Frederick McKinley Jones patented over 60 inventions in his lifetime. His most significant invention changed the face of food as we know it in the modern world - refrigeration for food transport.
Fascinated by mechanics from a young age, Jones unassembled, reassembled, and improved any machinery he could get his hands on, becoming a self-educated mechanical and electrical engineer. In his youth, Jones traveled all over the South and Midwest from job to job, picking up engineering skills along the way.
Jones served in World War I, teaching classes on electrical engineering and fixing any number of mechanical items for the army. His service in World War II was quite a different experience, as his transportable refrigeration device changed the way food and medical supplies were transported. He was promoted to sergeant, an extremely high rank of the military for African-Americans during this time in history.
Between Jones’ service in the two wars, he met his fateful partner, Joseph A. Numero. Numero was an entrepreneur who saw Jones’s talent and enlisted him to help with Numero’s business. Harry Werner, a business friend, complained to Numero that he lost a lot of perishable food in transit, prompting Numero to joke he needed a refrigerator on his truck. This sparked Jones’ interest as a worthwhile challenge. Jones patented his invention of the portable refrigeration unit in 1940, and eventually Numero sold his business to officially partner with Jones, forming the U.S. Thermo Control Company. By 1949, the company had earned 3.9 million dollars, equivalent to $40.6 million today.
Jones was recognized for his many inventions that changed the shape of their industries, including the portable x-ray machine and condenser microphone. While these were not patented by Jones, they are credited to his portfolio of inventions. Jones was inducted into the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers in 1944, as their first African-American member. He and Numero were also posthumously awarded the National Medal of Technology by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. A pioneer even after his death, he was the first African-American to be awarded this honor.
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All facts sourced from: "Frederick McKinley Jones." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 2 Feb. 2019 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.