Inventors are inspirational. Bessie Blount Griffin was an inventor, physical therapist, and forensic scientist. Her inventions came out of the work she did with wounded soldiers following World War II. She invented an electronic feeding tube and a disposable cardboard emesis basin.
Bessie Virginia Blount was born on November 24, 1914 in Hickory, Virginia. She was African American and her parents names were Mary and William. After high school, she attended Union Junior College before receiving nurse’s training at Community Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. She then attended Panzer College of Physical Education and Hygiene in East Orange, New Jersey. She, also, studied physical therapy in Chicago.
Not much is known about Bessie’s personal life, however she did marry and start using the name Bessie Blount Griffin around 1950. By 1951, she was living in Newark, New Jersey and working as a physical therapist and teacher of physical therapy at the Bronx Hospital in New York. Here she started making devices that would help wounded soldiers with daily activities, like eating. The initial tube that sent morsels of food to the patient by biting down on it was donated the France. In 1951, she patented a portable receptacle support that allowed patients to feed themselves. Due to the lack of interest from the American Veteran’s Administration, she signed the rights to other inventions to the governments of France and Belgium.
Her work, also, led to her working with other patients, including Mrs. Edison. This led to Bessie’s friendship with Theodore M. Edison, the son of Mrs. Edison and inventor Thomas Alva Edison. They shared ideas for his company and her inventions to make the lives of the disabled better.
In 1969, Bessie began working as a forensic scientist for police departments. She worked for Vineland, New Jersey and the Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia departments. By 1972, she became the chief document examiner. In 1977, she became the first African American woman to train and work at Scotland Yard. Later, she ran her own business to examine and research the authenticity of African American slave papers. She worked with Native American treaties and pre-Civil War documents as well. She served as a consultant for law enforcement agencies. She worked until she was 83.
In 2005, she was named one of the notable Virginia Women in History. In 2007, she was inducted into New Jersey’s Cumberland County Black Hall of Fame. She was also honored with New Jersey’s Joint Legislative Commendation. She passed away on December 30, 2009 in Newfield, New Jersey. Back in 1953 on television, she had stated that a Black woman can invent something for the benefit of human kind. She proved her statement true. Be inspired! Have a bright day!