It’s hump day. POU Family and lurkers. Continiung with the open thread theme, I am highlighting Henry Blair, John Albert Burr, and George Carruthers.
Henry Blair (1807–1860) was the second African American inventor to receive a patent.
He was born in Glen Ross, Maryland, United States in 1807. His first invention was the Seed-Planter, patented October 14, 1834, which allowed farmers to plant more corn using less labor in a smaller amount of time. On August 31, 1836 he obtained a second patent for a cotton planter. This invention worked by splitting the ground with two shovel-like blades which were pulled along by a horse. A wheel-driven cylinder followed behind which dropped the seed into the newly plowed ground. Blair had been a successful farmer for years and developed the inventions as a means of increasing efficiency in farming.
In the patent records, Blair is listed as a “colored man”; making this identification the only one of its kind in early patent records. Blair was illiterate, therefore he signed his patents with an “x”. It is not known if Blair was a freedman or not. At the time that his patents were granted United States patent law allowed both freed and enslaved people to obtain patents. In 1857 this law was challenged by a slave-owner who claimed that he owned “all the fruits of the slave’s labor” including his slave’s inventions. This resulted in the change of the law in 1858 which stated that slaves were not citizens and therefore could not hold patents. After the American Civil War, in 1871, the law was changed to grant all men (but not women) patent rights. He died in 1860.
On May 9, 1899, John Albert Burr patented an improved rotary blade lawn mower. Burr designed a lawn mower with traction wheels and a rotary blade that was designed to not easily get plugged up from lawn clippings. John Albert Burr also improved the design of lawn mowers by making it possible to mow closer to building and wall edges. You can view U.S. patent 624,749 issued to John Albert Burr below.
From a young age he showed an interest in science and astronomy. He grew up in the South Side of Chicago where at the age of 10 he built his first telescope. Despite his natural aptitude, he did not perform well in school at a young age, earning poor grades in math and physics. Despite his poor grades he won three separate science fair awards during this time.
After graduating from Englewood High School he went on to get a bachelors in aeronautical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1961, a master’s degree in nuclear engineering in 1962, and a doctorate in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1964. He now works with NRL’s community outreach organization, and as such helps support several educational activities in the sciences in theWashington D.C. area.
His work on ultraviolet spectrums and other types of astronautical tools helped him earn the Black Engineer of the Year award, of which he was one of the first 100 people to receive. His work has also been used by NASA, and in 1972 he was one of two naval research laboratory persons whose work culminated in the camera/spectrograph which was put on the moon in April, 1972.
He is perhaps best known for his work with the spectrograph that showed incontrovertible proof that molecular hydrogen exists in theinterstellar medium.
In 1957, he earned his high school diploma from Englewood High School. This was the same year that the Russians launched the first Sputnik. After high school he entered to the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois, getting his bachelor’s of science degree in aeronautical engineering in the year of 1961. He also did his graduate work at the University of Illinois earning his masters degree in nuclear engineering in 1962 and his Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronomical engineering in 1964. While conducting his graduate studies, Carruthers worked as researcher and teaching assistant studying plasma and gases.
By 1964, Carruthers began employment for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. where his work focused on far ultraviolet astronomy. 1969 was the year he received a patent for his invention, the “Image Converter,” which detected electromagnetic radiation in short wavelengths, and in 1970, he made the first examination of molecular hydrogen in space. Two years later, Carruthers invented the first moon-based observatory, the Far Ultraviolet Camera/ Spectrograph, which was used in the Apollo 16 mission. During the 1980s, Carruthers helped create a program called the Science & Engineers Apprentice Program, which allows high school students to spend a summer working with scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory. Later on in 1986, one of Carruthers’ inventions captured an ultraviolet image of Halley’s Comet. In 1991, he invented a camera that was used in the Space Shuttle Mission. During the summers of 1996 and 1997 he taught a course in Earth and Space Science for D.C. Public Schools Science teachers. He also helped develop a series of videotapes on Earth and Space science for high school students.
Since 1983 he has been Chairman of the Editing and Review Committee and Editor, Journal of the National Technical Association.
Since 2002, Carruthers has been teaching a two-semester course in Earth and Space Science at Howard University sponsored by a NASA Aerospace Workforce Development Grant.
On February 12, 2009, Dr. George Carruthers was honored as a Distinguished Lecturer at the Office of Naval Research for his achievements in the field of space science.
He is a member of the American Astronomical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
***Information courtesy of Wikipedia.org and About.com***