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George Washington Carver

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George Washington Carver

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George Washington Carver

Who was George Washington Carver?

George Washington Carver was an American agricultural chemist, agronomist, and experimenter whose development of new products derived from  peanuts  (groundnuts),  sweet potatoes , and  soybeans  helped revolutionize the agricultural economy of  the South .

George Washington Carver was born into slavery, the son of an enslaved woman named Mary, owned by Moses Carver. During the  American Civil War , George and Mary were kidnapped and taken away to be sold. Moses Carver located George but not Mary, and George lived on the Carver property until about age 10 or 12.

How was George Washington Carver educated?

In his late 20s George Washington Carver obtained a high-school education in Kansas while working as a farmhand. He received a bachelor’s degree in  agricultural science  (1894) and a master of science degree (1896) from Iowa State Agricultural College (later  Iowa State University ).

George Washington Carver’s work, which began for the sake of poor Black sharecroppers , led to a better life for the entire South by liberating it from its environmentally destructive dependence on cotton . His efforts brought about a significant advance in agricultural training in an era when agriculture was the largest single occupation of Americans.

George Washington Carver (born 1861?, near Diamond Grove , Missouri , U.S.—died January 5, 1943, Tuskegee , Alabama) was a revolutionary American agricultural chemist, agronomist , and experimenter who was born into slavery and sought to uplift Black farmers through the development of new products derived from peanuts , sweet potatoes , and soybeans . His work helped transform the stagnant agricultural economy of the South after the American Civil War . For most of his career he taught and conducted research at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University ) in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Carver was the son of an enslaved woman named Mary, who was owned by Moses Carver; his father was killed in an accident before he was born. Of his early life, Carver wrote, “I was born in Diamond Grove, Missouri, about the close of the great Civil War, in a little one-roomed log shanty, on the home of Mr. Moses Carver, a German by birth and the owner of my mother, my father being the property of Mr. Grant, who owned the adjoining plantation.” During the turbulence of the Civil War, the Carver farm was raided, and infant George and his mother were kidnapped and taken to Arkansas to be sold. Moses Carver was eventually able to track down young George but was unable to find Mary. Frail and sick, the orphaned child was returned to the Carver plantation and nursed back to health.

Michael Faraday (L) English physicist and chemist (electromagnetism) and John Frederic Daniell (R) British chemist and meteorologist who invented the Daniell cell.

With the abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865, George was no longer enslaved. He remained with the Carvers until he was about 10 or 12 years old, when he left to acquire an education. He traveled 8 miles (13 km) to the county seat of Neosho , Missouri, where he found room and board with Mariah and Andrew Watkins, an African American couple. He briefly attended a school for Black children but quickly moved beyond the basic literacy offered by the schoolmaster, who himself had a limited education. Carver then spent some time wandering about, working with his hands and developing his keen interest in plants and animals. Both Susan Carver—the wife of his former owner—and Mariah Watkins had taught him about gardening and medicinal herbs, and he continued to grow his botanical knowledge. He also learned to draw, and later in life he devoted considerable time to painting flowers, plants, and landscapes.

By both books—including Webster’s Elementary Spelling Book , which he learned nearly by heart—and experience, young George acquired a fragmentary education while doing whatever work came to hand in order to subsist. He supported himself by varied occupations that included general household worker, hotel cook, laundryman, farm laborer, and homesteader. In his late 20s he obtained a high-school education in Minneapolis, Kansas , while working as a farmhand. He applied and was accepted to Highland College in Kansas, but, when he appeared in person to register, the school refused to admit him because he was Black. Pained by that rejection, he continued to travel the country and eventually landed in Iowa, where he met the white Milhollands sometime in the late 1800s. The couple befriended him and urged Carver to enroll in nearby Simpson College in Indianola ; he would later credit them for his continued pursuit of higher education . Carver studied piano and art at Simpson before transferring to Iowa State Agricultural College (later Iowa State University ), where he received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science in 1894 and a Master of Science degree in 1896.

biography about george washington carver

Carver left Iowa for Alabama in the fall of 1896 to direct the newly organized department of agriculture at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute , a school headed by noted African American educator Booker T. Washington . Given that Carver was the only African American in the United States with a graduate degree in agricultural science , Washington aggressively pursued him for the all-Black faculty of the school. In accepting the position, Carver wrote:

It has always been the one great ideal of my life to be of the greatest good to the greatest number of ‘my people’ possible and to this end I have been preparing myself these many years; feeling as I do that this line of education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom to our people.

Indeed, at Tuskegee, Washington sought to improve the lot of African Americans through education and the acquisition of useful skills rather than through political agitation, and he stressed conciliation and compromise. Carver complemented those aims in his desire to help Black farmers rise above sharecropping and saw economic development as a path for Black advancement in American society. Despite many offers elsewhere, Carver remained at Tuskegee for the rest of his life.

biography about george washington carver

After becoming the institute’s director of agricultural research in 1896, Carver devoted his time to research projects aimed at helping Southern agriculture, demonstrating ways in which farmers could improve their economic situation. He conducted experiments in soil management and crop production and directed an experimental farm. At this time, agriculture in the Deep South was in steep decline because the unremitting single-crop cultivation of cotton had left the soil of many fields exhausted and worthless, and erosion had then taken its toll on areas that could no longer sustain any plant cover. As a remedy, Carver urged Southern farmers to plant peanuts ( Arachis hypogaea ) and soybeans ( Glycine max ). As members of the legume family ( Fabaceae ), these plants could restore nitrogen to the soil while also providing the protein so badly needed in the diet of many Southerners.

Carver found that Alabama’s soils were particularly well suited to growing peanuts and sweet potatoes ( Ipomoea batatas ), but, when the state’s farmers began cultivating these crops instead of cotton, they found little demand for them on the market. In response to this problem, Carver set about enlarging the commercial possibilities of the peanut and sweet potato through a long and ingenious program of laboratory research. He ultimately developed 300 derivative products from peanuts—among them milk, flour , ink , dyes , plastics , wood stains, soap , linoleum , medicinal oils, and cosmetics —and 118 from sweet potatoes, including flour, vinegar , molasses , ink, a synthetic rubber , and postage stamp glue. In helping farmers, particularly Black sharecroppers, find a market for their crops and increase the productivity of their farms by protecting and regenerating the soil, Carver hoped to bring them closer to financial security and liberation.

In 1914, at a time when the boll weevil had almost ruined cotton growers, Carver revealed his experiments to the public, and increasing numbers of the South’s farmers began to turn to peanuts, sweet potatoes, and their derivatives for income. Much exhausted land was renewed, and the South became a major new supplier of agricultural products. When Carver arrived at Tuskegee in 1896, the peanut had not even been recognized as a crop, but within the next half century it became one of the six leading crops throughout the United States and, in the South, the second cash crop (after cotton) by 1940. In 1942 the U.S. government allotted 2,023,428 hectares (5,000,000 acres) of peanuts to farmers. Carver’s efforts had finally helped liberate the South from its excessive dependence on cotton.

Among Carver’s many honors were his election to Britain’s Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (London) in 1916 and his receipt of the Spingarn Medal in 1923. Late in his career he declined an invitation to work for Thomas Edison at a salary of more than $100,000 a year. U.S. Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin D. Roosevelt visited him, and his friends included Henry Ford and Mahatma Gandhi . Foreign governments requested his counsel on agricultural matters: Joseph Stalin , for example, in 1931 invited him to manage cotton plantations in southern Russia and to make a tour of the Soviet Union , but Carver refused.

biography about george washington carver

In 1940 Carver donated his life savings to the establishment of the Carver Research Foundation at Tuskegee for continuing research in agriculture. During World War II he worked to replace the textile dyes formerly imported from Europe, and in all he produced dyes of 500 shades.

Many scientists thought of Carver more as a concoctionist than as a contributor to scientific knowledge. Many of his fellow African Americans were critical of what they regarded as his subservience. Certainly, this small, mild, soft-spoken, innately modest man, eccentric in dress and mannerism, seemed unbelievably heedless of the conventional pleasures and rewards of this life. But these qualities endeared Carver to many whites, who were almost invariably charmed by his humble demeanor and his quiet work in self-imposed segregation at Tuskegee. As a result of his accommodation to the mores of the South, many whites came to regard him with a sort of patronizing adulation .

Carver thus, for much of white America, increasingly came to stand as a kind of saintly and comfortable symbol of the intellectual achievements of African Americans. Carver was evidently uninterested in the role his image played in the racial politics of the time. His great desire in later life was simply to serve humanity, and his work, which began for the sake of the poorest of the Black sharecroppers , paved the way for a better life for the entire South. On the importance of leaving a legacy , he famously quipped, “No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it.” His efforts brought about a significant advance in agricultural training in an era when agriculture was the largest single occupation of Americans, and he extended Tuskegee’s influence throughout the South by encouraging improved farm methods, crop diversification, and soil conservation.

biography about george washington carver

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George Washington Carver

By: History.com Editors

Updated: April 24, 2023 | Original: October 27, 2009

Pioneering African American scientist George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was an agricultural scientist and inventor who developed hundreds of products using peanuts (though not peanut butter, as is often claimed), sweet potatoes and soybeans. Born into slavery before it was outlawed, Carver left home at a young age to pursue education and would eventually earn a master’s degree in agricultural science from Iowa State University. He would go on to teach and conduct research at Tuskegee University for decades, and soon after his death his childhood home would be named a national monument—the first of its kind to honor a Black American.

Born on a farm near Diamond, Missouri , the exact date of Carver’s birth is unknown, but it’s thought he was born in January or June of 1864.

Nine years prior, Moses Carver, a white farm owner, purchased George Carver’s mother Mary when she was 13 years old. The elder Carver reportedly was against slavery , but needed help with his 240-acre farm.

When Carver was an infant, he, his mother and his sister were kidnapped from the Carver farm by one of the bands of slave raiders that roamed Missouri during the Civil War era. They were resold in Kentucky .

Moses Carver hired a neighbor to retrieve them, but the neighbor only succeeded in finding George, whom he purchased by trading one of Moses’ finest horses. Carver grew up knowing little about his mother or his father, who had died in an accident before he was born.

