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#BHM2023: Three Black innovators to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame Class of 2023

The #BHM2023: Inventor Series will look at Black inventors that transformed communities worldwide with technology and products.

#BHM2023: Three Black innovators to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame Class of 2023
Black inventors Marjorie Stewart Joyner, James A. Parsons Jr., and Robert G. Bryant were recently inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame Class of 2023. NATIONAL INVENTORS HALL OF FAME PHOTOS 

A trio of Black inventors has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame Class of 2023.

Robert G. Bryant, a NASA chemist based in Langley, Virginia, is among those inducted. He helped develop LaRC-SI (Langley Research Center-Soluble Imide), a polymer used as an insulation material for leads in implantable cardiac resynchronization therapy devices.

Posthumous inductions were bestowed to Marjorie Stewart Joyner and James A. Parsons Jr, according to a statement Feb. 9.

Stewart Joyner invented the permanent wave machine in the 1920s. She was a beautician, salon owner, instructor, and executive for the Mme. C. J. Walker Co. Considered a pioneer of beauty industry standards, she fiercely advocated for civil rights.

Meanwhile, Parsons Jr. created a corrosion-resistant, stainless-steel alloy called Durimet 20. Invented in the 1930s, the alloy has been used in industrial processes that involve corrosive chemicals.

The organization, in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), will celebrate 16 inventions from creators around the world on Oct. 25-26.

This year marks the 50th anniversary. For the complete list of inductees, click here.

Robert G. Bryant

Robert G. Bryant, NASA chemist and inventor of more than 30 patents. NATIONAL INVENTORS HALL OF FAME PHOTO

Born in Chicago in 1962, Bryant was into Legos, electric trains and an erector set as a youth. It wasn’t easy for him growing up. He dealt with vision challenges caused by the genetic condition, oculocutaneous albinism type 2.

Despite that, he developed a passion for reading and chemistry. Bryant earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Valparaiso University in 1985. He then joined the University of Akron as a graduate student, earning his master's and doctorate degrees under NASA’s Graduate Student Research Program as a fellow in polymer science in 1990.

In 1991, Bryant joined NASA Langley Research Center investigating composite materials suitable for high-speed civil transport aircraft and lightweight rockets.

Bryant noticed one of his polymer formulations, LaRC-SI, unexpectedly remained soluble during polymerization. He continued developing LaRC-SI while several NASA research groups explored potential applications and published articles to make scientific and technical communities aware of the formulation.

Then, Medtronic, a leading medical device company, licensed LaRC-SI in 2004, investing nearly $50 million over a decade. Since then, sales have increased after LaRC-SI received Food and Drug Administration approval in 2010.

Bryant currently holds 33 U.S. patents, over a dozen foreign patents and over two dozen commercial licences to NASA.

Marjorie Stewart Joyner

Marjorie Steware Joyner, inventor of the permanent wave machine and a pioneer of modern beauty standards. NATIONAL INVENTORS HALL OF FAME PHOTO

Born in 1896 in Monterey, Virginia, she became the first Black student to graduate from the A.B. Moler Beauty and Culture School in Chicago in 1916, and she soon opened her own beauty shop.

When trends started to point toward Marcel waves and short bob styles, she quickly learned the trade and enrolled in Mme. C. J. Walker’s beauty school, where she honed her skills. In exchange for learning to use a hot comb, Joyner taught Walker how to set waves, according to a statement.

Joyner played an important role in Walker building her empire. She became the company vice president and national supervisor for 200 Walker Co. beauty schools. She remained affiliated with the company for more than 50 years.

In 1928, Joyner patented a machine to create permanent hair waves. She fastened 16 pot roast rods to a hair dryer hood, which evolved into a device that did the job of multiple curling irons used simultaneously. It was an instant hit, according to a statement.

Not only did Joyner help write Illinois’ first cosmetology laws, but in 1935, she became one of the founding members of Mary McLeod Bethune’s National Council of Negro Women, and she worked with Bethune to support Bethune-Cookman College (now University) in Daytona Beach, Florida.

She was also the founder of the United Beauty School Owners and Teachers Association.

James A. Parsons Jr.

James A. Parsons Jr., a metallurgist that designed non-corrosive metals for industrial processes. NATIONAL INVENTORS HALL OF FAME PHOTO

Born in 1900 in Dayton, Ohio, Parsons Jr. was supposed to go to the navy after high school. But fearing for his safety, his father redirected him to work at Duriron, a Dayton manufacturer of pumps and valves for chemical processes, during the summers.

The experience encouraged him to get a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, in 1922.

Upon graduation, he returned to Duriron full-time as an analytical chemist. He worked on alloy compositions and metal processing methods, initially focusing on aluminum, bronze, and high-silicon castings. Parsons then turned to the research and development of corrosion-resistant, stainless-steel alloys and high-silicon alloys, according to a statement.

In 1929, Parsons received the first of eight patents for noncorrosive metals and began developing the steel formulation known as Durimet 20.

The first Durimet 20 castings for commercial use were created by Duriron in 1935. This alloy was the foundation for a family of stainless steel alloys widely used in all corrosive industries. In 1948, Duriron licensed Parsons’ Durimet 20 patents to Carpenter Steel, which introduced Carpenter 20 stainless steel, also called Alloy 20, according to a statement.

Parsons worked his way up to become the lab manager and chief metallurgist at Duriron. The Dayton Daily News reported that the group Parsons led when he left in 1953 was likely the only business with a laboratory entirely staffed by Black employees.

Upon retirement, he organized the metallurgy program at Tennessee A&I State University (now Tennessee State University), believed to be the first of its kind at any historically Black college or university, and served as professor, department head and dean of the engineering school during his tenure from 1953-66.

Parsons also served as an adjunct professor at the Ohio State University and as an instructor at an occupational training center in Dayton, according to a statement.

In 1997, Duriron, then known as Durco International, merged with BW/IP to form Flowserve Corp. Flowserve still manufactures and sells Durimet 20.

You can check out the previous two editions of the #BHM2023: Inventor Series here.