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LEWIS H. LATIMER

INVENTOR (1848-1928)

Born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, as a young man, Lewis Latimer learned mechanical drawing while working for a Boston patent office.  In 1880, Hiram Maxim of the U.S. Electric Lighting Company needed to help develop a commercially viable electric lamp hired him.  In 1882, Latimer invented a device for efficiently manufacturing the carbon filaments used in electric lamps and shared a patent for the "Maxim electric lamp,"  He also patented a threaded wooden socket for light bulbs and supervised the installation of electric streetlights in New York City, Philadelphia, Montreal, and London. 

In 1884, Latimer became an engineer at the Edison Electric Light Company where he had the distinction of being the only African American member of "Edison's Pioneers" (Thomas Edison's team of inventors).  While working for Edison, Latimer wrote "Incandescent Electric Lighting," the first engineering handbook on lighting systems.  Although today's incandescent light bulbs use filaments made of tungsten rather than carbon, Latimer's work helped to make possible the widespread use of electric lights. 

Revised: July 18, 2013.