Moses Carver and his wife Susan raised the young George and his brother James as their own and taught the boys how to read and write.

James gave up his studies and focused on working the fields with Moses. George, however, was a frail and sickly child who could not help with such work; instead, Susan taught him how to cook, mend, embroider, do laundry and garden, as well as how to concoct simple herbal medicines.

At a young age, Carver took a keen interest in plants and experimented with natural pesticides, fungicides and soil conditioners. He became known as the “the plant doctor” to local farmers due to his ability to discern how to improve the health of their gardens, fields and orchards.

At age 11, Carver left the farm to attend an all-Black school in the nearby town of Neosho.

He was taken in by Andrew and Mariah Watkins, a childless Black couple who gave him a roof over his head in exchange for help with household chores. A midwife and nurse, Mariah imparted on Carver her broad knowledge of medicinal herbs and her devout faith.

Disappointed with the education he received at the Neosho school, Carver moved to Kansas about two years later, joining numerous other Blacks who were traveling west.

For the next decade or so, Carver moved from one Midwestern town to another, putting himself through school and surviving off of the domestic skills he learned from his foster mothers.

He graduated from Minneapolis High School in Minneapolis, Kansas, in 1880 and applied to Highland College in Kansas (today’s Highland Community College ). He was initially accepted at the all-white college but was later rejected when the administration learned he was Black.

In the late 1880s, Carver befriended the Milhollands, a white couple in Winterset, Iowa , who encouraged him to pursue a higher education. Despite his former setback, he enrolled in Simpson College , a Methodist school that admitted all qualified applicants.

Carver initially studied art and piano in hopes of earning a teaching degree, but one of his professors, Etta Budd, was skeptical of a Black man being able to make a living as an artist. After learning of his interests in plants and flowers, Budd encouraged Carver to apply to the Iowa State Agricultural School (now Iowa State University ) to study botany.

biography about george washington carver

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Carver Makes Black History

In 1894, Carver became the first African American to earn a Bachelor of Science degree. Impressed by Carver’s research on the fungal infections of soybean plants, his professors asked him to stay on for graduate studies.

Carver worked with famed mycologist (fungal scientist) L.H. Pammel at the Iowa State Experimental Station, honing his skills in identifying and treating plant diseases.

In 1896, Carver earned his Master of Agriculture degree and immediately received several offers, the most attractive of which came from Booker T. Washington (whose last name George would later add to his own) of Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University ) in Alabama .

Washington convinced the university’s trustees to establish an agricultural school, which could only be run by Carver if Tuskegee was to keep its all-Black faculty. Carver accepted the offer and would work at Tuskegee Institute for the rest of his life.

Tuskegee Institute

Carver’s early years at Tuskegee were not without hiccups.

For one, agriculture training was not popular—Southern farmers believed they already knew how to farm and students saw schooling as a means to escape farming. Additionally, many faculty members resented Carver for his high salary and demand to have two dormitory rooms, one for him and one for his plant specimens.

Carver also struggled with the demands of the faculty position he held. He wanted to devote his time to researching agriculture for ways to help out poor Southern farmers, but he was also expected to manage the school’s two farms, teach, ensure the school’s toilets and sanitary facilities worked properly, and sit on multiple committees and councils.

Carver and Washington had a complicated relationship and would butt heads often, in part because Carver wanted little to do with teaching (though he was beloved by his students). Carver would eventually get his way when Washington died in 1915 and was succeeded by Robert Russa Moton, who relieved Carver of his teaching duties except for summer school.

What Did George Washington Carver Invent?

By this time, Carver already had great successes in the laboratory and the community. He taught poor farmers that they could feed hogs acorns instead of commercial feed and enrich croplands with swamp muck instead of fertilizers. But it was his ideas regarding crop rotation that proved to be most valuable.

Through his work on soil chemistry, Carver learned that years of growing cotton had depleted the nutrients from soil, resulting in low yields. But by growing nitrogen-fixing plants like peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes, the soil could be restored, allowing yield to increase dramatically when the land was reverted to cotton use a few years later.

To further help farmers, he invented the Jessup wagon, a kind of mobile (horse-drawn) classroom and laboratory used to demonstrate soil chemistry.

Carver: The Peanut Man

Farmers, of course, loved the high yields of cotton they were now getting from Carver’s crop rotation technique. But the method had an unintended consequence: A surplus of peanuts and other non-cotton products.

Carver set to work on finding alternative uses for these products. For example, he invented numerous products from sweet potatoes, including edible products like flour and vinegar and non-food items such as stains, dyes, paints and writing ink.

But Carver’s biggest success came from peanuts.

In all, he developed more than 300 food, industrial and commercial products from peanuts, including milk, Worcestershire sauce, punches, cooking oils, salad oil, paper, cosmetics, soaps and wood stains. He also experimented with peanut-based medicines, such as antiseptics, laxatives and goiter medications.

It should be noted, however, that many of these suggestions or discoveries remained curiosities and did not find widespread applications.

In 1921, Carver appeared before the Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on behalf of the peanut industry, which was seeking tariff protection. Though his testimony did not begin well, he described the wide range of products that could be made from peanuts, which not only earned him a standing ovation but also convinced the committee to approve a high protected tariff for the common legume.

He then became known as “The Peanut Man.”

Fame and Legacy

In the last two decades of his life, Carver lived as a minor celebrity but his focus was always on helping people.

He traveled the South to promote racial harmony, and he traveled to India to discuss nutrition in developing nations with Mahatma Gandhi .

Up until the year of his death, he also released bulletins for the public (44 bulletins between 1898 and 1943). Some of the bulletins reported on research findings but many others were more practical in nature and included cultivation information for farmers, science for teachers and recipes for housewives.

In the mid-1930s, when the polio virus raged in America, Carver became convinced that peanuts were the answer. He offered a treatment of peanut oil massages and reported positive results, though no scientific evidence exists that the treatments worked (the benefits patients experienced were likely due to the massage treatment and attentive care rather than the oil).

Carver died on January 5, 1943, at Tuskegee Institute after falling down the stairs of his home. He was 78 years old. Carver was buried next to Booker T. Washington on the Tuskegee Institute grounds.

Soon after, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation for Carver to receive his own monument, an honor previously only granted to presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln .

The George Washington Carver National Monument now stands in Diamond, Missouri. Carver was also posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”

“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

George Washington Carver; American Chemical Society . George W. Carver (1865? – 1943); The State Historical Society of Missouri . George Washington Carver; Science History Museum . George Washington Carver, The Black History Monthiest Of Them All; NPR . George Washington Carver And The Peanut; American Heritage .

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biography about george washington carver

  • Scientific Biographies

George Washington Carver

Known to many as the Peanut Man, Carver developed new products from underappreciated Southern agricultural crops and taught poor farmers how to improve soil productivity.

black and white photo of George Washington Carver

In the post–Civil War South, one man made it his mission to use agricultural chemistry and scientific methodology to improve the lives of impoverished farmers.

George Washington Carver (ca. 1864–1943) was born enslaved in Missouri at the time of the Civil War. His exact birth date and year are unknown, and reported dates range between 1860 and 1865. He was orphaned as an infant, and, with the war bringing an end to slavery, he grew up a free child, albeit on the farm of his mother’s former master, Moses Carver. The Carvers raised George and gave him their surname. Early on he developed a keen interest in plants, collecting specimens in the woods on the farm.

George Washington Carver seated (front row, center) on steps at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, with staff, ca. 1902.

At age 11, Carver left home to pursue an education in the nearby town of Neosho. He was taken in by an African American couple, Mariah and Andrew Watkins, for whom he did odd jobs while attending school for the first time. Disappointed in the school in Neosho, Carver eventually left for Kansas, where for several years he supported himself through a variety of occupations and added to his education in a piecemeal fashion.

He eventually earned a high school diploma in his twenties, but he soon found that opportunities to attend college for young black men in Kansas were nonexistent. So in the late 1880s Carver relocated again, this time to Iowa, where he met the Milhollands, a white couple who encouraged him to enroll in college.

Carver briefly attended Simpson College in Indianola, studying music and art. When a teacher there learned of his interest in botany, she encouraged him to transfer to Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University), dissuading him from his original dream of becoming an artist. Carver earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural science from Iowa State in 1894 and a master’s in 1896. While there he demonstrated a talent for identifying and treating plant diseases.

George Washington Carver (second from right) with students in the chemistry laboratory at Tuskegee Institute, ca. 1902.

Around this time Booker T. Washington was looking to establish an agricultural department and research facility at his Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama. Washington, the leading black statesman of the day, and two others had founded the institute in 1881 as a new vocational school for African Americans, and the institute had steadily grown.

As Carver was the only African American in the nation with an advanced degree in scientific agriculture, Washington sought him out. Carver joined the faculty of Tuskegee in 1896 and stayed there the rest of his life. He was both a teacher and a prolific researcher, heading up the institute’s Agricultural Experiment Station.

Crop Rotation

Carver’s primary interest was in using chemistry and scientific methodology to improve the lives of impoverished farmers in southeastern Alabama. To that end he conducted soil studies to determine what crops would grow best in the region and found that the local soil was perfect for growing peanuts and sweet potatoes. He also taught farmers about fertilization and crop rotation as methods for increasing soil productivity. The primary crop in the South was cotton, which severely depleted soil nutrients, but by rotating crops—alternating cotton with soil-enriching crops like legumes and sweet potatoes—farmers could ultimately increase their cotton yield for a plot of land. And crop rotation was cheaper than commercial fertilization. But what to do with all the sweet potatoes and peanuts? At the time, not many people ate them, and there weren’t many other uses for these crops.

George Washington Carver standing in a field, probably at Tuskegee, holding a piece of soil, 1906. He wears a suit, flower in his lapel, and a hat.

New Uses for “Undesirable” Crops

Carver went to work to invent new food, industrial, and commercial products—including flour, sugar, vinegar, cosmetic products, paint, and ink—from these “lowly” plants. From peanuts alone he developed hundreds of new products, thus creating a market for this inexpensive, soil-enriching legume. In 1921 Carver famously spoke before the House Ways and Means Committee on behalf of the nascent peanut industry to secure tariff protection and was thereafter known as the Peanut Man.

