AFRICAN AMERICAN INVENTORS by Otha Richard Sullivan

AFRICAN AMERICAN INVENTORS

Age Range: 10 - 12
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Although this summary account of 25 inventors (plus mentions of several more) effectively conveys the inspirational message that racially motivated obstacles can be overcome given sufficient talent and determination, it is still a marginal entry—lacking focus and with background material of uneven quality—in an increasingly well-populated field. After opening with broad and unsupported claims that African Americans developed the fountain pen, cellular phone, toilet, typewriter, and several other familiar items, Sullivan offers a gallery of inventors in chronological order, beginning with Benjamin Banneker, including George Washington Carver and Madame C.J. Walker, and closing with eight who are still living—none born after 1946. Each gets three to six pages of anecdotes and sometimes unenlightening descriptions of inventions (Granville T. Woods “developed several devices that led to the automatic air brake”; working with lasers, Earl D. Shaw “successfully discovered how to tune the wavelength by turning a knob”), an occasional patent drawing, and random passages co-opted as sidebars. Three people, including two of the three women here, are scientists but not credited with any specific inventions. A chronology that cuts off at 1983, a thin bibliography, and endnotes citing a mix of primary material and sources such as Reader’s Digest and a 1996 calendar, comprise the back matter. Those seeking information on this subject will be better served by books such as Louis Haber’s Black Pioneers of Science and Invention (1991) or individual biographies. (index, not seen) (Biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 10th, 1998
ISBN: 0-471-14804-0
Page count: 166pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998




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