Frederick McKinley Jones (May 17,1893- February 21, 1961)


Bronze bust of Frederick McKinley Jones, award-winning African-American inventor, entrepreneur
"He got the refrigerator industry rolling"

Frederick McKinley Jones was an award winning African inventor and entrepreneur, whose work revolutionized the cinema and refrigeration industries. He was an early pioneer in electronics, agriculture and sustainability.


Jones was born on May 17, 1893 in Cincinnati, Ohio to a single mother. His mother died when he was just 9 years old, and Frederick was to live with a Catholic priest in Kentucky until he was 16, at which time he returned to Cincinnati and became a mechanical apprentice. During his studies, Jones, who was never formally educated in his field, took in as much information as he could. By age 19, he had built and raced many cars, becoming known as one of the best racers in the Great Lakes area.


Jones would serve as sergeant during World War I, and became known as a highly skilled electrician after rewiring his camp for electricity, telephone, and telegraph services. After his discharge from the Army in 1919, Jones relocated to Minnesota, where he delved fully into the study of electronics. When navigation proved difficult during the harsh snowy Minnesota winters, Jones attached skis to the undercarriage of an old airplane body and attached an airplane propeller to a motor, and could be seen transporting physicians around to care for sick patients in the snow.


Jones would go on to create many other inventions, including a portable x-ray machine; but due to discriminatory practices of the time, he was unfortunately unable to patent most of his earlier inventions, and was forced to watch as other [white] men profited from his expertise and hard work.


During World War II, Jones' inventions of air-conditioning and refrigeration of military hospital and kitchen units was a critical step in saving the lives of many soldiers wounded during combat. In 1944, Frederick became the first African American to be elected into the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers. He was a consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Bureau of Standards in the 1950's.


Frederick McKinley Jones passed away from lung cancer in 1961 at 68 years of age, and held 60 patents which advanced the fields of refrigeration, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and motion pictures. Undoubtedly, his most notable invention is the first automatic refrigeration machine for trucks, which allowed perishable foods to be transported across longer distances while increasing shelf life of farm and other produce. He was posthumously awarded the National Medal of Technology, and was the first African-American inventor to receive this honor.

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