When he first arrived at Tuskegee in 1896, the peanut was not even a recognized U.S. crop; by 1940 it had become one of the six leading crops in the nation and the second cash crop in the South (after cotton). Both peanuts and sweet potatoes were slowly incorporated into Southern cooking, and today the peanut especially is ubiquitous in the American diet.

Carver also developed traveling schools and other outreach programs to educate farmers. He published popular bulletins, distributed to farmers for free, that reported on his research at the Agricultural Experiment Station and its applications.

Recognition

Through chemistry and conviction Carver revolutionized Southern agriculture and raised the standard of living of his fellow man. In addition to the popular honor of being one of the most recognized names in African American history, Carver received the 1923 Spingarn Medal and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The George Washington Carver National Monument was the first national monument dedicated to a black American and the first to a nonpresident.

Featured image: George Washington Carver, Tuskegee Institute, 1906. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-J601-302/Frances Benjamin Johnston.

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George Washington Carver: Biography, Inventions & Quotes

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was a prominent American scientist and inventor in the early 1900s. Carver developed hundreds of products using the peanut, sweet potatoes and soybeans. He also was a champion of crop rotation and agricultural education. Born into slavery, today he is an icon of American ingenuity and the transformative potential of education.

Carver was likely born in January or June of 1864. His exact birth date is unknown because he was born a slave on the farm of Moses Carver in Diamond, Missouri. Very little is known about George’s father, who may have been a field hand named Giles who was killed in a farming accident before George was born. George’s mother was named Mary; he had several sisters, and a brother named James.

When George was only a few weeks old, Confederate raiders invaded the farm, kidnapping George, his mother and sister. They were sold in Kentucky, and only George was found by an agent of Moses Carver and returned to Missouri. Carver and his wife, Susan, raised George and James and taught them to read.

James soon gave up the lessons, preferring to work in the fields with his foster father. George was not a strong child and was not able to work in the fields, so Susan taught the boy to help her in the kitchen garden and to make simple herbal medicines. George became fascinated by plants and was soon experimenting with natural pesticides, fungicides and soil conditioners. Local farmers began to call George “the plant doctor,” as he was able to tell them how to improve the health of their garden plants.

At his wife’s insistence, Moses found a school that would accept George as a student.  George walked the 10 miles several times a week to attend the School for African American Children in Neosho, Kan. When he was about 13 years old, he left the farm to move to Ft. Scott, Kan., but he later moved to Minneapolis, Kan., to attend high school. He earned much of his tuition by working in the kitchen of a local hotel. He concocted new recipes, which he entered in local baking contests. He graduated from Minneapolis High School in 1880 and set his sights on college.

College years

George first applied to Highland Presbyterian College in Kansas. The college was impressed by George’s application essay and granted him a full scholarship. When he arrived at the school, however, he was turned away — they hadn’t realized he was black. Over the next few years, George worked at a variety of jobs. He homesteaded a farm in Kansas, worked a ranch in New Mexico, and worked for the railroads, always saving money and looking for a college that would accept him.

In 1888, George enrolled as the first black student at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. He began studying art and piano, expecting to earn a teaching degree. Carver later said, “The kind of people at Simpson College made me believe I was a human being.”  Recognizing the unusual attention to detail in his paintings of plants and flowers his instructor, Etta Budd, encouraged him to apply to Iowa State Agricultural School (now Iowa State University) to study Botany.

At Iowa State, Carver was the first African American student to earn his Bachelor of Science in 1894. His professors were so impressed by his work on the fungal infections common to soybean plants that he was asked to remain as part of the faculty to work on his master’s degree (awarded in 1896). Working as director of the Iowa State Experimental Station, Carver discovered two types of fungi, which were subsequently named for him. Carver also began experiments in crop rotation, using soy plantings to replace nitrogen in depleted soil. Before long, Carver became well known as a leading agricultural scientist.

Tuskegee Institute

In April 1896, Carver received a letter from Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute, one of the first African American colleges in the United States. “I cannot offer you money, position or fame,” read this letter. “The first two you have. The last from the position you now occupy you will no doubt achieve. These things I now ask you to give up. I offer you in their place: work – hard work, the task of bringing people from degradation, poverty and waste to full manhood. Your department exists only on paper and your laboratory will have to be in your head.” Washington’s offer was $125.00 per month (a substantial cut from Carver’s Iowa State salary) and the luxury of two rooms for living quarters (most Tuskegee faculty members had just one). It was an offer that George Carver accepted immediately and the place where he worked for the remainder of his life.

Carver was determined to use his knowledge to help poor farmers of the rural South. He began by introducing the idea of crop rotation. In the Tuskegee experimental fields, Carver settled on peanuts because it was a simple crop to grow and had excellent nitrogen fixating properties to improve soil depleted by growing cotton. He took his lessons to former slaves turned sharecroppers by inventing the Jessup Wagon, a horse-drawn classroom and laboratory for demonstrating soil chemistry. Farmers were ecstatic with the large cotton crops resulting from the cotton/peanut rotation, but were less enthusiastic about the huge surplus of peanuts that built up and began to rot in local storehouses.

George Washington Carver working in his laboratory.

Peanut products

Carver heard the complaints and retired to his laboratory for a solid week, during which he developed several new products that could be produced from peanuts. When he introduced these products to the public in a series of simple brochures, the market for peanuts skyrocketed. Today, Carver is credited with saving the agricultural economy of the rural South.

From his work at Tuskegee, Carver developed approximately 300 products made from peanuts; these included: flour, paste, insulation, paper, wall board, wood stains, soap, shaving cream and skin lotion. He experimented with medicines made from peanuts, which included antiseptics, laxatives and a treatment for goiter.

What about peanut butter?

Contrary to popular belief, while Carver developed a version of peanut butter, he did not invent it. The Incas developed a paste made out of ground peanuts as far back as 950 B.C. In the United States, according to the National Peanut Board , Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, of cereal fame, invented a version of peanut butter in 1895.

A St. Louis physician may have developed peanut butter as a protein substitute for people who had poor teeth and couldn't chew meat. Peanut butter was introduced at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.

Aiding the war effort

During World War I, Carver was asked to assist Henry Ford in producing a peanut-based replacement for rubber. Also during the war, when dyes from Europe became difficult to obtain, he helped the American textile industry by developing more than 30 colors of dye from Alabama soils.

After the War, George added a "W" to his name to honor Booker T. Washington. Carver continued to experiment with peanut products and became interested in sweet potatoes, another nitrogen-fixing crop. Products he invented using sweet potatoes include: wood fillers, more than 73 dyes, rope, breakfast cereal, synthetic silk, shoe polish and molasses. He wrote several brochures on the nutritional value of sweet potatoes and the protein found in peanuts, including recipes he invented for use of his favorite plants. He even went to India to confer with Mahatma Gandhi on nutrition in developing nations.

In 1920, Carver delivered a speech to the new Peanut Growers Association of America. This organization was advocating that Congress pass a tariff law to protect the new American industry from imported crops. As a result of this speech, he testified before Congress in 1921 and the tariff was passed in 1922.  In 1923, Carver was named as Speaker for the United States Commission on Interracial Cooperation, a post he held until 1933. In 1935, he was named head of the Division of Plant Mycology and Disease Survey for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By 1938, largely due to Carver’s influence, peanuts had grown to be a $200-million-per-year crop in the United States and were the chief agricultural product grown in the state of Alabama.

Carver's legacy

Carver died on Jan. 5, 1943. At his death, he left his life savings, more than $60,000, to found the George Washington Carver Institute for Agriculture at Tuskegee. In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated funds to erect a monument at Diamond, Missouri, in his honor.

Commemorative postage stamps were issued in 1948 and again in 1998. A George Washington Carver half-dollar coin was minted between 1951 and 1954. There are two U.S. military vessels named in his honor.

There are also numerous scholarships and schools named for him. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Simpson College. Since his exact birth date is unknown, Congress has designated January 5 as George Washington Carver Recognition Day.

Carver only patented three of his inventions. In his words, “It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success.” 

Carver quotes

"Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses."

"Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater."

"Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom."

"When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world."

"Where there is no vision, there is no hope."

"Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the woods before sunrise."

"There is no short cut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation - veneer isn't worth anything."

"Learn to do common things uncommonly well; we must always keep in mind that anything that helps fill the dinner pail is valuable."  

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Carver, George Washington 1861(?)–1943

George washington carver 1861() – 1943.

Agricultural chemist, botanist, educator, and researcher

At a Glance …

Finally gained academic opportunities, began lasting affiliation with tuskegee, directed innovative agricultural research, the “ goober ” genius, a national leader, carver ’ s legacy.

George Washington Carver was an agricultural chemist and botanist whose colorful life story and eccentric personality transformed him into a popular American folk hero to people of all races. Born into slavery, he spent his first 30 years wandering through three states and working at odd jobs to obtain a basic education. His lifelong effort thereafter to better the lives of poor Southern black farmers by finding commercial uses for the region ’ s agricultural products and natural resources — in particular the peanut, sweet potato , cowpea, soybean, and native clays from the soil — brought him international recognition as a humanitarian and chemical wizard. An accomplished artist and pianist as well, Carver was among the most famous black men in the United States during the early twentieth century.

Carver was born a slave on the plantation of Moses Carver near Diamond Grove, Missouri , sometime during the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865. His father appears to have died in a log-rolling accident shortly after George ’ s birth. The Carver farm was raided several times throughout the war, and on one occasion, according to legend, bandits kidnapped George, who was then an infant, and his mother, Mary, and took them to Arkansas. Mary was never found, but a neighbor rescued young George and returned him to the Carver farm, accepting as payment a horse valued at $300.

Now orphaned, George and his older brother, Jim, were raised by Moses and Susan Carver. George was frail and sickly and his frequent bouts with croup and whooping cough temporarily stunted his growth and permanently injured his vocal chords, leaving him with a high-pitched voice throughout his life. While his healthy brother grew up working on the Carver farm, George spent much of his childhood wandering in the nearby woods and studying the plants. Here he formed the interests and values that determined his later life — love and understanding of nature, long morning walks in the woods spent thinking and observing, strong religious training, and a taste of racial prejudice.

