Lewis Latimer, Inventor   Leave a comment


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lewis Howard Latimer (September 4, 1848 – December 11, 1928) was an African American inventor and draftsman.

 Early life

Lewis Howard Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts on September 4, 1848 as the youngest of the five children of Rebecca Smith (1826–1910) and George Latimer (July 4, 1818 [1] – May 29, 1896). George Latimer had been the slave of James B. Gray of Virginia. George Latimer ran away to freedom in Trenton, New Jersey in October,1842, along with his wife Rebecca, who had been the slave of another man. When Gray, the owner, appeared in Boston to take them back to Virginia, it became a noted case in the movement for abolition of slavery, gaining the involvement of such abolitionists as William Lloyd Garrison. Eventually funds were raised to pay Gray $400 for the freedom of George Latimer.[1] Lewis Latimer joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 15 on September 16, 1863, and served as a Landsman on the USS Massasoit. After receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy on July 3, 1865, he gained employment as an office boy with a patent law firm, Crosby Halstead and Gould, with a $3.00 per week salary. He learned how to use an L square, ruler, and other tools. Later, after his boss recognized his talent for sketching patent drawings, Latimer was promoted to the position of head draftsman earning $20.00 a week by 1878.[1] In 1874, he co patented (with Charles W. Brown) an improved toilet system for railroad cars called the Water Closet for Railroad Cars (U.S. Patent 147,363).

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell employed Latimer, then a draftsman at Bell’s patent law firm, to draft the necessary drawings required to receive a patent for Bell’s telephone.[2]

In 1879, he moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut with his brother, William, his mother, Rebecca, and his wife, Mary. Other family members, his brother George A. Latimer and his wife Jane, and his sister Margaret and her husband Augustus T. Hawley and their children, were already living there. Lewis was hired as assistant manager and draftsman for the U.S. Electric Lighting Company, a company owned by Hiram Maxim, a rival of Thomas A. Edison. Latimer received a patent in January 1881 for the “Process of Manufacturing Carbons”, an improved method for the production of carbon filaments for the light bulb. The Edison Electric Light Company in New York City hired Latimer in 1884, as a draftsman and an expert witness in patent litigation on electric lights.

 Personal life

He married Mary Wilson Lewis on November 15, 1873 in Fall River, Massachusetts ; she was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of William and Louisa M. Lewis.[3] The couple had two daughters, Emma Jeanette (born on June 12, 1883, died in February 1978) and Louise Rebecca (born April 19, 1890, died in January 1963). Jeanette married Gerald F. Norman, the first black hired as a high school teacher in the New York City public school system,[4] and had two children, Winifred Latimer Norman (born 1914), a retired social worker who serves as the guardian of her grandfather’s legacy; and Gerald L. Norman (1911–90), who became an administrative law judge.

 Inventions

In 1874, he copatented (with Charles W. Brown) an improved toilet system for railroad cars called the Water Closet for Railroad Cars (U.S. Patent 147,363).

Latimer received a patent in January 1881 for the “Process of Manufacturing Carbons”, an improved method for the production of carbon filaments used in lightbulbs.[5]

 Legacy

Latimer is an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his work on electric filament manufacturing techniques.[6]

Latimer was a founding member of the Flushing, New York Unitarian Church. Latimer’s home has been moved to a small park in Flushing, New York and turned into a museum in honor of the inventor.[7]

A set of apartment houses in Flushing are called “Latimer Gardens”.[8]

P.S. 56 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, is named Lewis H. Latimer School in Latimer’s honor

[edit] Patents

Posted February 15, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in First to Accomplish, Inventors

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