Who Is Isaac R. Johnson, the Inventor of the Bicycle Frame?

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Isaac R. Johnson is recognized as the inventor of a patented form for a folding bicycle frame that is recognizable as the common contemporary bicycle. However, few records exist of his life. He is famous for being a black inventor in the United States before the equal rights movements occurred. He patented his invention on Oct. 10, 1899.

Inventing and patenting anything was a significant and challenging accomplishment for African-Americans before the Civil Rights movement that started in 1954 in the United States, but Isaac R. Johnson was not the only inventor to have received this type of recognition. Other African-American inventors who worked prior to 1954 included George Washington Carver, Garrett Morgan, Elijah McCoy and Jan Matzeliger, who each made considerable technological developments.

The precursor to the bicycle was made in Germany in 1817 by Baron Karl von Drais, and it was called “draisine” in English. This invention lacked pedals until the 1860s, which was when the machines were given cranks and pedals that propelled the vehicle’s front wheel, bringing to the world the more commonly recognized form of the bicycle.

A bicycle is a velocipede. This means that it falls under the category of human-powered inventions such as the unicycle and the tricycle.