The Carvers realized that George was an extremely intelligent and gifted child eager for an education. But since he was black, he was not allowed to attend the local school. In 1877 he left home to study in a school for blacks in nearby Neosho, getting his first exposure to a predominantly black environment. He roomed with a local black couple, paying his way by helping with the chores. Soon exhausting his

Born c. 1861, near Diamond Grove, MO; died January 5, 1943, in Tuskegee, AL; son of Mary (a slave on the farm of Moses Carver); father unknown, but believed to have died in an accident shortly after George ’ s birth. Education: Iowa State University, B.S., 1894, M.S., 1896. Religion: Presbyterian.

Worked odd jobs throughout Missouri, Kansas , and Iowa while pursuing a basic high school education, 1877-1890; Iowa State University, Ames, IA, assistant botanist and director of college greenhouse, 1894-1896; Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, AL, head of agriculture department, 1896-1910, head of department of research, 1910-1943; founder of George Washington Carver Foundation and Carver Museum at Tuskegee Institute; researcher focusing on improving Southern agriculture through crop diversification and finding multiple uses for various crops; author of articles on agriculture.

Awards: Fellow of the British Royal Society for the Arts, 1916; Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1923; D.Sc. from Simpson College, 1928; Roosevelt Medal for distinguished service to science, 1939; D.Sc. from University of Rochester, 1941; Thomas A. Edison Foundation Award, 1942; inducted into Hall of Fame for Great Americans , 1973, and National Inventors Hall of Fame, 1990.

teacher ’ s limited knowledge, he hitched a ride to Fort Scott, Kansas, in the late 1870s with another black family, becoming part of the mass exodus of Southern blacks to the Great Plains during that decade in search of a better life.

Carver worked as a cook, launderer, and grocery clerk while continuing to pursue his education. Witnessing a brutal lynching in March of 1879, he was terrified. As quoted by Linda O. McMurry in George Washington Carver : Scientist and Symbol , more than sixty years after the incident he wrote: “ As young as I was the horror haunted me and does even now. ” He immediately left Fort Scott and moved to Olathe, Kansas, again working odd jobs while attending school. There he lived with another local black couple, Ben and Lucy Seymour, following them to Minneapolis , Kansas, the next year. Obtaining a bank loan, Carver opened a laundry business, joined the Seymours ’ local Presbyterian Church, and entered a school with whites, finally completing his secondary education.

In 1884 he moved to Kansas City , working as a clerk in the Union Depot. Accepted by mail at a Presbyterian college in Highland, Kansas, he was refused admission when he arrived because of his race. Though humiliated, he stayed in Highland to work for the Beelers, a cordial and supportive white family. Carver followed one of their sons to western Kansas in 1886 and tried homesteading, building a 14-square-foot sod house. But at that time he seemed more interested in playing the piano and organ and in painting than farming.

Carver moved again in 1888 to Winterset, Iowa, where he worked at a hotel before opening another laundry. A local white couple he met at church, Dr. and Mrs. Milholland, persuaded him to enter Simpson College, a small Methodist school open to all, in nearby Indianola, Iowa. He enrolled in September of 1890 as a select preparatory student, one allowed to enter without an official high school degree. Carver was unique in more ways than one: besides being the only black student on campus, he was the only male studying art.

By all accounts his Simpson experience was enjoyable. Carver took in laundry to support himself, was accepted by his fellow students, and had many friends. But his art teacher, impressed by his talent with plants, strongly encouraged his transfer to the Iowa State College of Agriculture in Ames, which housed an agricultural experiment station considered one of the country ’ s leading centers of farming research. Three future U.S. secretaries of agriculture came from this university, including Professor James Wilson , who took Carver under his wing.

Again Carver was the only black on campus. He lived in an old office, ate in the basement, supported himself with menial jobs, and was active in the campus branch of the Young Men ’ s Christian Association (YMCA). Soon he stood out for his talent as well. One of his paintings was among those chosen to represent Iowa at the 1893 World ’ s Columbian Exposition in Chicago . The faculty, equally impressed by his ability to raise, cross-fertilize, and graft plants, persuaded him to stay on as a post-graduate after he graduated in 1894.

Carver was appointed to the faculty as an assistant botanist in charge of the college greenhouse. He continued his studies under Louis Pammel, an authority in mycology (fungi and other plant diseases), receiving a master ’ s degree in science in 1896.

The new graduate was in great demand. Iowa State wanted him to continue working there. Alcorn Agriculture & Mechanical College, a black school in Mississippi , was interested in his services. But when school principal Booker T. Washington, the most respected black educator in the country, asked Carver to establish an agricultural school and experiment station at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama , he accepted. According to Barry Mackintosh in American Heritage , Carver responded: “ Of course it has always been the one great ideal of my life to be of the greatest good to the greatest number of my people possible, and to this end I have been preparing my life for these many years, feeling as I do that this line of education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom for our people. ”

Tuskegee was an entirely new world for Carver — an all-black, industrial trade school located in the segregated deep South. He went because he agreed with Washington ’ s efforts to improve the lives of the country ’ s black citizens through education, economic development, and conciliation rather than political agitation. He would devote the rest of his life to the institution and its goals.

Carver arrived at Tuskegee in the fall of 1896 and immediately ran into problems. Many of the faculty members resented him because he was a dark-skinned black from the North who was educated in white schools and earned a higher salary than they did. Carver was a trained research scientist, not a teacher, at a primarily industrial trade school. He had few pupils, for the simple reason that most black students viewed a college education as a way to escape from the farm. In addition, he proved to be a poor administrator and financial manager of the school ’ s two farms, barns, livestock, poultry, dairy, orchards, and beehives.

Washington and Carver often clashed. The realistic and pragmatic school principal expected practical results, while his idealistic, research-oriented professor preferred working at the school ’ s 10-acre experimental farm. In 1910 Carver was removed as head of the agriculture department and put in charge of a newly formed department of research. He gradually gave up teaching except for his Sunday evening Bible classes.

Carver found his true calling as head of the Tuskegee Experiment Station, working on research projects designed to help Southern agriculture in general and the poor black farmer, “ the man farthest down, ” in particular. Alabama agriculture was in a sorry state when he arrived. Many farmers were impoverished, and much of the state ’ s soil had been exhausted and eroded by extensive single-crop cotton cultivation. Carver set out to find a better way and to make Tuskegee a leading voice in Southern agricultural reform, as well as an important research, information, and educational center.

He encouraged local farmers to visit the school and to send in soil, water, crops, feed, fertilizers, and insects to his laboratory for analysis. Most of his findings and advice stressed hard work and the wise use of natural resources rather than expensive machinery or fertilizer that the area ’ s poor farmers could not afford. Realizing that his discoveries and those of other agricultural researchers nationwide would have little effect unless publicized, Carver brought Tuskegee to the countryside by creating the Agriculture Movable School, a wagon that traveled to local farms with exhibits and demonstrations.

He also attempted to reach a wide audience with the experiment station ’ s bulletins and brochures that he wrote and published from 1898 until his death. Rarely containing new ideas, Carver ’ s bulletins instead publicized findings by agricultural researchers throughout the country in simple, non-technical language aimed at farmers and their wives. His early bulletins stressed the need for planting crops other than cotton to restore the soil, the importance of crop rotation, strategies for managing an efficient and profitable farm, and ways to cure and keep meat during the hot southern summers. They also offered instructions on pickling, canning, and preserving foods and lessons on preparing balanced meals.

To replace cotton, the longtime staple of Southern agriculture, Carver experimented with sweet potatoes and cowpeas (also known as black-eyed peas), along with crops new to Alabama like soybeans and alfalfa, the soil-building qualities of which would revitalize cotton-exhausted soil. He publicized his results in several bulletins from 1903 to 1911, providing growing tips and listing uses ranging from livestock feed to recipes for human consumption. But none of these crops became as popular with farmers or caught the public ’ s fancy as his work with the ordinary peanut.

When Carver arrived in Tuskegee in 1896, the peanut was not even recognized as a crop. A few years later, Carver grew some Spanish peanuts at the experiment station. Recognizing its value in restoring nitrogen to depleted Southern soil, he mentioned the peanut in his 1905 bulletin, How to Build Up Worn Out Soils . Eleven years later another bulletin, How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing It for Human Consumption , focused on the peanut ’ s high protein and nutritional value, using ideas and recipes published previously in other U.S. Department of Agriculture bulletins.

A revolution was underway in Southern agriculture, and Carver was right in the middle of it. Peanut production increased from 3.5 million bushels in 1889 to more than 40 million bushels in 1917. Following a post- World War I decline in production, peanuts became the South ’ s second cash crop after cotton by 1940.

After publicizing the peanut and encouraging Southern farmers to grow it, Carver turned his attention to finding new uses for the once-lowly goober. Learning of his work, the United Peanut Associations of America asked Carver to speak at their 1920 convention in Montgomery, Alabama. His address, “ The Possibilities of the Peanut, ” was noteworthy for two reasons: a black addressing a white organization in the segregated South and Carver ’ s knowledge and enthusiasm about the product.

The following year he testified before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, captivating congressional representatives with his showmanship and ideas for multiple derivatives from the crop including candy, ink, and ice cream flavoring. Mackintosh noted that Carver established his new celebrity nationwide, telling the lawmakers, “ I have just begun with the peanut ” . From then on he was known as the “ Peanut Man. ” After his death, the Carver Museum at Tuskegee credited him with developing 287 peanut byproducts, including food and beverages, paints or dyes, livestock feed, cosmetics, and medicinal preparations. Peanut butter , however, was not among his discoveries. His similar laboratory work with the sweet potato totaled 159 commodities like flour, molasses, vinegar, various dyes, and synthetic rubber.

But in reality, most of these by-products were more fanciful than practical and could be mass-produced more easily from other substances. Peanuts continued to be used almost entirely for peanut butter, peanut oil, and for baked goods instead of the plethora of products Carver concocted. For all his discoveries, he only held three patents: two for paint products and one for a cosmetic. None was commercially successful.

