George Washington Carver was an American agricultural chemist, agronomist and botanist who developed various products from peanuts, sweet potatoes and soy-beans that radically changed the agricultural economy of the United States.
A son of a slave woman, George won several awards for his brilliant contributions, including the Spingarn Medal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He spent most of his career teaching and conducting research at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Tuskegee, Alabama.
Early Life and Education:
Born into slavery in Diamond, Missouri, George Washington Carver’s master, Moses Carver, was a German American immigrant who had bought both George’s parents, Mary and Giles. His master was a kind-hearted man who, after the abolition of slavery, raised George as his own child and furthered his intellectual pursuits. George attended various schools before receiving his diploma at Minneapolis High School at Kansas.
George was, however, rejected at Highland College due to racial discrimination. He learned art and piano at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa in 1890, where his art teacher recommended George to study botany at Iowa State Agricultural College. He became the first black student, and later the first black faculty member there.
Contributions and Achievements:
After acquiring his B.S. degree, George completed his master’s degree at the same college, conducting field research at the Iowa Experiment Station. His successful work in plant pathology and mycology gained him countrywide acclaim and fame as a prominent botanist.
Carver was a farmer’s scientist. He taught farmers how to grow better plants, utilizing farm waste products. He turned corn stalks into building materials. Carver found dyes in the rich clay soil. He manufactured more than 100 products from sweet potatoes. His favorite plant was the peanut. He invented over 300 ways to use the peanut, as soap, plastic, shampoo and even shoe polish.
Carver never patented any of his inventions, as he believed knowledge should be free. As a result, many industrialists developed commercial products from his laboratory inventions and made millions.
Later Life and Death:
George Washington Carver died by falling down a flight of stairs on January 5, 1943 in Tuskegee, Alabama. He was 79 years old.