Wednesday, February 11, 2015

BHM: Lewis Latimer


"There must be vistas flying out beyond, that promise more than present conditions yield."

Lewis Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1848. He was the son of George and Rebecca Latimer, escaped slaves from Virginia. After enlitsting in the military at 15, Latimer returned to Boston, Massachusetts where he was employed by the patent solicitors.

Latimer's talent for drafting and his creative genius led him to invent a method of making carbon filaments for the Maxim electric incandescent lamp. In 1876 Alexander Graham Bell, a teacher of deaf students, asked Latimer and his known drafting skills to help him apply for a patent. Bell knew others were also working on devices to transmit human voices over electrical wires, and he was in a race to secure a patent. Eventually their patent was approved. In 1881, he supervised the installation of the electric lights in New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, and London.

Lewis Latimer was the original draftsman for Thomas Edison (who he started working for in 1884) and as such was the star witness in Edison's infringement suits. Lewis Latimer was the only African American member of the twenty-four " Edison Principles ", Thomas Edison's engineering division of the Edison Company.

On December 11, 1928, Lewis Howard Latimer died, leaving a remarkable legacy. His name will be forever associated with two of the most revolutionary inventions of all time: the incandescent electric light bulb and the telephone.


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