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George Washington Carver - biography

​George Washington Carver - a mini introduction

George Washington Carver  1860-1943

George Washington Carver, a botanist and agricultural chemist, was undoubtedly one of the greatest scientists of all times.  He revolutioniszed and revitalized the dying agricultural industry of the South between 1900 and 1930.

Carver was born of slave parents on Moses Carver's plantation near Diamond Grove, Missouri, in 1860.  Although Carver's early education was sketchy, at ten years of age, George struck out on his own to get a formal education.  Ironically, when George showed up at a high school in Kansas, he was promptly told to leave as soon as the Headmaster saw he was Black.  Disillusioned, yet determined, he remained in Kansas working odd jobs as a farm hand, a cook and a laundry helper.

George was twenty-five years old when he started his freshman year at Simpson College in Iowa.  In 1891, after two years at Simpson, he entered Iowa Agricultural College, now the Iowa State University at Ames, Iowa.  While there, George did outstanding work in botany and agricultural chemistry.  After graduating as one of Iowa's outstanding scholars, he remained at Iowa State to purse another degree.  Because of his outstanding work with plants and soil, Carver was made an assistant instructor in botany and appointed green house director.

Shortly after receiving his Master's Degree in 1896, Carver received a letter from Booker T. Washington, Head of Tuskegee Institute, asking for his instructional help.  Carver replied, "I am coming."  He spent the remaining years of his life at Tuskegee as an agricultural scientist.  While there, he gradually won the acceptance of the southern farmers, selling his idea of "plant rotation" to keep the soil enriched.  The cotton plant had been grown in the south for nearly 200 years, depleting the soil's minerals.  Carver told them to plant peanuts, clover and peas, since these crops would replenish the minerals as they grew, because the roots of these plants brought nitrogen to the soil.

In his lab at Tuskegee, Carver discovered over two dozen products, such as milk and cheese, that could be synthesized from the peanut.  He eventually developed over 300 different products; including instant coffee, face cream, ink, shampoo and soaps made from the oils, proteins and chemicals of peanuts.  Soon, new industries sprang up which made use of these peanut products, and the South began to prosper economically.  He produced similar results with sweet potatoes, pecans and southern clay.

In 1916, Carver receiving an honor, given to few Americans, when elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce of Great Britain.  In subsequent years, he received many other distinguished honors.

Carver remained a bachelor, and he died on Tuskegee Institute's campus, January 5, 1943.  He left his life's savings of $33,000 to establish the George Washington Carver Foundation, which helped to provide research opportunities for scientists.  This foundation still thrives today.

George Washington Carver was held in high esteem the world over.  As a testimony to Carver's distinguished career, a memorial was erected at Tuskegee in his honor, slong with the founding of the George Washington Carver Museum.  Approved by joint resolution of Congress, on December 28, 1945, George Washington Carver Day was proclaimed on January 5, 1946.  The farmland near Diamond Grove, Missouri, where Carver was born, is now a national landmark of the U.S. Government, paying homage to an ingenious chemist whose research and contributions benefited all the people though out the world.

​Excerpt from A Salute to Black Scientists and Inventors.

This is only a summary of the life of the Great George Washington Carver.

​The Great Scientist / Inventor George Washington Carver