A fire on Friday night raged through the Oxon Hill, Maryland home of George Nauflett, killing the 84-year-old African-American chemist and inventor, the Washington Post reports.
The retired scientist and his wife, Minnie, struggled to escape. But only his wife managed to get out of the smoke-filled house alive. Authorities are still investigating what caused the blaze.
Nauflett worked in a U.S. Navy government laboratory in the District of Columbia for more than four decades. During that time, he earned at least 26 patents, according to a Voice of America review of the book The Inventive Spirit of African Americans: Patented Ingenuity.
He told VOA that his inventions included a material for satellites used by the United States and Russia. “The material was no longer made by private industry because one of its components was carcinogenic,” he explained. “So I came up with a stopgap method.”
Growing up in the segregated South, Nauflett overcame many obstacles to achieve great heights.
He dropped out of school in the eighth grade. However, through determination, the future scientist earned a GED after serving in the military. He then studied chemistry at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, and later attended graduate school at Howard University.