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Black History Month – Celebrating Black Tech Heroes

This week for Black History Month, we have been celebrating some incredible Black Tech Heroes – inspirational black people who have made an extraordinary difference to the tech industry.

black history month tech heroes

Marie Van Brittan Brown

Marie Van Brittan Brown was a nurse and the first person to develop a prototype for closed circuit television security, AKA, CCTV!

After being distressed by the high crime rates in her area, and the length of time it took the police to get to her house, Marie realised the only way to keep herself and her three children safe was to design a way for them to view who was outside their home, from the inside.

After a fair amount of trial and error and developments, from peep holes in the door to linking #radios to televisions to allow for communication, Marie and her husband submitted the patent application for her invention – and to top that her name was rightfully listed above her husband’s – something unheard of for the 60s.

Marie was recognised in The New York Times and received an award from the National Scientists Committee for her work.

Dr Shirley Jackson

The latest of our Black Tech Heroes is renowned theoretical physicist Dr Shirley Jackson – a woman whose fingerprints can be found on breakthrough innovations such as touch-tone telephones, caller ID and the  fiberoptic  cable.

Born in Washington D.C. in 1946, Dr Jackson is the second African American woman to earn a doctorate in physics and the first to do so at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In the early 1990s, then-New Jersey Governor James Florio awarded Dr Jackson the Thomas Alva Edison Science Award for her contributions to physics and for the promotion of science.

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Dr Jackson to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Gladys West

When compiling a list of Black Tech Heroes, US mathematician Gladys West was a “must include”.


Well without her number crunching and computer modelling, GPS (global positioning system) and the likes of Google Maps would not be the navigation tools of choice that they are today.

Having been hired by the military to work as a programmer, she climbed the proverbial ranks and led a team charged with providing calculations for satellite geodesy models.

Ironically, Gladys is one of only a few who has not come to rely on the technologies she helped to create.

“I’m a doer, hands-on kind of person. If I can see the road and see where it turns and see where it went, I am more sure.”

Otis Boykin

As a tech company that prides itself on innovation, patently we couldn’t let Black History Month pass without including a serial patent securor in our rundown of Black Tech Heroes.

The late Otis Boykin was a prolific inventor of electronic control devices and saw his creations make an impact in the world of guided missiles and computing. However, the American’s crowning success was the development of a device that enables artificial cardiac pacemakers to maintain a regular heartbeat through the use of electrical impulses.

Otis died in 1982 with 26 patents in his name, but literally remains in the hearts of many.

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