa as well as throughout the African Diaspora, western technology, as we know it today, would not exist."

Holmes book underscores that the invention process did not originate in Europe; and that from 1900 to 1999, black inventors patented over 6,000 inventions (at least 400 of them by black women), and between 2000 and 2007, blacks patented over 5,000 inventions; nowadays American icons such as Oprah Winfrey has 61 trademarks; and a significant number of black inventors live in Europe where they have patented thousands of inventions.

The book illuminates the fact that inventions created by black people both past and present were developed and patented on a global scale thereby making tremendous contribution to the current advancement in global scientific and technological revolution. It is pity that these inventions have not been applied to change the lives of millions of Africans who languish under poverty, hunger and illiteracy in the African continent today, but that does not make an African man or woman an inferior human being. The main cause of Africa's underdevelopment is not lack of inventing black minds but foreign interventions of the past 500 years that culminated in colonial occupation and destruction of the socio-political fabric of the continent leading to eternal chaos and conflicts among the African peoples and hence the overall disruption of the 5000 years of African civilization.

3. Celebrating African American Inventors from Benjamin Banneker to George Edward Alcon, a living Physicist.

Holmes' book highlights the work of early black inventors from almost all fifty states in the United States. The book finds that in the United States, to date, sixteen African American men have been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Two of these inventors, Jan E, Matzeliger, (Suriname) and Elijah McCoy, (Canada) were born outside the United States. The book also cites a number of African inventors who have received the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Gold medal for their inventions and has uncovered thousands of inventions by people of African descent.

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), a descent of slaves, but who was born a free man, is widely regarded as the first African American inventor in the United States. He was a self-educated scientist, astronomer, inventor, writer, and antislavery activist. He built a striking clock entirely from wood, one of the first watches built in United States, in 1753, published a Farmers' Almanac, and actively campaigned against slavery. He was one of the first African Americans to gain distinction in science. Banneker made astronomical calculations that enabled him to successfully forecast a 1789 solar eclipse. His estimate made well in advance of the celestial event, contradicted predictions of better-known mathematicians and astronomers. But he first achieved national acclaim for his scientific work in the 1791 survey of the Federal Territory (now Washington, D.C).

Banneker's mechanical and mathematical abilities impressed many, including Thomas Jefferson, the then Secretary of State to whom Banneker sent a copy of his first Almanac (Banneker is best known for his six annual Farmers' Almanacs published between 1792 and 1797 covering Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The almanacs included information on medicines and medical treatment, and listed tides, astronomical information, and eclipses, all calculated by Banneker himself). In his enclosed letter to Thomas Jefferson, Banneker questioned the slaveholder's sincerity as a "friend to liberty" and urged Jefferson to help get rid of "absurd and false idea" that one race is superior to another. Over 206 years since the death of this great black scientist, there are some people on this planet who still think that one race is superior to another. Ignorance or malice aforethought; only time will tell.

A living African-American Physicist, George Edward Alcon, born in 1940, invented an imaging x-ray spectrometer using thermomigration of aluminum, for which he earned a patent in 1984. In 1986 he devised an improved method of fabrication using laser drilling. His work on imaging x-ray spectrometers earned him the 1984 NASA/GSFC Inventor of the Year Award. Alcorn a Ph.D. in Atomic and Molecular Physics from Howard University holds Eight Patents in the United States and Europe on semiconductor technology, one of which is a method of fabricating an imaging X-ray spectrometer. His area of research includes: adaptation of chemical ionization mass spectrometers for the detection of amino acids and development of other experimental methods for planetary life detection; classified research involved with missile reentry and missile defense; design and building of space instrumentation, atmospheric contaminant sensors, magnetic mass spectrometers, mass analyzers; and development of new concepts of magnet design and the invention of a new type of x-ray spectrometer.

There are many more noble African minds that have made the current global revolution in science and technology possible. Among these some of the African American inventors include:

