Lewis Latimer

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by kellym2
Last updated 6 years ago

Inventors and Inventions

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Lewis Latimer

Family Background

1848-Birth1864-Joined U.S. Navy1876-Telephone Patent1882-"Maxim" Lamp Patent1890-Published Incandescent Electric Lighting: A Practical Description of the Edison System1922-Failing eyesight caused to end career1928-Death

The parents of Lewis Latimer,George and Rebecca Latimer were determined to have their children be born on free soil so they decided to run from Virgina to Massachusets. In 1857, the Supreme Court ruled that a slave named Dred Scott could not be considered a free man although he had lived in a free state. George Latimer disappeared shortly after the decision became known. Because he had no official papers to prove he was a free man, he feared for his safety and that of his family.

Lewis Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on September 4, 1848. Lewis joined the U.S. Navy in 1864 when he was sixteen years old. After the Civil War ended in 1868, he received a job as an office boy in the Crosby and Gould patent law firm. While observing the men at work and gathering information from books, Latimer taught himself mechanical drawing. While working at the firm, Latimer met Alexander Graham Bell who hired him to draw the blue prints for a new invention called the telephone. On February 14, 1876, just a few hours earlier than that of a rival inventor, Lewis Latimer was able to provide these blue prints allowing Bell to file for the telephone patent. In 1880 Latimer was hired as a mechanical draftsman for Hiram Maxim, an inventor and founder of the U.S. Electric Lighting Company in Brooklyn, N.Y. Lewis reinvented a new science complexities on January 17, 1882 when he and Joseph V. Nichols were granted a patent for the “Maxim lamp,” which uses carbon filament to radiate light. In 1884 Lewis was invited to work for Maxim's arch rival, Thomas Alva Edison in New York. He became Edison's patent investigator and expert witness in cases against persons trying to benefit from Edison's inventions without legal permission. In 1890 Latimer published the book Incandescent Electric Lighting: A Practical Description of the Edison System which explains how an incandescent lamp produces light in an easy-to-understand manner. Latimer worked for a patent consultant firm until 1922 when failing eyesight caused an end to his career. On December 11, 1928, Lewis Latimer died but will never be forgotten.

Lasting Impact

Lewis Howard Latimer left a remarkable legacy throughout science and his name will be forever recognized by two of the most revolutionary inventions of all time; the electric light bulb and the telephone.


George, Luvenia. "Lemelson Center Invention Features: Lewis Latimer." Lemelson Center Invention Features: Lewis Latimer. Smithsonian Institution, 26 Feb. 1999.Martin, Jonathan. "Latimer, Lewis H. 1848–1928." Contemporary Black Biography. 1993. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870600045.htmlNorman, Winifred Latimer, and Lily Patterson. Lewis Latimer. New York: Chelsea House, 1994.



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