• Home
  • Posts
  • Necessity is the Mother of Invention – Black History Month
Ever try sitting on your hands and eating a hamburger? Bessie Blount Griffin (1914-2009) saw self-feeding for amputees as quite a challenge. She invented an innovative solution to assist her patients in developing greater independence.

This week in Black History Month we honor innovator, writer, physical therapist, inventor and forensic scientist Bessie Blount Griffin. 

Many soldiers returning from World War II returned as amputees. Griffin’s goal was to help them gain independence in performing daily activities such as writing and eating. Recognizing that much of the equipment in use at the time was inadequate, Blount found innovative ways to rehabilitate her patients.

Blount’s device for self-feeding was a tube that delivered individual bites of food to the patient at his or her own pace.  The patient would bite down on the tube for the next bit of food to be delivered to the mouthpiece. Blount also demonstrated her inventions on a television show called “The Big Idea” in 1953, the first woman and the first African American to appear on the program.


“If you can do it, do it..If you can achieve it, achieve it.”
-Bessie Blount Griffin

Can you conquer a similar challenge? Download our free Elevate Science Engineering Design Challenge “Reaching Out with Prosthetics” and build a model of a prosthetic arm.

Download our Course 1 Engineering Design Notebook Activity: Reaching Out with Prosthetics 

Let students channel their “inventor” skills with materials that support new Engineering Design Standards.

Stock your innovation or makerspaces with materials from our hands-on equipment kits

Get a free trial to explore Elevate Science K-8 on Realize.

Sources: Lemelson MIT ; BlackPast.org ; NYTimes.com

Share This

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on email
Share on linkedin
Michael Comer

Michael Comer

STEM Author

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.