• air conditioning unit: Frederick M. Jones; July 12, 1949
• almanac: Benjamin Banneker; Approx 1791
• auto cut-off switch: Granville T. Woods; January 1,1839
• auto fishing devise: G. Cook; May 30, 1899
• automatic gear shift: Richard Spikes; February 28, 1932
• baby buggy: W.H. Richardson; June 18, 1899
• bicycle frame: L.R. Johnson; Octber 10, 1899
• biscuit cutter: A.P. Ashbourne; November 30, 1875
• blood plasma bag: Charles Drew; Approx. 1945
• cellular phone: Henry T. Sampson; July 6, 1971
• chamber commode: T. Elkins; January 3, 1897
• clothes dryer: G. T. Sampson; June 6, 1862
• curtain rod: S. R. Scratton; November 30, 1889
• curtain rod support: William S. Grant; August 4, 1896
• door knob: O. Dorsey; December 10, 1878
• door stop: O. Dorsey; December 10, 1878
• dust pan: Lawrence P. Ray; August 3, 1897
• egg beater: Willie Johnson; February 5, 1884
• electric lampbulb: Lewis Latimer; March 21, 1882
• elevator: Alexander Miles; October 11, 1867
• eye protector: P. Johnson; November 2, 1880
• fire escape ladder: J. W. Winters; May 7, 1878
• fire extinguisher: T. Marshall; October 26, 1872
• folding bed: L. C. Bailey; July 18, 1899
• folding chair: Brody & Surgwar; June 11, 1889
• fountain pen: W. B. Purvis; January 7, 1890
• furniture caster: O. A. Fisher; 1878
• gas mask: Garrett Morgan; October 13, 1914
• golf tee: T. Grant; December 12, 1899
• guitar: Robert F. Flemming, Jr. March 3, 1886
• hair brush: Lydia O. Newman; November 15,18--
• hand stamp: Walter B. Purvis; February 27, 1883
• horse shoe: J. Ricks; March 30, 1885
• ice cream scooper: A. L. Cralle; February 2, 1897
• improv. sugar making: Norbet Rillieux; December 10, 1846
• insect-destroyer gun: A. C. Richard; February 28, 1899
• ironing board: Sarah Boone; December 30, 1887
• key chain: F. J. Loudin; January 9, 1894
• lantern: Michael C. Harvey; August 19, 1884
• lawn mower: L. A. Burr; May 19, 1889
• lawn sprinkler: J. W. Smith; May 4, 1897
• lemon squeezer: J. Thomas White; December 8, 1893
• lock: W. A. Martin; July 23, 18--
• lubricating cup: Ellijah McCoy; November 15, 1895
• lunch pail: James Robinson; 1887
• mail box: Paul L. Downing; October 27, 1891
• mop: Thomas W. Stewart; June 11, 1893
• motor: Frederick M. Jones; June 27, 1939
• peanut butter: George Washington Carver; 1896
• pencil sharpener: J. L. Love; November 23, 1897
• record player arm: Joseph Hunger Dickenson January 8, 1819
• refrigerator: J. Standard; June 14, 1891
• riding saddles: W. D. Davis; October 6, 1895
• rolling pin: John W. Reed; 1864
• shampoo headrest: C. O. Bailiff; October 11, 1898
• spark plug: Edmond Berger; February 2, 1839
• stethoscope: Imhotep; Ancient Egypt
• stove: T. A. Carrington; July 25, 1876
• straightening comb: Madam C. J. Walker; Approx 1905
• street sweeper: Charles B. Brooks; March 17, 1890
• phone transmitter: Granville T. Woods; December 2, 1884
• thermostat control: Frederick M. Jones; February 23, 1960
• traffic light: Garrett Morgan; November 20, 1923
• tricycle: M. A. Cherry; May 6, 1886
• typewriter: Burridge & Marshman; April 7, 1885

These are many more inventors of African descent in Africa, Australasia, and Europe that have shaped the global scientific advancement today. What more does a black African need to provide to the rest of the world to prove that a dark skin colour does not in any way imply a dark brain?

4. Skin colour and intelligence

As to the skin colours which many falsely regard as the source of intelligence and racial superiority, there are no people who actually have true black, white, red, or yellow skin. These colour terminologies do not reflect biological reality. Our skin color is due primarily to the presence of a pigment called melanin which both light and dark complexioned people have.

The colour we show around today is due to natural selection for biological adaptability and survival in different geographical zones of our planet. Nature has selected for people with darker skin in tropical latitudes, where ultraviolet radiation from the sun is usually the most intense to produce eumelanin as a protective biological shield against ultraviolet radiation, while for those in temperate zones nature has selected for them to produce pheomelanin. By doing this, it helps to prevent sunburn damage that could result in DNA changes and, subsequently, several kinds of malignant skin cancers in tropical latitudes.

Those who argue therefore that skin colour due to pheomelanin is equivalent to more intelligent being compared to skin colour due to eumelanin fail to understand the basic Darwinian concept of evolution. And by doing so negate the very notion of superiority of scientific knowledge they claim to possess compared to those with eumelanin dominated skins. As to the latter, we have shown above that melanin has nothing to do with the brain functions of any human being and race!!

References:

• Holmes, H. (2008). Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success. 2008.
• Inventors, Benjamin Banneker Biography, http://inventors.about.com/od/bstartinventors/a/Banneker.htm
• Some Inventions Made by Black People, http://creativebrother.freehosting.net/invent.html
Article Source: http://www.afroarticles.com/article-dashboard