Black History Month: Lewis Latimer

Lewis Latimer, born September 4th, 1848 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, was an African American inventor and draftsman. Latimer is known for inventing the most important part of the light bulb: the carbon filament. However, that is just one of his many accomplishments. In 1874, he co-patented with Charles W. Brown an improved toilet system for railroad cars, called the "Water Closet" for railroad cars.


Two years later he was employed by Alexander Graham Bell and soon became a draftsman at Bell's patent law firm, hired to draft drawings to receive a patent for Bell's telephone invention. Following that, Lewis moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut where he became an assistant manager and draftsman for the U.S. Electric Lighting Company, which was owned by Hiram Maim, a rival company of Thomas A. Edison. Latimer continued to expand his knowledge as an inventor, and in January 1881 he received a patent for the "Process of Manufacturing Carbons" an advanced method for the production of carbon filaments used in light bulbs. This patent would take him to The Edison Electric Light Company in New York City in 1884, as a draftsman and an expert witness in patent litigation on electric lights. Lewis Latimer left a long list in his legacy and is an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his work on electric filament manufacturing techniques. Today we honor and pay tribute to Latimer for his contributions to the world.