Who invented it

Friday, February 18, 2011 - 9:10am

An internet giant gets behind an effort to educate about who's behind the invention of some familiar everyday objects.

There’s one at every major crossroads in the country, but who's behind the common traffic signal?

Garrett Morgan was living in Cleveland at the time when he witnessed a traffic accident.

"He thought 'hey there has got to be a way for people to control the flow of traffic, persons, and carriages,” said Tariq Muhammad Walker of BlackVoices.com.

So, he came up with the T-shaped, non-electric, hand cranked traffic signal, which was the forerunner of today's modern traffic light.

It was also in the early 1900's that a young inventor in Lynchburg, Virginia came up with the idea of a chair that folded.

"Nathaniel Alexander patented the design for folding chair that is the precursor to many of the folding chairs we use today," said Walker.

The first idea for the fitted sheet, used in homes and hotels around the world, came from African American woman, Bertha Berman, in 1959.

The predecessor of the modern golf tee was patented by a dentist, George Grant, who was also one of the first blacks to graduate from Harvard.

Kudos, if you're picking up a theme here; it's black history month and AOL's BlackVoices.com is celebrating with stories on America’s black inventors.

"These are things that took time and energy for people to develop and some of those persons who developed those things were African Americans," said Walker.

And some inventions are just for fun, like the Super Soaker, that rocket scientist Lonnie Johnson stumbled onto while conducting a more serious experiment.

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