George Washington Carver was an agricultural scientist and inventor who developed hundreds of products using peanuts (though not peanut butter, as is often claimed), sweet potatoes, and soybeans. Born into slavery before it was outlawed, Carver left home at a young age to continue his education, eventually earning a master’s degree in agricultural science from Iowa State University. He would go on to teach and conduct research at Tuskegee University for decades. , and shortly after his death, his childhood home would be named a national monument, the first of its kind to honor a black American.
Born on a farm near Diamond, Missourithe exact date of Carver’s birth is unknown, but it is believed that he was born in January or June 1864.
Nine years earlier, Moses Carver, a white farm owner, bought George Carver’s mother Mary when she was 13 years old. The elder Carver was reportedly against slaverybut he needed help with his 240-acre farm.
Moses Carver hired a neighbor to retrieve them, but the neighbor only managed to find George, whom he bought by trading one of Moses’ best horses. Carver grew up knowing little about his mother or his father, both of whom had been killed in an accident before he was born.
Moses Carver and his wife Susan raised young George and his brother James as their own, teaching them to read and write.
Santiago gave up his studies and concentrated on working the fields with Moisés. George, however, was a frail and sickly boy who could not help with such work; instead, Susan taught her cooking, mending, embroidery, laundry, and gardening, as well as preparing simple herbal medicines.
At a young age, Carver became very interested in plants and experimented with pesticides, fungicides, and natural soil conditioners. He became known as the “plant doctor” among local farmers due to his ability to discern how to improve the health of their gardens, fields, and orchards.
At age 11, Carver left the farm to attend an all-black school in the nearby town of Neosho.
He was taken in by Andrew and Mariah Watkins, a childless black couple who gave him a roof over his head in exchange for help with chores. A midwife and nurse, Mariah passed on to Carver her extensive knowledge of herbal medicines and her devoted faith.
Disappointed with the education he received at Neosho School, Carver moved to Kansas about two years later, joining many other blacks traveling west.
Over the next decade, Carver moved from one Midwestern town to another, attending school and surviving on domestic skills learned from her foster mothers.
He graduated from Minneapolis High School in Minneapolis, Kansas, in 1880 and applied to Highland College in Kansas (today Highlands Community College). He was initially accepted into the all-white college, but was later turned down when the administration found out he was black.
In the late 1880s, Carver became friends with the Milhollands, a white couple from Winterset. Iowa, who encouraged him to pursue higher education. Despite his earlier setback, he enrolled in simpsons collegea Methodist school that admitted all qualified applicants.
Carver initially studied art and piano in hopes of earning a teaching degree, but one of his teachers, Etta Budd, was skeptical that a black man could make a living as an artist. After learning of his interest in plants and flowers, Budd encouraged Carver to apply to the Iowa State Agricultural School (now Iowa State University) to study botany.
Carver makes black history
In 1894, Carver became the first African American to earn a bachelor’s of science. Impressed by Carver’s research on fungal infections of soybean plants, his professors asked him to stay on for graduate studies.
Carver worked with famed mycologist (fungal scientist) LH Pammel at the Iowa State Experiment Station, honing his skills in identifying and treating plant diseases.
In 1896, Carver earned his Master’s in Agriculture and immediately received several offers, the most attractive of which came from Booker T. Washington (whose last name George would later add to his) from Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama.
Washington convinced university administrators to establish an agricultural school, which only Carver could manage if Tuskegee kept its all-black faculty. Carver accepted the offer and would work at Tuskegee Institute for the rest of his life.
Carver’s early years at Tuskegee were not without their setbacks.
For one thing, agricultural training was not popular: farmers in the South believed they already knew how to farm, and students saw education as a means to escape farming. Furthermore, many faculty members resented Carver for his high salary and demanded to have two bedrooms, one for himself and one for his plant specimens.
