Bessie Virginia Blount, born November 24, 1914, in Hickory, Virginia, was a physical therapist, inventor, and forensic scientist. She is also known by her married name, Bessie Blount Griffin.
Bessie Blount attended the Panzer College of Physical Education and Hygiene in East Orange, New Jersey, and Union Junior College.
During World War II as part of her work with wounded soldiers, Blount devised an apparatus to help World War II amputees feed themselves. She invented the electronic feeding device in 1951. It was a feeding tube which 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.
Learn more about Bessie Blount, and see a schematic of her feeding device, free from About.com. 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.
Blount taught physical therapy at Panzar College in New Jersey.
Forensic science career
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 first 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 the authenticity of documents containing Native American-U.S. treaties.
Interviews and public appearances
In 1953, Blount appeared on the Philadelphia television show “The Big Idea”, becoming the first African-American and the first woman to be given such recognition. On the program, she stated, "A Black woman can invent something for the benefit of human kind."
Honors and Awards
Bessie Blount Griffin was named as one of many notable Virginia Women in History in 2005.