Carver ’ s laboratory methods were equally unorthodox and not in accord with standard scientific procedures. He usually worked alone, was uncommunicative with other researchers, and rarely wrote down his many formulas or left detailed records of his experiments. Instead, he claimed to work by divine revelation, receiving instructions from “ Mr. Creator ” in his laboratory.

Carver ’ s prestige began to rise after Booker T. Washington ’ s death in 1915. Given his growing celebrity status, he became Tuskegee ’ s unofficial spokesman and a popular speaker nationwide at black and white civic groups, colleges, churches, and state fairs. He often played the piano at fund-raising events for the school. Carver was named a fellow of the British Royal Society for the Arts in 1916 and received the NAACP ’ s Spingarn Medal in 1923 for advancing the black cause.

A fanciful 1932 article in American Magazine solely credited Carver with increasing peanut production and developing important new peanut products that transformed Southern agriculture. Reprinted in the Reader ’ s Digest in 1937, it boosted his soaring popularity as a scientific wizard. Backed by automobile manufacturer Henry Ford and inventor Thomas Edison, Carver became the unofficial spokesman of the chemurgy movement of the 1930s that combined chemistry and related sciences for the benefit of farmers. Continuing his work with peanuts, he encouraged the use of peanut oil as a massage to help in the recovery of polio victims.

With his soft-spoken manner, strong Christian beliefs, scientific reputation, seeming disregard for money, and accomodationist viewpoint toward the nation ’ s racial question, Carver became a national symbol for both races. Southern whites approved of his seeming acceptance of segregation and used his accomplishments as an example of how a talented black individual could excel in their separate but equal society. Blacks and liberal whites saw Carver as a positive role model and much-needed symbol of black success and intellectual achievement, a man who visited U.S. presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge and dined with Henry Ford .

Carver left his life savings of $60,000 to found the George Washington Carver Foundation — to provide opportunities for advanced study by blacks in botany, chemistry, and agronomy — and the Carver Museum, to preserve his scientific work and paintings at Tuskegee. The site of Moses Carver ’ s farm is now the George Washington Carver National Monument. A U.S. postage stamp was issued in the agricultural pioneer ’ s honor, and Congress has designated January 5, the day of his death, to pay tribute to him each year.

At his death from complications of anemia in 1943, Carver remained the most famous African-American of his era, world renowned as a scientific wizard. However, none of his hundreds of formulas for peanut, sweet potato, and other by-products became successful commercial products. Nor was he solely instrumental in diversifying Southern agriculture from cotton to peanuts and other crops. The great boom in Southern peanut production occurred prior to World War I and Carver ’ s bulletins promoting the crop.

Carver ’ s true importance in history lay elsewhere. For nearly 50 years he remained in the South , working to improve the lives of the region ’ s many poor farmers, black and white. Through his talents as an interpreter and promoter, he put the agricultural discoveries and technical writings of leading scientists in everyday language that ill-educated farmers could understand and use. And in an age of strict racial segregation, his importance as a role model and national symbol of black ability, education, and achievement cannot be undervalued.

Adair, Gene, George Washington Carver , Chelsea House, 1989.

George Washington Carver: The Man Who Overcame , Prentice-Hall, 1966.

Holt, Rackham, George Washington Carver: An American Biography , Doubleday, 1943.

Kremer, Gary R., George Washington Carver: In His Own Words , University of Missouri Press, 1987.

McMurry, Linda O., George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol , Oxford University Press, 1981.

Moore, Eva, The Story of George Washington Carver , Scholastic Inc., 1990.

Periodicals

American Heritage , August 1977.

American Magazine , October 1932.

Ebony , July 1977.

Jet , January 29, 1990.

Journal of Black Studies , September 1988.

Journal of Southern History , November 1976.

Life , March 1937.

— James J. Podesta

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Carver, George Washington

George washington carver.

Born: c. 1864 Diamond Grove, Missouri Died: January 5, 1943 Tuskegee, Alabama African American agricultural chemist

George Washington Carver started his life as a slave and worked his way to becoming a respected and world-renowned agricultural chemist. He helped develop agricultural techniques used around the world.

Early years

George Washington Carver was born in Kansas Territory near Diamond Grove, Missouri, during the bloody struggle between free-soilers and slaveholders. His father, a slave on a nearby farm, was killed shortly before Carver was born. Carver himself became the kidnap victim of night riders while still a baby. With his mother and brother, James, he was held for ransom. Before they were rescued, his mother died. Moses Carver, a German farmer, ransomed (traded) the infant Carver for a $300 race-horse. Thus he was orphaned and left in the custody of a white guardian from early childhood.

Carver was a talented student, but even his talents could not overcome racism (feelings of racial superiority). He was not allowed to attend the local schools because of his color. Instead, Carver had responsibility for his own education. His first school was in Neosho, Kansas . Neosho had once been a Confederate capital. Now it had become the site of the Lincoln School for African American children, a school for black children some nine miles from Carver's home. Every day Carver walked there with his brother James. His first teacher was Stephen S. Frost, an African American. Carver and his brother faithfully went to school for several years. Finally James, tired of formal schooling, quit to become a house painter, but not George. He continued until he was seventeen. Then he went on to complete his high school work in Minneapolis , Kansas, and finally graduated in his mid-twenties. At the time Carver had wished to become an artist. His sketch of the rose Yucca gloriosa won him a first prize at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.

An agricultural education

Carver applied to study at the Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts, but he was turned down when it was learned that he was of African heritage. He then applied to Simpson College at Indianola, Iowa , where he was the second African American to be admitted. Tuition was $12 a year, but it was hard to come by even this small amount. Carver worked as a cook at a hotel in Winterset, Iowa, to raise the money.

After attending Simpson College for three years, he once again applied for admission to Iowa State. He was admitted and was placed in charge of the greenhouse of the horticultural department while doing graduate work. Carver quickly won the respect and admiration of the faculty and student body. He earned his master's degree in agriculture in 1896, and, by the time he left, Carver was an expert at mycology (the study of fungi) and plant cross-fertilization.

A career begins

In April 1896 Carver received a unique offer from the African American educator Booker T. Washington (1856 – 1915) to teach at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Said Washington: "I cannot offer you money, position or fame. The first two you have. The last from the position you now occupy you will no doubt achieve. These things I now ask you to give up. I offer you in their place: work — hard, hard work, the task of bringing a people from degradation, poverty, and waste to full manhood. Your department exists only on paper and your laboratory will have to be in your head."

Carver accepted the challenge. He arrived at the tiny railroad station at Chehaw, Alabama, on October 8, 1896. In a report to Washington he wrote: "8:00 to 9:00 a.m., Agricultural Chemistry; 9:20 to 10:00 a.m., the Foundation of Colors (for painters); 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., a class of farmers. Additional hours in the afternoon. In addition I must oversee and rather imperfectly supervise seven industrial classes, scattered here and there over the grounds. I must test all seeds, examine all fertilizers, based upon an examination of soils in different plots."

Through the years Carver gained a national, as well as an international, reputation. Chinese and Japanese farmers raised many unique problems for him. Questions were referred to him from Russia , India , Europe , and South America . He later had to turn down a request to journey to the Soviet Union , the country that once consisted of Russia and other smaller nations. In 1916 he was elected a member of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts in England , the world's oldest scientific organization. Later, in 1918, he went to the War Department in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate his findings on the sweet potato . He was awarded the Spingarn Medal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1923.

The personality of Carver

An early close friend of Carver was Henry A. Wallace; the pair knew each other for forty-seven years. Wallace said that Carver often took him on botanical (relating to plants) expeditions, and it was he who first introduced Wallace to the mysteries of plant fertilizers. Carver was a shy and modest bachelor, an unmarried man. An attack of whooping cough (a contagious disease that attacks the respiratory system ) as a child had permanently caused him to have a high-pitched tenor voice. He considered it a high duty to attend classes and was seldom absent. In 1908 he returned to the West to visit his ninety-six-year-old guardian, Moses Carver, and to visit the grave of his brother, James, in Missouri.

A careful and modest scientist, Carver was not without a sense of humor. When one of his students, hoping to play a trick on him, showed him a bug with the wings of a fly and the body of a mosquito, Carver was quick to label it "a humbug."

Developments and world fame

Carver utilized the materials at hand. He was interested in crop rotation and soil conservation. From the clay soil of Alabama he extracted a full range of dyestuffs, including a brilliant blue. He created sixty products from the pecan. From the common sweet potato he developed a cereal coffee, a shoe polish, paste, oils — about one hundred products. From the peanut he came up with over 145 products. Carver suggested peanuts, pecans, and sweet potatoes replace cotton as money crops. He published all of his findings in a series of nearly fifty bulletins.

The testimony of Carver before the congressional House Ways and Means Committee in 1921 led to the passage of the Fordney-McCumber Tariff Bill of 1922. Scheduled to speak a short ten minutes, he was granted several time extensions because of the intense interest in his presentation. At the lecture he appeared in a greenish-blue suit many seasons old, having refused to invest in a new suit and announced, "They want to hear what I have to say; they will not be interested in how I look."

In 1935 Carver was chosen to work with the Bureau of Plant Industry of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He received the Theodore Roosevelt Medal in 1939 for distinguished achievement in science. During his lifetime Carver had made many friends. Automobile manufacturer Henry Ford (1863 – 1947) was his frequent host. Carver was also a treasured friend of inventor Thomas A. Edison (1847 – 1931). It was Edison who offered to make him independent with his own laboratories and an annual stipend (fixed payment) of $50 thousand. Other famous friends included horticulturist Luther Burbank (1849 – 1926), industrialist Harvey Firestone (1868 – 1938), and naturalist John Burroughs (1837 – 1921). He was also a friend of three presidents: Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919), Calvin Coolidge (1872 – 1933), and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 – 1945).

Carver had earned the salary of $125 a month from the beginning until the end of his service at Tuskegee Institute, which spanned forty-six years. He might have had much more. In 1940 he gave his life savings, $33 thousand, to establish the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee Institute to continue research in agriculture and chemistry. He later left his entire estate to the foundation, a total of about $60 thousand. He died on January 5, 1943.

