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Black Inventors and Innovators - Norbert Rillieux

Updated on February 16, 2011
Norbert Rillieux
Norbert Rillieux
Rillieux's Patent
Rillieux's Patent
Sugar Cane
Sugar Cane
Sugar Cube
Sugar Cube


In honor of Black History Month I have decided to do a series on Black Inventors and Innovators.  There are so many Black inventors that I believe deserve to be acknowledged for their accomplishments. I am certain that I will leave some out. I am hopeful that I will do some justice to those who had amazing insight, drive and desire; those who have not been truly acknowledged for their concepts and discoveries. This is a journey for me as well since this is something that I never learned growing up.  This was not something that was taught in school. I believe the only Black inventor I learned about in school was George Washington Carver and although he is very significant in our history there are many more who are just as important.  I also feel that this is important information for my children who are helping me through this experience with their input and research.  I am so happy that my children are just as curious as I am and this has been a really fun and very interesting undertaking.


The first inventor/innovator in my series is Norbert Rillieux.  Norbert Rillieux was born  March 17, 1806 in New Orleans, Louisiana and died October 8, 1894 in Paris France. Rillieux was born a free man even though his mother was a slave.  His father was a wealthy white plantation owner. The plantation had cotton fields and was also used to process and refine sugar. Sugarcane at the time was the dominant crop in Louisiana but the refining process was very inefficient, expensive and extremely dangerous.  Rillieux invented a safer and less expensive way to turn sugarcane into sugar.  His method improved the quality of sugar and made it more affordable when previously sugar was a very rare and expensive treat. Rillieux created a multiple-effect evaporator which was a way of evaporating water and it changed sugar refinery. With the evaporator sugar factories were able to produce large quantities of sugar more efficiently, in less time and for less money.  With the old way the sugarcane had to be boiled at incredibly high temperatures and the boiling water had to be transferred from kettle to kettle making the chances of severe burns incredibly high.  With the evaporators lower temperatures were used to separate the juice from the sugarcane. Rillieux’s invention definitely changed the way sugar was and is processed.


As I drink my sweetened tea and eat my snickerdoodle cookie I really have thank Norbert Rillieux for his invention.



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      3 years ago

      Hi Lindsay and Amy,I really hope you reply even thuogh it has been 2 years since you\’ve posted on here… I\’m so glad to have found this site. My name is Nichole and I am almost 23 years old, I have suffered with NDPH since I was 16. I was a Sophomore in high school, it was near the end of 2006 when I got sick with bronchitis and the flu and coughed and coughed and noticed I had a really terrible headache with it. Once the sickness went away I noticed that the migraine, that pain in my head that had been so foreign to me prior to this, had not gone away, and still has not to this day… I had to be home schooled and quit all of my sports I was a part of… My \”friends\” went on with their lives and forgot about me while I had a constant 24/7 pain that I could not get rid of no matter how hard I tried or how much it killed me, physically and mentally. We began with Chiropractors, decompression machines, adjustments, etc. I traveled hours to probably 20 different Chiropractors that all said that they knew what I had and exactly how to treat it. I\’ve tried natural supplements, over the counter medications, 6 Occipital nerve blocks in the back of my head, massage, diets of no wheat, no gluten, no sugar, vegan only, all with no progress. My family understands the pain and how I can be \”ok\” one minute but then pick up something slightly too heavy, walk a little too fast, sit down a little too hard and I will have to be in my room with blankets over my windows and absolutely no sound because the pain is so unbearable. It is so frustrating because I too feel like a burden, like ok you have a headache so what? Why can\’t you stay out late or get up early or work long shifts or run around and be active? But it is so much more than a headache… It\’s become a way of life and althuogh I think I handle it well I know that deep down I am depressed and deeply saddened by it because anytime I stop to think about it or talk to anyone about it I cry instantly. Lindsay, I too have tried the things you have with no help and at Cleveland Clinic where they did my nerve blocks they told me about the program where you stay there for an amount of time. My option they told me about when staying there was a few weeks, they would put me on all these medications and steroid medications, have physical therapy and counseling as well. They also said the FDA would soon be approving the Botox injections, I\’m sorry those did not help you either… NDPH has altered my life drastically, I can\’t work as much, I can\’t run around and just be free, I can\’t take a full load of classes at a time… Basically I just want to thank you for having this site Amy, it is really more helpful than you know, just knowing that I\’m not the only one to suffer from this and that I\’m not the only one that has this pain to think about every single second of every day…Bless you and bless all your readers, may you all find relief from the pain -Nichole

    • Triplet Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Triplet Mom 

      7 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you pmccray!!

    • pmccray profile image


      7 years ago from Utah

      Awesome hub, voted up, marked useful and shared.

    • Triplet Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Triplet Mom 

      7 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you Eiddwen! I am enjoying learning as well!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      Hi Triplet Mom,

      Another great one to add to the collection. There is so much to learn in this world and the amount of learning that I have undertaken since joining everyone here on HP is unbelievable.

      Thank you so much for sharing this one.

      take care


    • Triplet Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Triplet Mom 

      7 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you DeBorrah! Oh he definitely made lemonade!

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 

      7 years ago

      Triplet Mom, Thank you for another informative Hub! Norbert Rilleux was a most brilliant man, what a sweet invention from that bitter period of time! It certainly gives new life to the saying "When someone gives you a lemon; You can always make lemonade!"

      Thank you for sharing, Peace & Blessings!

    • Triplet Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Triplet Mom 

      7 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you fastfreta! I am learning so much and is really refreshing.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      I am going to keep up with this series Triplet Mom, because as you say "the only black inventor that I ever knew, growing up, was George Washington Carver." I've never even heard of this man's name. Great hub, I look forward to the rest of the series.

    • Triplet Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Triplet Mom 

      7 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you for your comments Hello Hello! I was amazed by how much this man went through and how long it took him to actually get recognition. He still kept moving along. A truly amazing person!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you so much this tribute and revelation of Norb ert Rillieux. He gave the sugar industry so much wealth and yet nobody talk about it and the right recognision. Just because of that damn racism. How bitter he must have felt?


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