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George Washington Carver - Black Inventor | African American Inventors and their Inventions

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Home » George Washington Carver – Black Inventor

George Washington Carver – Black Inventor

George Washington CarverIf you invented a fictional character like famed inventor George Washington Carver, few people would believe you.

An agricultural chemist, Carver was actually more like an artist whose expressive tools were legumes, nuts, and potatoes. He created more than three hundred commercial uses for peanuts, plus hundreds more for soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes. The list of applications includes axle grease, adhesives, bleach, buttermilk, chili sauce, fuel briquettes, ink, instant coffee, linoleum, mayonnaise, meat tenderizer, metal polish, paper, plastic, pavement, shaving cream, shoe polish, synthetic rubber, talcum powder, and wood stain.

Carver’s work was a boost to southern agriculture, but, given his early life, that work could easily have never happened. Born in 1864, he was kidnapped as an infant, along with his mother, by Confederate raiders in his native Missouri. His father, who is thought to have been a slave, tracked him down and rescued him, but his mother was never found.

 

 

When growing up, Carver began his lifelong love affair with collecting plants, and, at twelve, he moved away to go to school. Although it was a time when few Blacks went to college, he matriculated at Simpson College in Iowa, where, at the age of 30, he was the first Black student. But there were no science classes, so he transferred to what is now Iowa State University, where he eventually received a Master of Science in bacterial botany and agriculture.

Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington convinced Carver to become the school’s Director of Agriculture, a position he retained until he died in 1943.

In addition to his countless uses for southern crops, he also developed the crop rotation method, which showed farmers how to rotate soil-exhausting cotton with crops that enriched the earth – namely, the ever-versatile peanuts, pecans, soybeans, and sweet potatoes.

The holder of three patents, Carver turned down opportunities to make a fortune from his inventions and discoveries, and instead chose to simply release them for the good of mankind.

“He could have added fortune to fame,” reads his tombstone, “but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”

 
 
 
 

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