Black Inventors and Startups Creating A Brighter Future
From the past to the present, we honour two Black inventors and two Black-owned startups, which have changed lives in the past and who are supporting the environment for a cleaner future.
Startups pushing for a greener planet:
“Serendipitous”, meaning happily discovered by chance, must be how many feel when browsing through the jewellery and accessories, crafted by founder Sydney Ziems, of the Serendipitous Project.
Founded only in 2019, Sydney’s pieces range from earrings to shoes and are made from renewable items such as pearls, shells and even sea glass (not the shoes).
To reduce waste, each of the pieces in the permanent collection are made only once ordered and Sydney also up-cycles vintage finds.
Yet at the bright heart of this project, Sydney told Vogue that she is “committed to showcasing diversity” across her jewellery and accessories.
Who knows what the tide will bring in?
Famers in Somalia can be supported from smartphone owners around the world, with Mohamed Jimale’s Ari App.
Now based in Stockholm, Mohamed spent the first three years of his life living as a nomad in Somalia. The only material possessions he owned were the animals that travelled with his family.
Aged 11, he enrolled at school in Mogadishu and excelled academically. He was fascinated by technology and this later led him to study IT in India, then to Sweden and finally to work for the United Nations.
However, Mohamed never forgot his nomadic routes and was concerned when he saw news of droughts affecting his home: “Lack of food, starvation, I wanted to do something about it… why not enable [the nomadic farmers] to sell their animals all over the world, on the internet?”
Somalia is already the top exporter of goats and sheep in the world and many Nomads now have phones.
Mohamed built Ari App so that anyone with a smartphone can buy an animal, name them and trade them. This sustainable solution has impacted nomadic farmers and kept them out of poverty and kept the wheels of agriculture moving.
Inventors who saved the planet from further carbon emissions:
Together, engineer David Crosthwait and designer Alice H Parker have saved untold levels of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere.
If you have ever turned up the thermostat, you have David Crosthwait to thank.
Born in Missouri, USA, 1898, David was a keen engineer from school age. He earned a scholarship to study engineering at Purdue University and graduated with Bachelors and a Masters in 1920.
He began working as a researcher at Dunham Company creating various inventions, from the vacuum pump to the thermostat control.
David gained such a reputation, he was commissioned to design the heating system for the Rockefeller Center in New York, which earned him a medal from the National Technological Association.
Without these inventions, homeowners would have less control over the temperature of their homes, which would lead to wasted energy and more unnecessarily emitted greenhouse gasses.
Alice H Parker
Each winter, Alice H Parker would burn wood or coal in a fireplace to keep warm, as did everyone else in New Jersey, USA. The heat it produced was cosy, but insufficient to even heat a whole room.
Although in the early 20th century, the atmosphere was in a better condition than it is today, it would be in a far worse state, if not for Alice’s ingenious thinking.
After studying at Howard University Academy, she came up with the concept of a natural gas heating furnace: drawing cool air into a furnace, pumping it through a heat exchanger and then running it through pipes across the home.
Her idea was that instead of concentrating heat in a fireplace (where one would have to keep adding fuel), the heat could be spread throughout the home, via pipes under the floorboards.
This removed the need for the heating to be manually sustained and also removed the risk of a fire accident happening in the home. Alice utilised natural gas in her design, which was then only used in industries.
The household-friendly invention has brought warmth and comfort to millions who endure brutal winters and helped to lower the levels of carbon dioxide emissions.
While obtaining a patent was legally available to African Americans at the time, it was an expensive process and Alice knew her design could be rejected based on her race.
Regardless, she persevered and secured a patent for her design of the gas heating furnace, in 1919.