Lewis Howard Latimer (September 4, 1848 - December 11, 1928) was an African American inventor. He was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, to George and Rebecca Latimer, who were runaway slaves. During the Civil War, he served on the Navy's U.S.S. Massasoit.
After receiving an honorable discharge on July 3, 1865, he gained employment as an office boy with a patent law firm, Crosby and Gould, with a $33.00 per week salary. Later, after his boss recognized his talent for sketching patent drawings, Latimer was promoted to the position of head draftsman earning $20.00 a week.
He married Mary Wilson in November 1873.
In 1873, he invented an improved toilet system for railroad cars called the water closet for railroad cars. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell hired Latimer to draft the necessary drawings required to receive a patent for Bell's telephone.
In 1880, after moving to Bridgeport, Connecticut, Latimer was hired as assistant manager and draftsman for U.S. Electric Lighting Company. Latimer received a patent in January 1882 for the "Process of Manufacturing Carbons," an improved method for the production of lightbulb filaments which yielded longer lasting bulbs than Thomas Edison's technique.