Inventor: George Washington Carver
Inventors and their inventions have usually nothing to do with comic heroes.
Superman and Batman are very popular, but the name “Peanut Man” may make some people pause and think. That was George Washington Carver‘s nickname – not surprising, considering he discovered around 300 uses for peanut.
No one knows the exact birth date of George Washington Carver. He was born in Missouri
to slave parents, around 1864. It is believed that a couple bought George and his mother Mary, and set them free. Along with that, they allowed George to use their last name, which was Carver. His father was a slave as well, and was killed in a log hauling accident. There are multiple accounts about what happened to his mother – one of them says she was kidnapped by some people, never to be seen again.
When he was in his mid-teens, George Carver moved to Kansas, along with some other ex-slaves.
Carver was accepted into Highland Presbyterian College in Kansas, but was refused admission when the officials discovered he was black. (19th century, remember!)
He managed to get admitted to Simpson College in Iowa. Later, he moved to the Iowa State University’s agricultural college at Ames.
George Washington Carver was the first African American on the faculty at the Ames Agricultural College. By this time, he had developed a reputation, and was known as the “Plant Doctor”, because of his keen interest in the local flora and fauna.
Carver was asked to join the Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, by none other than Booker T Washington. He moved there in 1896. He was there for the next 50 years!
During this time, he taught students, and pursued his research simultaneously.
This was arguably the most significant period in his life, since most of his inventions happened during this period.
George Washington Carver’s inventions and contributions
- About 300 peanut-products
- Sweet potato products
- Soybeans into plastic
- Wood shavings into synthetic marble
- Cotton into paving blocks
- Crop-rotation methods giving special stress to nitrogen replenishing role of legume products
His peanut-related products include 30 cloth dyes, 19 leather dyes, 18 insulating boards, 17 wood stains, 11 wall boards and 11 peanut flours. His sweet potato related products include 73 dyes, 17 wood fillers, 14 candies, 5 library pastes, 5 breakfast foods, 4 starches, 4 flours and 3 molasses.
Some clarifications are necessary here:
Out of the 300 peanut products, if you eliminate the same type of products, the number
will be around 100.
Crop rotation methods were advocated by George Carver, but he was not the one who
invented those methods.
At the same time, he was able to invent entirely different products
consistently over a long period of time, which is astounding!
At his time, science and inventions were shrouded in mystery – especially to the common man. Carver made science simple for the layman. Because of this, he was liked by the common people of his time. Among the people, his image was that of a gentle and kind old wizard.
He was also instrumental in dispelling the “black man is not intelligent” myth, which was prevalent during those days, through his own inventions and actions.
Recognitions and rewards which George Washington Carver received for his inventions
“One of world’s most significant scientists” – Franklin D Roosevelt.
Carver Research Foundation at Tuskegee, in his name.
His birthplace was declared as a national monument in 1953.
Multiple patents for his inventions (of course!)
Was widely recognized for his humility
Honorary doctorate from Simpson College (1928)
Honorary member of the Royal Society of Arts, England. In 1923, he
Received the Spingarn Medal in 1923.
Roosevelt medal for restoring southern agriculture (1939).
National monument dedicated to Carver and Carver’s inventions (1943 July 14).
From George Washington Carver’s grave:
“He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”