Lewis Latimer

Family And Early Life

Lewis Latimer was born from parents who escaped slavery. With no access to formal education, Latimer was a self-made African-American inventor. Over the course of his career, he worked alongside other inventors such as Edison and Bell in addition to his own contributions.

Early Career

Latimer taught himself mechanical drawing and drafting after observing dafters at his employers law firm, Crosby and Gould. This would later serve him well, as he was sought out to draft Bell’s patent application on the telephone. With Latimer’s help Alexander Graham Bell won the patent rights to the telephone.

Continued Success

In 1880, Latimer was hired as assistant manager and drafter for U.S Electric Lighting Company, led by CEO Maxim. At the time, Maxim was hoping to improve Edison’s lightbulb by improving the life span. Latimer was monumental in this process as he designed a carbon filament that was longer lasting than ever before. This made the incandescent light bulb more affordable for the general public. In 1884, Latimer started working for Latimer’s competitor, Edison. He worked in the legal department where he helped fight in numerous legal battles to win Edison’s patents.


Despite his unequal access to education and discrimination, Latimer held a crucial role in the invention of the telephone and improvement to the light bulb. Latimer faced a great deal of adversity, yet was still successful.