Elijah McCoy was born on May 2, 1843, to formerly enslaved people who fled the U.S. via the underground railroad. When McCoy was just three years old, the family moved back to the U.S. and settled in Detroit. At age 15, he traveled to Scotland to complete an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering.
Upon his return to the U.S., McCoy accepted a job at the Michigan Central Railroad. The job required him to lubricate steam engines, and because of his advanced training, McCoy was able to revolutionize the steam engine by creating a lubricator that used steam pressure to pump oil, which eliminated the need to stop trains for lubrication. McCoy was issued his first patent for this device in July 1872.
He patented nearly 60 devices throughout his life. McCoy died in 1929 at 86 years old.
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