Bessie Virginia Blount Griffin was a physical therapist, inventor, and forensic scientist also known by her married name, Bessie Blount Griffin.
In 1953, Blount appeared on the WCAU Philadelphia television show “The Big Idea”, becoming the 1st African-American and the 1st woman to be given such recognition.
On the program, she stated, “A Black woman can invent something for the benefit of human kind.”
Griffin was named as one of many notable Virginia Women in History in 2005.
HER EDUCATION: Blount, born in Hickory, Virginia, initially attended Union Junior College. She received nurse’s training at Community Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, then went on toPanzer College of Physical Education and Hygiene in East Orange, New Jersey. Along the way, she studied physical therapy in Chicago.
HER INVENTIONS: During World War II, as part of her work with wounded soldiers, Blount devised an apparatus to help amputees feed themselves. She invented an electronic feeding device in 1951, a feeding tube that delivered one mouthful of food at a time, controlled by biting down on the tube. The American Veterans Administration did not accept her invention, so she sold it to the French government.
Blount was once a physical therapist to the mother-in-law of Theodore Edison, son of famed inventor Thomas Edison. She and the younger Edison became close friends and while in his home she invented the disposable cardboard emesis basin. This invention was also not accepted by the American Veterans Administration, so she sold it to Belgium.
HER CAREER IN FORENSIC SCIENCE: In 1969, Blount went into law enforcement as a forensic scientist, at the Vineland police Department and the Norfolk Police Department. In the mid-1970s, she became the chief document examiner at the Portsmouth Police Department.
In 1977, she trained and worked at Scotland Yard in England. She was the 1st African-American woman to work there.
She ran her own business as a forensic science consultant in the 1990s, until age 83, studying slave papers and Civil War documents as well as verifying the authenticity of documents containing Native American-U.S. treaties.
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