Tic-Toc Goes the Gorilla’s Iron

This week I’ll focus mainly on African American scientists and inventors. It wasn’t easy to pick and choose from the list, so I tried to pick from different areas of science to have a variety in place. I certainly learned a thing or two; hope you do too. ‘Till next time!

1. Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

Born in Baltimore County, Province of Maryland, British America on November 9, 1731, Banneker was a free African American scientist, surveyor, almanac author and farmer. With little formal education, he pretty much taught himself everything he knew. He was a part of a group that surveyed the borders of the original District of Columbia. He often exchanged letters with Thomas Jefferson about slavery and racial equality. At the age of 22 in 1753, Banneker put together a wooden clock that struck on the hour that continued to work until his death. He kept a number of journals in which he would write astronomical observations. Only one has remained intact (the others burned in a fire on the day of his funeral) which contained mathematical calculations and puzzles. He died on October 9, 1806, one month shy of his 75th birthday in Baltimore County, MD, U.S. (For more information, please visit here.)

Here is a stamp commemorating Banneker:


Here is an image of the clock like Banneker built:


2. Paul Du Chaillu [1831 (disputed) – 1903]

Paul Du Chaillu’s birth year is disputed and is either 1831, 1835, or 1839. His place of birth is also disputed but he was born on July 31st. Usually it’s said he was born in Paris or New Orleans, though his friend, Edward Clodd, claims his true birth place of the French Indian Ocean island territory of Ile Bourbon (currently called Reunion). Clodd also said Chaillu’s mother was mulatto. It’s believed that Du Chaillu would have tried to hide his family’s history from the European scientific community because of racism, especially because, at the time, it was believed that great apes and Sub-Saharan Africans were linkd as sharing a small cranial capacity and, therefore, an inability to achieve civilization. And Chaillu, a zoologist and anthropologist would have had his credibility compromised since he was a gorilla expert. Later in life, he studied Scandinavians and it was in St. Petersburg, where he was enjoying a scholarly visit to Russia in April 1903, where he had a stroke of paralysis and died. He is buried in the Bronx, New York City. (For more information, please visit here.)

Here is an image of Du Chaillu:


3. Sarah Boone (1832-1904)

Born Sarah Marshall in February 1832 in Craven County, North Carolina Sarah Boone obtained a US patent to improve the ironing board. Hers was designed to improve the way sleeves were ironed, as well as the bodies of women’s garments. The board was also reversible allowing for both sides of a sleeve to be ironed. She married James Boone, a freed man with whom she’d have eight children. They fled North Carolina at the start of the American Civil War and settled in New Haven, CT. (For more information, please visit here.)

Here is an image of Boone’s patent for the ironing board:



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