George Washington Carver
Born: January 1864
Died: January 5, 1943 (age: 79)
Education: Iowa State Agricultural College
Occupation: Inventor, Scientist, Teacher
Best known for: Inventing 100+ products using the peanut, methods of improving soil
This man had a way with the humble peanut! George Washington Carver published a bulletin for local farmers showing 105 food recipes needing peanuts. He always tried to help poor farmers protect and renew their soil by growing different plants, like peanuts and sweet potatoes. Carver didn’t invent peanut butter, as some people say. But he put plenty of energy educating people about peanuts. He urged farmers to grow nutritious food and grow crops that could be sold for more money. Farmers' lives were much improved. Carver educated farmers to use crop rotation and get more production from the land they lived. Thanks to George Washington Carver, farmers in the American south became more successful. But George didn’t stop in his homeland. He went as far as India to help Mahatma Gandhi and Indian farmers improve their crops too.
Kid-napped by slave raiders!
George was born in 1864 on a small farm in Diamond Grove, Missouri. His mother, Mary, was a slave. She belonged to the farm's owners, Moses and Susan Carver. Late one night, slave raiders invaded the farm and ran off with Mary, George, and his little sister. Moses paid a man to find the family, but he only returned from Kentucky with the small boy, George. After that, he and his brother James were cared for by the Carvers since they had no kids. Slavery was only recently abolished. George loved to learn, especially about animals and plants, and often read the Bible.
Can You Go To School If No School Wants You?
As much as Carver liked to study, there were no schools open to black children close to his home. He had to travel the midwest to get an education. He worked hard and ultimately graduated from high school in Minneapolis, Kansas. Carver moved on to college and he studied botany. He was the first African-American ever at Iowa State Agricultural College (now the University). Carver stayed in school until he got his Master's degree and then became the college's first black professor.
What was Carver concerned with as a top teacher? He made a list of eight “virtues” or qualities for generations of his mostly black students to develop. The list included: “(1.) Be clean, inside and out. (2.) Lose, if need be, without squealing. (3.) Win, without bragging.” But Carver wasn’t only concerned with his university students. He saw poor farmers who needed a lot of help. So Carver designed a mobile classroom to take education out to the farmers in the fields. He called it a "Jesup wagon," to honor New York moneyman and philanthropist Morris Ketchum Jesup. Mr. Jesup donated funds to the program.
Carver Was Best Friends of Farmers, Presidents, and Princes
Throughout the American south, George Washington Carver was known as the "farmer's best friend". His research on crop rotation and new products helped many farmers survive and even earn a good living. His main interest was in science and helping others, not getting rich. He didn't even patent most of his innovations because he considered his ideas God’s gifts. He felt they should be available for free to others who needed them more. He gave free advice to business leaders. Carver went as far as to help three American presidents--Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin Roosevelt. Even the Crown Prince of Sweden came to learn from Carver for three weeks.
Year after year, George taught students and farmers that peanuts and sweet potatoes were vital alternatives to cotton. They didn’t rob the sensitive soil of nutrients like cotton. Then it happened: from 1892 on, the cotton crop was destroyed by an awful insect called the boll weevil, just as Carter had warned. Luckily some farmers had followed Professor Carver’s advice. Some of them had paid attention in 1920 when Carver spoke with passion for the first of many times on “The Possibilities of the Peanut”. These farmers knew to grow sweet potatoes, soybeans, and peanuts. All because of Mr. Carver, they were able to thrive when the cotton crops failed.
4 Mega-Fabulous Facts about George Washington Carver:
- George Washington Carver was the first African-American ever to be honored with a national park named for him. You can visit the park and monument not far from St. Louis, Missouri.
- Carver was a skilled painter and pianist, as well as an outstanding inventor and scientist. His artwork was shown at the 1893 World’s Fair.
- Obviously Carver found many uses for peanuts, but he also discovered new ways to use Alabama clay and sweet potatoes.
- George helped Henry Ford make rubber from peanuts to be used in cannons during World War II.