LEWIS HOWARD LATIMER Biography - Pioneers, Explorers & inventors


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Lewis Howard Latimer                                                                     
Born September 4, 1848                                                                   
Chelsea, Massachusetts                                                                   
Died December 11, 1928                                                                   
New York City, New YorkUSA                                                               
Occupation Inventor                                                                     
Spouse Mary Wilson                                                                       
Children Jeanette and Louise                                                             
Parents George Latimer (1818-c1880)                                                     
Lewis Howard Latimer (September 4, 1848 - December 11, 1928) was an African             
American inventor and draftsman. Though Thomas Alva Edison is credited with the         
invention of the lightbulb, Latimer made significant contributions to its               
further development.                                                                     
Lewis Howard Latimer was born Chelsea, Massachusetts on September 4, 1848 as the         
youngest of the four children of Rebecca (1826-1848) and George Latimer (July 4,         
1818 -c.1880). George Latimer had been the slave of James B. Gray of                     
Virginia. George Latimer ran away to freedom in Boston, Massachusetts in October,       
1842, along with his wife Rebecca, who had been the slave of another man. When           
Gray, the owner, appeared in Boston to take them back to Virginia, it became a           
noted case in the movement for abolition of slavery, gaining the involvement of         
such abolitionists as William Lloyd Garrison. Eventually funds were raised to           
pay Gray $400 for the freedom of George Latimer. One of Lewis' siblings was             
named William H. Latimer (1846-1892), who worked as a barber.                           
He joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 15 on September 16,1864. After receiving           
an honorable discharge from the Navy on July 3, 1865, he gained employment as an         
office boy with a patent law firm, Crosby Halstead and Gould, with a $3.00 per           
week salary. He learned how to use a L square, ruler, and other tools. Later,           
after his boss recognized his talent for sketching patent drawings, Latimer was         
promoted to the position of head draftsman earning $20.00 a week by 1878.               
In 1874, he copatented (with Charles W. Brown) an improved toilet system for             
railroad cars called the Water Closet for Railroad Cars (U.S. Patent 147,363),           
the first of many patents.                                                               
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell employed Latimer to draft the necessary drawings         
required to receive a patent for Bell's telephone. He did this in his capacity           
as draftsman at the firm of Bell's patent law firm.                                     
In 1889, he moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut with his brother, William, his             
mother, Rebecca, and his wife. Lewis was hired as assistant manager and                 
draftsman for the U.S. Electric Lighting Company, a company owned by Hiram Maxim,       
a rival of inventor Thomas Edison. Latimer received a patent in January 1881 for         
the "Process of Manufacturing Carbons", an improved method for the production of         
carbon filaments for lightbulb. The Edison Electric Light Company in New York           
City hired Latimer in 1884, as a draftsman and an expert witness in patent               
litigation on electric lights. Latimer was also an Edison Pioneer, a group of           
those that had worked for Edison companies over the years. Latimer never worked         
directly for Thomas Edison, or in Edison's lab.