Lewis Howard Latimer learned mechanical drawing while working for a Boston patent attorney. He later invented an electric lamp and a carbon filament for light bulbs (patented 1881, 1882). Latimer was the only African-American member of Thomas Edison's engineering laboratory.
He taught himself mechanical drawing and drafting by observing the work of draftsmen at the firm. Recognizing Latimer's talent and promise, the firm partners promoted him from office boy to draftsman. In addition to assisting others, Latimer designed a number of his own inventions, including an improved railroad car bathroom and an early air conditioning unit.
Latimer's talents were well-matched to the post-Civil War period, which saw a large number of scientific and engineering breakthroughs. Latimer was directly involved with one of these inventions: the telephone. Working with Alexander Graham Bell, Latimer helped draft the patent for Bell's design of the telephone. He was also involved in the field of incandescent lighting, a particularly competitive field, working for Hiram Maxim and Thomas Edison.
"We create our future by improving our present opportunities: however few and small they may be."
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