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The son of two former slaves, Garrett Morgan had little more than a grade-school education.

But that didn’t stop the Ohio man from becoming an inventor with a rare gift for designing machines that saved and improved people’s lives.

As a teenager Morgan got a job repairing sewing machines, which led him to his first invention – a revamped sewing machine – and his first entrepreneurial venture: his own repair business.

In 1916, he patented a “safety hood,” a personal breathing device that protected miners and firefighters from smoke and harmful gases. It became the precursor of the gas masks used by soldiers during WWI.

Later, after witnessing a car and buggy crash, Morgan was inspired to create a device to allow pedestrians to safely cross the street.

It was was patented in 1923 and Morgan eventually sold its design to General Electric.

His legacy can be seen today – maybe you’re looking at it right now –  at intersections across the country and the world.  When you see a yellow light reminding you to slow down, you can thank Garrett Morgan, the inventor of the warning light.

(Adapted from CNN)

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