At the dedication of a building in his honor at Simpson College, Ralph Bunche (1904 – 1971), a Nobel Prize winner, pronounced Carver to be "the least imposing celebrity the world has ever known." Carver's birthplace was made a national monument on July 14, 1953.

For More Information

Gray, James Marion. George Washington Carver. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Silver Burdett Press, 1991.

Holt, Rackham. George Washington Carver: An American Biography. Rev. ed. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963.

McKissack, Pat, and Fredrick McKissack. George Washington Carver: The Peanut Scientist. Rev. ed. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2002.

Moore, Eva. The Story of George Washington Carver. New York : Scholastic, 1995.

" Carver, George Washington . " UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography . . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Jul. 2024 < https://www.encyclopedia.com > .

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CARVER, GEORGE WASHINGTON

Agricultural chemist George Washington Carver (1861? – 1943) devoted his life to developing industrial applications for farm products. His research developed hundreds of products from peanuts, sweet potatoes and pecans. Although many of these products could be mass-produced more successfully from other materials and none were a commercial success, Carver's work helped liberate the economy of the South from an excessive dependence on cotton.

Carver was born during the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) near Diamond Grove, Missouri , the son of a slave woman. He was only an infant when he and his mother were sent to Arkansas where slaveholding was still legal. After the war, the young boy, now an orphan and a frail, sickly child, was returned to his former master's plantation where he was nursed back to health. He spent much of his boyhood wandering through the nearby woods and studying the plants he found there.

Carver's ability to have himself educated was remarkable when one considers the bias that African Americans faced in the early years after the Civil War . Although he was a gifted child, he had to spend his early youth working at a succession of menial jobs, and he did not complete high school until he was in his twenties. Although he was accepted by a Presbyterian college in Kansas , he was refused admission upon arrival because of his race. In 1890, Carver became the first black student admitted to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa . Impressed by the young man's talent with plants, an art teacher at Simpson advised Carver to transfer to the Iowa State College of Agriculture, where he received a degree in agricultural science in 1894. Two years later he earned a Master's degree in science. He then became a member of the faculty in charge of the school's bacterial laboratory work in the systematic botany department.

In 1896 Carver received an invitation from Booker T. Washington (1856 – 1915), the most respected black educator in the country, to establish an agricultural school and experiment station at Tuskegee Institute. Carver's acceptance began for him a special relationship with Tuskegee. In 1940 he used his life savings to endow there the Carver Research Foundation, which would carry on his work in agricultural research. Carver remained on the faculty at Tuskegee until his death in 1943.

Carver found his true calling in working on projects designed to help Southern agriculture. When he arrived in Alabama much of the state's soil had been exhausted and eroded by extensive single-crop cotton cultivation. To replace cotton, the longtime staple of Southern agriculture, Carver experimented with sweet potatoes and black-eyed peas. He also introduced crops new to Alabama like soybeans and alfalfa. None of these crops became as popular with farmers or caught the public's fancy as much as the peanut. Recognizing its value in restoring nitrogen to depleted soil, Carver encouraged farmers to grow the lowly "goober." Carver research on the peanut was at the forefront of a revolution underway in Southern agriculture. Peanut production increased from 3.5 million bushels in 1889 to more than 40 million bushels in 1917. By 1940 peanuts became the South 's second cash crop (after cotton). Ultimately, his research resulted in 325 products derived from peanuts, 75 products from pecans, and 108 applications for sweet potatoes.

Carver's work also reflected his commitment to poor, African-American farmers. Initially Carver advised them to work hard and use natural resources wisely rather than invest in expensive machinery or fertilizers they could not afford. Yet, his research into the commercial uses for the South's agricultural products and natural resources enabled them to better their lives.

His success also brought him an national and international recognition. In 1923 he received the Spingarn Medal, awarded each year by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to the person who made the greatest contribution to the advancement of his or her race. In 1928, he received an honorary doctorate from Simpson College and was made a member of England 's Royal Society of Arts. U.S. presidents visited him. Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869 – 1948) and Henry Ford (1863 – 1947) were friends of Carver. Foreign leaders sought his advice. In 1943 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933 – 1945) dedicated the first national monument honoring an African American to Carver's memory.

Both during and after his lifetime Carver captured a special place in folk history. According to Linda McMurray in her biography, George Washington Carver, Scientist and Symbol , "The romance of his life story and the eccentricities of his personality led to his metamorphosis into a kind of folk saint. . . [and] he was readily appropriated by many diverse groups as a symbol of myriad causes." Segregationists approved of his apparent acceptance of their "separate but equal" society and used his accomplishments as an example of how a talented black individual could excel under those conditions. Many African Americans and others saw Carver as a needed example of black success and intellectual achievement. Americans of all races struggling through the Great Depression saw in his career the realization that hard work and talent could prevail no matter how daunting the odds.

See also: Agriculture Industry

FURTHER READING

Carwell, Hattie. Blacks in Science: Astrophysicist to Zoologist . Hicksville, N.Y.: Exposition Press, 1977.

Haber, Louis. Black Pioneers in Science and Invention . New York : Harcourt, Brace and World, 1970.

Holt, Rackham. George Washington Carver , An American Biography . Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1963.

McMurray, Linda O. George Washington Carver , Scientist and Symbol . New York : Oxford University Press, 1981.

"George Washington Carver, Jr.: Chemurgist?" [cited February 15, 1999] available from the World Wide Web @ www.lib.lsu.edu/lib/chem/display/carver.html

[carver's] research developed hundreds of products from peanuts, sweet potatoes, and pecans. . . . [and] his work helped liberate the economy of the south from an excessive dependence on cotton.

" Carver, George Washington . " Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History . . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Jul. 2024 < https://www.encyclopedia.com > .

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George Washington Carver (1864-1943) started his life as a slave and ended it as a respected and world-renowned agricultural chemist.

Born in Kansas Territory near Diamond Grove, Mo., during the bloody struggle between free-soilers and slaveholders, George Washington Carver became the kidnap victim of night riders. With his mother and brother, James, he was held for ransom; but before they could be rescued the mother died. Merely a babe in arms, Carver was ransomed for a $300 racehorse by Moses Carver, a German farmer. Thus he was orphaned and left in the custody of a white guardian from early childhood.

Carver had responsibility for his own education. His first school was in Neosho, lowa, some 9 miles from his home. Neosho had once been a Confederate capital; by now it had become the site of the Lincoln School for African American children. With James he walked there every day. His first teacher was an African American, Stephen S. Frost. He and his brother went faithfully to school for several years. Finally James tired of formal schooling and quit to become a house painter, but not George. He continued until he was 17. Then he went on to complete his high school work in Minneapolis, Kans.

Carver really wished to become an artist. His sketch of the rose Yucca gloriosa won him a first prize at the World's Columbian Exposition (1893).

Carver applied to study at the lowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts but was turned down when it was learned that he was of African heritage. He then applied to Simpson College at Indianola, lowa, where he was the second African American to be admitted. Tuition was $12 a year, but even this small amount was hard to come by. Carver raised the money by working as a cook at a hotel in Winterset, lowa.

After 3 years' attendance at Simpson College, he once again applied for admission to lowa State. He was admitted and was placed in charge of the greenhouse of the horticultural department while doing graduate work. He earned his master's degree in agriculture in 1896.

In April 1896 Carver received a unique offer from the African American educator Booker T. Washington to teach at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Said Dr. Washington: "I cannot offer you money, position or fame. The first two you have. The last from the position you now occupy you will no doubt achieve. These things I now ask you to give up. I offer you in their place: work—hard, hard work, the task of bringing a people from degradation, poverty, and waste to full manhood. Your department exists only on paper and your laboratory will have to be in your head."

Carver accepted the challenge. He arrived at the tiny railroad station at Chehaw, Ala., on Oct. 8, 1896. In a report to Dr. Washington he wrote: "8:00 to 9:00 A.M., Agricultural Chemistry; 9:20 to 10:00 A.M., the Foundation of Colors (for painters); 10:00 to 11:00 A.M., a class of farmers. Additional hours in the afternoon. In addition I must oversee and rather imperfectly supervise seven industrial classes, scattered here and there over the grounds. I must test all seeds, examine all fertilizers, based upon an examination of soils in different plots."

Through the years Carver was gaining national and international stature. Chinese and Japanese farmers raised many unique problems for him. Questions were referred to him from Russia, India, Europe, South America . He later had to turn down a request to journey to the Soviet Union . In 1916 he was elected a member of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts in England; he went to Washington to the War Department to demonstrate his findings on the sweet potato in 1918. He was awarded the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP in 1923.

An early close friend of Carver was Henry A. Wallace; the pair knew each other for 47 years. Wallace said that Carver often took him on botanical expeditions, and it was he who first introduced Wallace to the mysteries of plant fertilizers. Carver was a shy and modest bachelor. An attack of whooping cough as a child had permanently caused him to have a high-pitched tenor voice. He considered it a high duty to attend classes and was seldom absent. In 1908 he returned to the West to visit his 96-year-old guardian, Moses Carver, and to visit the grave of his brother, James, in Missouri.

A careful and modest scientist, Carver was not without a sense of humor. When one of his students, hoping to play a trick on him, showed him a bug with wings of a fly and body of a mosquito, Carver was quick to label it "a humbug."

Carver utilized the materials at hand. He was interested in crop rotation and soil conservation. From the clay soil of Alabama he extracted a full range of dyestuffs, including a brilliant blue. He created 60 products from the pecan. From the common sweet potato he extracted a cereal coffee, a shoe polish, paste, oils—about 100 products. From the peanut he developed over 145 products. Carver suggested peanuts, pecans, and sweet potatoes replace cotton as money crops. He published all of his findings in a series of nearly 50 bulletins.

The testimony of Carver before the congressional House Ways and Means Committee in 1921 led to the passage of the Fordney-McCumber Tariff Bill of 1922. Scheduled to speak a scant 10 minutes, he was granted several time extensions because of the intense interest in his presentation. (He appeared in a greenish-blue suit many seasons old, having refused to invest in a new suit: "They want to hear what I have to say; they will not be interested in how I look.")

