Lewis Latimer was an African American inventor and draftsman.Lewis Latimer joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 15 on September 16, 1863, and served as a Landsman on the USS Massasoit.
After receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy on July 3, 1865, he gained employment as an office boy with a patent law firm, Crosby Halstead and Gould, with a $3.00 per week salary.
He learned how to use a set square, ruler and other tools. Later, after his boss recognized his talent for sketching patent drawings, Latimer was promoted to the position of head draftsman earning $20.00 a week by 1872 in 1874, he co-patented (with Charles W. Brown) an improved toilet system for railroad cars called the Water Closet for Railroad Cars (U.S. Patent 147,363).
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell employed Latimer, then a draftsman at Bell's patent law firm, to draft the necessary drawings required to receive a patent for Bell's telephone.
Lewis Latimer was the only African American engineer/scientist member of the elite Edison Pioneers research and development organization.
He also patented an improved way to produce carbon filaments for light bulbs. Until Latimer's process for making carbon filament, Edison's light bulbs would burn only for a few minutes. Latimer's filament burned for hours.
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