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date: 01 April 2020

Latimer, Lewis locked

(1848–1928).
  • Ian Jones

Extract

African‐American scientist and inventor who worked in Britain. Lewis Latimer's parents were Rebecca and George Latimer, fugitive slaves from Virginia who gained their liberty in the free state of Massachusetts, where Lewis was born. Lewis served in the American Civil War (1861–5), after which he worked as an office boy in a patent law firm. His employers soon recognized his talent for drawing and made him head draughtsman. He married Mary Wilson (1848–1937) in 1873 and wrote a poem for his wedding, which he later published in his collection Poems of Love and Life.

When he was 25, Lewis invented an improved toilet for railway carriages, and in 1876Alexander Graham Bell hired him to produce the drawings he needed to patent the telephone. Lewis was later headhunted by the US Electric Lighting Company, and in 1882 was awarded a patent for a ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Oxford Companion to Black British History.

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