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Lewis Howard Latimer - Light Bulb Carbon Filament

Lewis Latimer (September 4, 1848–December 11, 1928) is considered one of the most important African-American inventors, for the number of inventions he produced and patents he secured, but also for the importance of his best-known discovery: a longer-lasting filament for the electric light. He also helped Alexander Graham Bell obtained the patent for the first telephone. Latimer was in great demand for his expertise later in his career as electric light spread across the country.

Lewis Latimer (September 4, 1848–December 11, 1928) was born in Chelsea, Mass. His parents were slaves who had escaped from Virginia. His father, George Latimer, was tried for being a runaway in an extremely famous case, but was ultimately allowed to remain in Massachusetts as a free man. Lewis Latimer enlisted in the Navy at age fifteen. When the Civil War ended, he returned to Boston and taught himself mechanical drawing while working at a patent law firm. Latimer worked with the famous inventor Hiram Maxim at the U.S. Electric Lighting Company. While working there in 1881, Latimer patented a carbon filament for the incandescent lightbulb. The invention helped make electric lighting practical and affordable for the average household. Latimer kept great company in his career. In addition to working with Maxim, Latimer drafted the drawings that Alexander Graham Bell used to patent the first telephone in 1876. He also worked for Thomas Edison.


Bellis, Mary. “Biography of Lewis Latimer, Noted African-American Inventor.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 28 July 2019,

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