Few inventors have had the lasting impact of Otis Boykin. Look around the house today and you’ll see a variety of devices that utilize components made by Boykin – including computers, radios and TV sets. Boykin’s inventions are all the more impressive when one considers he was an African American in a time of segregation and the field of electronics was not as well-established as it is today.
Though he attended the Illinois Institute of Technology for a time, Otis Boykin never made it to graduation because he couldn’t afford tuition. Instead, Boykin went to work as an inventor. He received his first patent in 1959 for a wire resistor that allowed a precise amount of electricity to flow to a component. Two year later, he created an even better resistor that could be manufactured inexpensively and withstand extreme temperature changes and shock. A low-cost product that was more reliable, the invention brought Otis Boykin to the forefront of American electronics.
Consumer electronics manufacturers, the United States military and IBM all placed orders for the resistor. It would come to be used in household appliances, computers and guided missiles – and is still used in many of those devices to this very day. But, perhaps most importantly, a version of his resistor was used in the invention of the pacemaker. That device, which keeps the heart beating regularly through electronic pulses, has helped to extend the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals.
And Otis Boykin’s accomplishments didn’t stop there. He continued to invent throughout the duration of his life (which ended in 1982), working as a consultant for firms in America and Europe. All in all, he earned 11 patents and invented 28 different electronic devices. Some of his lesser known inventions include a burglar-proof cash register and a chemical air filter – both of which were never produced.