Affinity and Beyond – Episode 3

Brianna Hopkins had to admit. Henry Jacobs’ challenge for her to write five stories of talents to gain an interview was a great way to gain insight to the story she was writing. She was discovering a talent she never realized until now. She was delighted in being able to unveil stories that she, and eventually her readers, would have never known about.

Lewis Latimer was the youngest of four children to parents who were escaped slaves. His formal education was limited because he needed to help support his family. At the age of 15, he joined the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. After leaving the Navy, he got a job with a patent law firm as an office assistant. While at the law firm, he developed a talent for drafting by observing others. He was promoted to drafter after impressing the management of the firm with his skills.

In addition to his drafting skills, Lewis found a talent for invention. He invented an improvement to bathrooms on trains. He was often a collaborator with inventors who came to the patent office where he worked. One of his collaborations was with Alexander Graham Bell on the telephone. Without Lewis’ help, Graham would not   have received the patent.

Lewis left the patent law firm and took a job as a manager for Thomas Edison’s chief rival in electric lighting. While at this new job, Lewis developed a longer lasting filament which was cheaper than the filament currently in use. Edison’s light bulb only lasted a few days. He received a patent for his invention. He was then asked to manage the production of the filament. He faced tremendous discrimination because       workers did not want to be managed by a black man.

Lewis eventually went to work for Thomas Edison especially helping Edison protect his patents from infringement. He became an Edison Pioneer – a group that worked closely with Edison on his ideas.

Lewis also continued his own invention career. His most notable invention became the forerunner of the air conditioner. He was also a playwright, an artist, and           played the violin and the flute. He discovered talents he never imagined. He was    selected to become a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

As Brianna reflected on Lewis’ story, she began to realize that the development of one’s talent is a lifetime journey. For Lewis, his talent began with observation talents when he learned to draft. His talent was facilitated by those who believed in him. Talent is often a project of self-initiated desire for self-improvement along with the efforts of those who believe in that talent.

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“There must be vistas flying out beyond, that promise more than present conditions yield.”
– Lewis Latimer

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