George Washington Carver
Though born a slave, his work prospered many in the South.
George Washington Carver, US agricultural chemist and agronomist, was born a slave in Diamond Grove, Missouri., around 1864. While he was a baby, he and his mother were kidnapped by raiders. His owner, Moses Carver, paid for their return, but only George was returned.
A frail child, George was late to talk but showed so great an interest in plants at an early age that neighbors brought him their problems with their plants. The Carvers taught him to read, write, and do math. When they could teach him no more, he decided that he would need to leave to find a school that would teach African-American students. He was about ten or twelve years old.
While working menial jobs, he worked on his education. He graduated from high school in his late twenties and earned Bachelors' and Master's degrees from Iowa State Agricultural College in 1896. Though loving botany, Carver was a well-rounded student who excelled in music and art. Two of his paintings appeared in the 1893 Chicago's World Fair. He participated in YMCA, debate, and the campus's military regiment.
After graduation Booker T. Washington invited him to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to be the director of agricultural research. Arriving at Tuskegee, he found that the agricultural department consisted of a barn, a cow, and some chickens. With the help of students, Carver scrounged and made tools and equipment. He taught farm management and programs on nutrition and health, even visiting farms and communities to help the people.
A devout Christian, Carver considered his laboratory "God's Little Workshop." He discovered that peanuts and soybeans would restore soil fertility, but farmers complained that they had no market for these products. To provide markets, Carver developed 300 products from peanuts and 118 from sweet potatoes. By 1940 peanuts had become the South's second largest crop. During World War II he developed 500 dyes.
In 1916 he was honored by being appointed to the Royal Society of Arts in London. In 1923 he received the NAACP's prestigious Spingarn Medal. In 1938 a feature film, Life of George Washington Carver , was made. Before his death in 1943, he received the Roosevelt Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Southern Agriculture. The Hall of Fame for Great Americans inducted him in 1977. The National Inventors Hall of Fame included him in 1990.
Carver's dedication to God and his people led him to patent only three of his 500 agricultural inventions because he wanted his products to benefit all. He left his life savings to Tuskegee Institute.
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