In 1935 Carver was chosen to collaborate with the Bureau of Plant Industry of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He received the Theodore Roosevelt Medal in 1939 for distinguished achievement in science. During his lifetime Carver had made many friends. Henry Ford was his frequent host. Carver was a treasured friend of Thomas A. Edison. It was Edison who offered to make him independent with his own laboratories and an annual stipend of $50,000. Other intimates of his were Luther Burbank , Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs . He was also a friend of three presidents: Theodore Roosevelt , Calvin Coolidge , and Franklin Delano Roosevelt .

Dr. Carver had earned the salary of $125 a month from the beginning until the end of his service at Tuskegee. He might have had much more. In 1940 he gave his life-savings, $33,000, to establish the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee Institute to perpetuate research in agriculture and chemistry. He later bequeathed his entire estate to the foundation, making a total of about $60,000. He died on Jan. 5, 1943.

At the dedication of a building in his honor at Simpson College, Dr. Ralph Bunche, Nobel Prize winner, pronounced Dr. Carver to be "the least imposing celebrity the world has ever known." Dr. Carver's birthplace was made a national monument on July 14, 1953.

Further Reading

Of the many studies of Carver the best is Rackham Holt, George Washington Carver: An American Biography (1943). Also useful is Shirley Graham and George D. Lipscomb, Dr. George Washington Carver, Scientist (1944). □

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AMERICAN BOTANIST c. 1864 – 1943

George Washington Carver was born on a Missouri farm near Diamond Grove sometime toward the end of the U.S. Civil War . The exact date of

his birth was never recorded, although later in life Carver gave the year as 1864. His father died in an accident prior to or shortly after Carver's birth. His mother Mary was kidnapped with her infant son by slave raiders shortly after his birth. Although Carver was eventually returned to Moses and Susan Carver in exchange for a horse, his mother was never heard from again.

Carver was not a strong child and this prevented him from working the fields. Instead, he helped with household chores and gardening. It is likely that these duties and the hours spent exploring the woods surrounding his home induced his keen interest in plants and led to his life of study and scholarly pursuits. He gathered and cared for a wide variety of plants from throughout the region and frequently helped friends and neighbors treat ailing plants.

As an adolescent, Carver was sent to Neosho, Missouri, where he worked as a farmhand and studied in a one-room schoolhouse. From there, he moved to Kansas and attended Minneapolis High School. In 1885, as a young adult, Carver was accepted to Highland University in Kansas on scholarship. However, when he showed up the first day of class, the president of the university is said to have denied him entrance because of his race. Other colleges rejected him for the same reason, but that did not stop Carver from attempting to seek a higher education.

In 1890 Carver entered Simpson College, a Methodist school in Indianola, Iowa , to study piano and art. While he excelled at both, his art instructor Etta Budd recognized his horticultural talent. She persuaded him to pursue a more pragmatic career in scientific agriculture. In 1891 Carver transferred to the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, which is now Iowa State University. Carver was the first African-American student accepted by the college.

As an undergraduate student, Carver was a leader. He became involved in all facets of university life; his poetry was published in the student newspaper and his paintings exhibited at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago . It was for his excellence as a botanist, however, that he earned his B.S. in agriculture in 1894. Joseph Budd (Etta's father and a professor of horticulture) and Louis Pammel (a botany professor) encouraged Carver to stay on as a graduate student. His proficiency in plant breeding soon led to his appointment as a member of the Iowa State faculty. Over the next two years, Carver's extensive work in plant pathology and mycology (the branch of botany that studies fungi) prompted him to publish several articles, and, as a consequence, he gained national respect as a scientist. In 1896 he earned his M.S. in agriculture from Iowa State and was invited by Booker T. Washington to join Alabama 's Tuskegee Institute.

At Tuskegee, Carver found his intellectual home. As the director of its Agricultural Experiment Station, he was given a barren 21-acre plot to work on. Carver and his students conducted experiments on crops requiring low input and capable of fixing nitrogen, such as the cowpea and the peanut. The resulting soil enrichment substantially increased crop production and became an accepted agricultural practice for both cotton and tobacco growers.

It was working with the surplus of peanuts that this practice produced that led to Carver's reputation as a "chemurgist," a chemist interested in the industrial applications of organic raw materials and particularly farm products. His research resulted in the creation of over 325 different products from peanuts, ranging from buttermilk to shaving cream to synthetic rubber. He generated 108 products from the sweet potato and invented countless other products from a wide variety of agricultural plants — everything from pecans to soybeans. Indeed, Carver pursued biomass conversion with a zeal that is only now being matched as contemporary society searches for alternatives to fossil fuel consumption.

Toward the end of his life, Carver received numerous accolades and honors; a feature film about his life was even produced in 1938. He died on January 5, 1943. In 1994 Iowa State posthumously awarded Carver the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. This was a fitting tribute to a life spent in the pursuit of knowledge.

see also Agricultural Chemistry.

Todd W. Whitcombe

Bibliography

Holt, Rackham (1945). George Washington Carver: An American Biography. New York : Doubleday.

Kremer, Gary S., ed. (1987). George Washington Carver : In His Own Words. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

McMurry, Linda O. (1982). George Washington Carver : Scientist and Symbol. New York : Oxford University Press.

Whitcombe, Todd W. " Carver, George Washington . " Chemistry: Foundations and Applications . . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Jul. 2024 < https://www.encyclopedia.com > .

Whitcombe, Todd W. "Carver, George Washington ." Chemistry: Foundations and Applications . . Encyclopedia.com. (July 10, 2024). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/carver-george-washington-0

Whitcombe, Todd W. "Carver, George Washington ." Chemistry: Foundations and Applications . . Retrieved July 10, 2024 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/carver-george-washington-0

George Washington Carver was a talented man who survived slavery and the loss of both parents at an early age. He spent his life trying to improve agricultural methods so that farmers could rise above poverty. He is perhaps most famous for inventing many uses for the peanut.

Born to slaves

George Washington Carver was born in a small cabin in Diamond, Missouri , shortly before the end of the American Civil War (1861–65). His mother was a slave owned by Moses and Susan Carver (slaves took the last names of their owners). His father, also a slave, was killed in an accident shortly after his son's birth. After Carver's mother was kidnapped, he and his brother were raised by the Carvers. Although they struggled financially, the Carvers were loving parents to the orphaned boys. Carver spent much of his childhood outdoors, where he explored his natural surroundings. He built a pond and even grew a plant nursery in the woods. His hobby earned him the nickname “plant doctor.”

At the age of ten, Carver left his family to attend a school that allowed African American students. He took care of himself by working odd jobs and living with different families. In 1885, when he was twenty years old, he graduated from high school and was accepted at Highland

College in Kansas , but when he arrived he was turned away because the school did not accept African Americans . Carver, lacking money and prospects, found work on a nearby fruit farm.

Down but not out

The discrimination that kept Carver out of Highland College did not discourage him from furthering his education. In 1890, he began attending Simpson College in Iowa , where he hoped to study painting. His art teacher recognized Carver's talent, but knew he would find it difficult to be accepted as an artist. She suggested a career in botany (the study of plants) and helped him get admitted to the Iowa Agricultural College in Ames.

It proved to be a wise move for Carver. He got involved in a variety of clubs and activities at the college, and he was an excellent student whose natural talent in agriculture made him popular among his peers and professors. Carver received his bachelor's degree and stayed on for graduate work. He received his master's degree in 1896.

Tuskegee calls

After earning his master's degree, Carver received a surprise invitation from respected educator Booker T. Washington (1856–1915), the African American founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Tuskegee had been established in the 1880s as an industrial and agricultural school for African American students. It was the first of its kind and a great success. Carver was asked to become its director of agriculture, and he accepted.

In addition to being head of the department, Carver worked with local farmers. The region was devastatingly poor, and Carver helped by writing instructional pamphlets on farming. He also established a mobile school that crossed the South , visiting farmers and teaching them better agricultural methods. At first, when it began in 1906, the school was nothing more than a mule-drawn cart, but before long, the cart was replaced by a truck carrying farming tools and exhibits.

In 1910, Carver became the director of a new research department, and his title became “consulting chemist.” Carver enjoyed the research that went along with this new title, but he lacked a proper laboratory and equipment. Most of the time, he had to make his own equipment out of old bottles, wire, and other materials at hand.

The field of scientific agriculture—the exploration of alternative farming methods—was new at the time. In his attempts to improve the quality of life for local farmers, Carver analyzed water and soil, experimented with paints made of clay, and searched for new, inexpensive foods to supplement their diets. The most versatile resource Carver found was the peanut. He used it to restore nitrogen to the depleted soil, and from it he made soap, shampoo, metal polish, even adhesives. The one thing he did not make from peanuts was peanut butter.

Honored for lifetime achievements

Carver became an advocate of “chemurgy,” the concept of putting chemistry to work in industry for farmers. He met industrialist and automobile pioneer Henry Ford (1863–1947) in 1937, and the two formed an immediate and lifelong friendship. In 1940, Carver founded the Carver Museum to continue and preserve his work, and at its opening Ford dedicated the museum.

Shortly after the opening of the museum, Carver's health began to fail. Carver died of injuries from falling down a flight of stairs, and he was buried next to Booker T. Washington. On his headstone was carved, “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”

Carver received numerous awards and honors during his lifetime. After his death in 1943, he was twice featured on commemorative postage stamps. He was elected to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in 1977 and inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990. Carver's birthplace in southwestern Missouri is now a national monument—the first national birthplace monument honoring a non-president.

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American Botanist 1865-1943

George Washington Carver was born in 1865, near the end of the Civil War (1861-65). His mother was a slave on the Moses and Susan Carver farm close to Diamond Grove, Missouri . Carver was orphaned while still in his infancy and was raised by the Carvers. He received a practical education working on the farm and in 1877 was sent to attend a school for African-American children in the nearby town of Neosho. From Neosho, Carver traveled through several states in pursuit of a basic education. He took odd jobs to support himself and lived with families he met along the way.

In 1890 Carver began a study of art at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa . The following year he left Simpson to pursue studies in agriculture at the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in Ames. He enrolled in 1891 as the first African-American student at Iowa State. Carver maintained an excellent academic record and was noted for his skill in plant hybridization using techniques of cross-fertilization and grafting. An appointment as assistant botanist allowed him to continue with graduate studies while teaching and conducting greenhouse studies.