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Carver also struggled with the demands of the teaching position he held. She wanted to spend her time researching agriculture to find ways to help poor farmers in the south, but she was also expected to manage the school’s two farms, teach, ensure the school’s toilets and sanitary facilities functioned properly, and train part of multiple committees and councils.
Carver and Washington had a complicated relationship and often clashed, partly because Carver wanted nothing to do with teaching (although his students loved him). Carver would finally get his way when Washington died in 1915 and was succeeded by Robert Russa Moton, who relieved Carver of his teaching duties except for summer school.
What did George Washington Carver invent?
By this time, Carver was already having great successes in the lab and in the community. He taught poor farmers that they could feed acorns to pigs instead of commercial feed and enrich farmland with swamp manure instead of fertilizer. But it was his ideas on crop rotation that proved most valuable.
Through his work on soil chemistry, Carver learned that years of growing cotton had depleted the soil of nutrients, resulting in poor yields. But by growing nitrogen-fixing plants like peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes, the soil could be restored, allowing yields to increase dramatically when the land returned to cotton use a few years later.
To further help farmers, he invented the Jessup wagon, a sort of mobile (horse-drawn) classroom and laboratory used to demonstrate soil chemistry.
Carver: The Peanut Man
Of course, farmers loved the high cotton yields they were now getting with Carver’s crop rotation technique. But the method had an unintended consequence: a surplus of peanuts and other non-cotton products.
Carver set to work finding alternative uses for these products. For example, he invented numerous products from sweet potatoes, including edible products like flour and vinegar and non-food items like dyes, dyes, paints, and writing ink.
But Carver’s greatest success came from peanuts.
In all, he developed more than 300 food, industrial, and commercial products from peanuts, including milk, Worcestershire sauce, punches, cooking oils, salad oil, paper, cosmetics, soaps, and wood stains. He also experimented with peanut-based medications, such as antiseptics, laxatives, and goiter medications.
It should be noted, however, that many of these suggestions or discoveries remained curiosities and did not find widespread applications.
In 1921, Carver appeared before the US Committee on Ways and Means. House of Representatives on behalf of the peanut industry, which was seeking tariff protection. Although his testimony did not start well, he described the wide range of products that can be made with peanuts, which not only earned him a standing ovation, but also convinced the committee to pass a high protected tariff for the common legume. .
He later became known as “The Peanut Man.”
fame and legacy
In the last two decades of her life, Carver lived as a minor celebrity, but her focus was always on helping people.
He traveled the South to promote racial harmony and traveled to India to discuss nutrition in developing nations with Mahatma Gandhi.
Until the year of his death, he also issued bulletins for the public (44 bulletins between 1898 and 1943). Some of the newsletters reported on research results, but many others were more practical in nature, including crop information for farmers, science for teachers, and recipes for homemakers.
In the mid-1930s, as the polio virus raged across the United States, Carver became convinced that peanuts were the answer. He offered a peanut oil massage treatment and reported positive results, although there is no scientific evidence that the treatments worked (the benefits patients experienced were likely due to the massage treatment and mindful care rather than the oil).
Carver died on January 5, 1943, at Tuskegee Institute after falling down the stairs of his home. He was 78 years old. Carver was buried next to Booker T. Washington on the grounds of the Tuskegee Institute.
the George Washington Carver National Monument it is now located in Diamond, Missouri. Carver was also posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”
“How far you go in life depends on whether you are tender with the young, compassionate with the elderly, sympathetic with those who struggle, and tolerant with the weak and strong. Because one day in your life you will have been all that.
“When you can do the common things of life in an unusual way, you will command the attention of the world.”
READ MORE: 8 Black Inventors Who Made Daily Life Easier
George Washington Carver; american chemical society.
George W. Carver (1865? – 1943); The Missouri State Historical Society.
George Washington Carver; Science History Museum.
George Washington Carver, the most black history monthly of them all; npr.
George Washington Carver and the Peanuts; american heritage.