Black Inventors in Energy Efficiency: Louis W. Roberts

If you ever felt thankful for a modern, timesaving, energy efficient electronic device, think of the years of study and work it took innovators in physics and other sciences to create and perfect it. During Black History Month and every month, it’s important to recognize the contributions that Black American inventors like Louis W. Roberts have made to the evolution of technology. Roberts specialized in the study of microwaves (the physics phenomenon, not the oven) and related fields and applied them to aircraft and spacecraft technology, among other things. 

Louis W. Roberts (1913–1995) was born in Jamestown, New York. He graduated from Fisk University with a bachelor’s degree in 1935, then from the University of Michigan with a Master of Science degree in 1937. He then began a career as a professor, first teaching mathematics and physics courses at Saint Augustine’s College, later becoming associate professor of physics at the prestigious Howard University. He later worked in other fields as well. Just a few of his accomplishments include the following: 

  • Roberts founded and was president of the Microwave Associates (now MACOM) and went on to found three additional microwave companies in the 1950s–1960s.
  • He also worked as chief of the optics and microwave laboratory in the Electronics Research Center for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the 1960s. In fact, he was a key member of the Apollo Program that first sent American astronauts to the moon. Over his career, Roberts published numerous technical papers on electromagnetism, optics, and microwave theory. 
  • Over his career, Roberts published numerous technical papers on electromagnetism, optics, and microwave theory.
  • He held 11 patents for various electronic innovations, including the high-power microwave switching device. These devices help make electronics testing processes more efficient by routing signals from multiple testing instruments to the device being tested. 
  • In the 1970s–1980s, Roberts worked to improve energy efficiency in the transportation industry. After holding several senior positions, he became the director of energy and environment at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation (now the Volpe Center). There, he worked on the national airspace system plan and air traffic system controls with the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Celebrate Black History Month and Lower Your Energy Bills with Michigan Saves 

You can support the legacies of these inventors and scientists by changing the way you think about energy efficiency. And making your home more efficient can save you cash now and all year long. Michigan Saves financing can help you quickly turn your house into a comfortable and energy efficient home by paying for virtually any energy upgrade you need. We’re also committed to developing strategies for addressing systemic racism and helping underrepresented populations access benefits related to energy efficiency. 

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