American Agricultural Scientist, Educator, and Inventor

George Washington Carver was born in the 1860s in Diamond, Missouri. He was known for being the most prominent Black scientist of the 20th century. Even as a young boy, he had a spiritual connection with nature. He tapped into the universal language and became known as a young plant doctor, healing the plants of his neighbors and developing his strong sense of compassion.

Although young George had an obvious brilliance, during this time Black youth were not allowed to study in the local public schools. This did not stop him, however, from cultivating his gifts for science and inventive thinking. He was a man of many talents, and painting beautiful flowers was one of them. It is said that his art teacher took notice and encouraged him to study botany, the study of plants.

Carver enrolled in Iowa State Agricultural School (Iowa State) as their first Black student. In 1894, he became the first Black American to earn a Bachelor of Science degree. He stayed on at Iowa State and earned his master’s degree.

Carver had offers from different higher learning institutions to be a professor, but he decided to take an offer from another historical Black figure, Booker T. Washington, to oversee the Agricultural Sciences Department at Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University).

A big component of Carver’s contribution was his desire to help those in need. Poor Southern farmers struggled to yield crops abundantly due to soil depletion from the repeated growing of cotton. It was through research at his experimental farm at Tuskegee that he came up with a way to help restore nutrients in the soil. Carver educated the farmers on rotating crops to improve soil conditions and encouraged them to plant alternative cash crops such as peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes.

As Carver continued to study the nature of the peanut, he would discover a reported 300 plus uses, such as soaps, medicines, creams, oils, insecticides, glue, cheese, milk, and meal recipes, to name a few. He also discovered more than 100 uses for the sweet potato and many from soybeans. Together with carmaker Henry Ford he developed an alternative automobile fuel.

Carver’s developments and research changed the way we do agriculture forever. He has been honored for his contributions with dozens of institutions named after him and monuments and statues placed in his honor. He received the Spingarn Medal and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Great Americans and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. George Washington Carver died on January 5, 1943, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Rest in Power!