George Washington Carver (1860s-1943)

Inventor George Washington Carver (1860s-1943)

George Washington Carver was an American botanist and inventor born in Missouri sometime in the 1860s. Carver was born into slavery and experience a lot of discrimination throughout his life not only for being African American but also for being gifted intellectually. Due to his upbringing, he chose to focus his talents mostly in the field of agriculture in order to improve the quality of the crops poor farmers would produce. He did this by promoting the growth of alternative crops like peanuts and sweet potatoes. Carver devised over 100 products using the peanut alone. However, his work involving the peanut and sweet potato were not commercially successful during his lifetime.

Once slavery was abolished in 1865, Carver’s master Moses Carver and his wife Susan, raised him as their own child. The Carvers taught him how to read and write and encouraged his mental pursuits. He had to attend a school ten miles away from his home because public schools were still segregated. On one walk, Carver arrived to find the school closed for the day. He spent the night in a barn and came across a woman in the morning who asked him his name. He replied “Carver’s George.” She told him he would now be called “George Carver.” Carver rented a room from that nice woman, Mariah Watkins. At 13, he decided to attend an academy in Kansas eventually bouncing around from school to school until his graduation from Minneapolis High School.

Carver went on to graduate from Iowa State Agricultural College, titling his thesis “Plants as Modified by Man.” He obtained his masters and made history at the college teaching as the first African American faculty member. Following his tenure in Iowa, Booker T. Washington invited Carver to head the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He taught there for 47 years focusing on crop rotation, alternative crops, and farming techniques.

His research granted him much fame, especially in the last two decades of his life. Carver traveled often giving lectures on Tuskegee University, peanuts, and his views on racism. He contributed to many scholarly journals and published six agricultural bulletins. He was often interviewed, the focus of many biographies, and even met with three United States presidents.

Carver never married and passed away after taking a bad fall at the age of 78. He was very frugal with his money and his life savings, which totaled $60,000 (equivalent to $1,043,121 today) was donated in his last years to create the George Washington Carver Foundation. The foundation was established five years before his death. On his grave were these words: He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.