In 1896 American educator Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) extended an invitation to Carver to head the agriculture department at Alabama 's Tuskegee Institute. Carver accepted the invitation and remained at Tuskegee until his death forty-seven years later in 1943. During his tenure at Tuskegee he taught classes, directed the Agricultural Experiment Station, managed the school's farms, served on various councils and committees, and directed a research department.

Carver's work focused on projects that held potential for improving the lives of poor southern farmers. Years of repeated planting of a single crop, cotton, and uncontrolled erosion had depleted southern soils. He advocated the wise use of natural resources, sustainable methods of agriculture, soil enrichment, and crop diversification.

One of Carver's first efforts was to find methods within reach of the farmer with limited technical and financial means for enriching the soils. He conducted soil analysis to determine what was needed to make soils more productive. Then Carver proceeded to set up scientific experiments to determine organic methods for building up the soil. He also tried planting and cultivating various plants and plant varieties so he could identify ones that could be successfully grown. Sweet potatoes, peanuts, and cowpeas were considered the most promising. These plants were favored because they could help enrich the soil, they could offer good nutritional value to animals and humans, they were easily preserved and stored, and they could be used as raw material for the production of useful products. Carver developed hundreds of products from these resources. He recognized that processing raw materials was a means of adding value to and increasing the demand for the agricultural products of the South .

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, shortages of certain goods were felt. This caused Carver's substitutes and alternatives to gain attention. Sweet potato products and peanut milk were especially of interest. In 1921 Carver appeared before a congressional committee to testify on the importance of protecting the U.S. peanut industry by establishing a tariff on imported peanuts, and a tariff was established. This event brought Carver national and international recognition as a scientist. Carver spent the remainder of his life conducting agricultural research and sharing his knowledge with individuals in the South and throughout the world.

see also Agriculture, Organic; Breeder; Breeding; Economic Importance of Plants; Fabaceae.

Janet M. Pine

Kremer, Gary R. George Washington Carver in His Own Words. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1987.

McMurry, Linda O. George Washington Carver , Scientist and Symbol. New York : Oxford University Press, 1981.

Pine, Janet M. " Carver, George Washington . " Plant Sciences . . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Jul. 2024 < https://www.encyclopedia.com > .

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American Chemist and Agronomist

G eorge Washington Carver is credited with the development of innovative crop-rotation methods that preserved soils and allowed sustainable levels of increased agricultural productivity. During a long and productive scientific and teaching career, Carver discovered hundreds of uses for crops and his work revitalized a Southern economy left barren and depressed by war and land mismanagement.

Carver was born a slave in Missouri. A frail and sickly child, he was orphaned during the Civil War , and nursed back to health by his former owners, Moses and Susan Carver. Young George lived with the Carvers until he was 10 or 12, when he left to pursue an education at a segregated school nearby. He lived with a black family, doing chores for room and board. Carver was well into his twenties before he was able to move from a one-room schoolhouse to become an outstanding student at Minneapolis High School in Kansas. Though subsequently denied admission to the school of his choice because of his race, Carver eventually undertook his college studies at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.

Carver set out to be a scientist and a few years into his studies he transferred to Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University), where he earned his baccalaureate in 1894 and his master's degree in 1897. Shortly thereafter, Booker T. Washington, founder of what was then known as the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute for Negroes (now Tuskegee University ) located in Tuskegee, Alabama, asked Carver to accept a post as the school's director of agricultural studies.

Carver accepted and moved to Tuskegee, where he taught and spent research time developing improved crop-rotation methods. Carver's training in chemistry allowed him to spot a glaring deficiency in traditional uses of soils. He measured dramatic depletions of critical minerals and nutrients in fields planted with the same crops season after season. Carver designed a plan whereby nitrate producing crops, such as such as peanuts and peas, would be alternated annually with cotton. Although cotton was the most important cash crop for Southern farmers, repeated planting left fields depleted and unable to sustain or produce profitable crops. When farmers followed Carver's advice—alternating annual crops of cotton and peanuts—the soil nutrient balances remained within acceptable levels. In addition, healthy soils reduced erosion and water contamination by runoff. In a South sorely pressed by the boll weevil , Carver's planting techniques actually proved to be an effective means of pest control.

Unfortunately, farmers were initially unable to find profitable uses for their off-year crops and many had to return to planting cotton, despite the long-term risks. In response, Carver rescued his soil rotation plan by find more than 300 economic uses for the peanut and more than 100 uses for the sweet potato . The resulting availability of two cash crops offered new hope for Southern farmers who had suffered one deprivation after another since the Civil War .

During his lifetime, Carver garnered great honor and became an internationally respected scientist. Carver maintained a simple lifestyle and remained dedicated to his work at Tuskegee. He repeatedly turned away offers and opportunities to enrich himself. Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931) reportedly offered Carver a salary greater than that earned by the president if Carver would come to work with Edison.

Carver was awarded an honorary doctorate and was made a member of the British Royal Society of Arts. In 1923 he received the Spingarn Medal, awarded annually by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to the person who has made the greatest contribution to the advancement of his race.

Despite his simple outlook on life, Carver was sought out by some of the most influential leaders in the world. At various times Carver's views were sought by such disparate figures as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin , and Mohandas Gandhi. As per his wishes, Carver's life savings, following his death, went toward the establishment of a research institute for agriculture at Tuskegee. Carver was buried on the Tuskegee campus beside Booker T. Washington.

BRENDA WILMOTH LERNER

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George Washington Carver

“The Primary idea in all my work was to help the farmer and fill the poor man’s empty dinner pail … My idea is to help the ‘man farthest down’; This is why I have made every process as simple as I could to put it within his reach.”

George W. Carver

George Washington Carver, Born a slave around 1864, became a famous artist, teacher, scientist, and humanitarian. From childhood, he developed a remarkable understanding of the natural world. Carver devoted his life to improving agriculture and the economic conditions of African-Americans in the south.

In 1896, Booker T Washington hired Carver to teach agriculture at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Over a 40-year career, Carver taught many generations of Tuskegee students. He emphasized increasing the independence of local farmers. He believed that a practical education would both make African-Americans and white farmers self-sufficient.

“It has always been the one ideal of my life to be of the greatest good to the greatest number of my people possible and to this end I have been preparing myself for these many years, feeling as I do that this line of education is the key” 

biography about george washington carver

Struggle and Triumph: The Legacy of George Washington Carver  (NPS Movie 28min) 

The Early Years

biography about george washington carver

“Day after day I spent in the woods… to collect my floral beauties… all sorts of vegetation seemed to thrive under my touch until I was styled the plant doctor, and plants from all over the county would be brought to me for treatment”

 George Washington Carver

Born as a slave on a small farm in Diamond Grove, Missouri; the best information suggest he was born in 1864, near the end of the civil war. To appreciate nature and to assist his learning, George began a lifelong habit of taking long walks to observe nature and collect specimens.

Religion also played an important role in Carver’s life. It broke down social and racial barriers and was the inspiration for his research and teachings. Yet, he did not allow his beliefs to conflict with his scientific knowledge.

“The Great Creator… permit(s) me to speak to Him through… the animals, mineral and vegetable kingdoms…”

The School Days of G.W. Carver

“If you love it enough, anything will talk to you”  

In the 1880s, local white schools did not allow African American students. Therefore, even though he had a great desire for knowledge, carver attended school whenever he could.

  In 1890, Carver went to Simpson College Iowa to study art. Although African Americans were not allowed to register eventually Carver was admitted to class and he proved to be a talented artist. He paid for his tuition by doing laundry, cooking, and selling his paintings. Carver switched to agriculture studies because he saw this as a better way to contribute to his people. Carver set out to find practical ways to benefit African American farmers.

That led to enrolling at Iowa Agricultural College at Ames, Iowa. His teachers commented that Carver was “a brilliant student and collector.” He worked at the colleges’ experimental station until graduating with a Master of Science degree. He became an expert in field collecting, plant breeding, and plant diseases.

biography about george washington carver

An Artistic Side

biography about george washington carver

“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world” 

When young, Carver loved to draw and paint pictures. Originally an art student in college, he switched to agricultural studies. Yet, Carver continued to paint all of his life and one of his paintings won Honorable Mention at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Carver also would crochet, knit, and do needlework. Always practical, this enabled him to produce useful items for his friends. He learned how to dye his own thread and fibers with local trees, plants, and clay.

Carver collected local clays and extracted their pigments to make paints good enough to attract commercial paint companies. These paints were displayed in his laboratory and at county fairs. He used these paints in his artwork. He also developed house paint colors to encourage local farmers to improve the appearance of their homes. He arranged different paints into pleasing combinations for ceiling, cornices, and walls. Many buildings on the Tuskegee campus and throughout the area used these paint combinations.

Teaching Others

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom”

Booker T. Washington hired the best and brightest African American professionals to Tuskegee Institute. In 1896, he hired a young teaching assistant, George Washington Carver. They both believed a practical education was the best path to self-sufficiency for African Americans. Hired to head its Agriculture Department, Carver taught for 47 years, developing the department into a strong research center.

Carver spread the self-sufficiency message at schools, farms, and county fairs. Carver believed students learned best by doing. He expected students to “figure it out for themselves and to do all the common things uncommonly well.” Carver developed close personal relationships with his students, farmers, and powerful philanthropist with his engaging and charming talks and publications.

Booker T. Washington realized that Carver was a “great teacher, a great lecturer, and a great inspirer of young men and old men.”

biography about george washington carver

Useful Bulletins by G.W. Carver

biography about george washington carver

“In painting, the artist attempt to produce pleasing effects through the proper blending of colors. The. Cook must blend her food in such a manner as to produce dishes which are attractive. Harmony in food is just as important as harmony in colors.”   

Carver was a talented and innovative cook. He developed recipes for tasty and nutritious dishes that used local and easily-grown crops. He trained farmers to successfully rotate and cultivate new crops and encouraged better nutrition in the South. Carver developed an agricultural extension program for Alabama that used Tuskegee Institute bulletins. In these bulletins, Carver shared his recipes with farmers and housewives.

During his more than four decades at Tuskegee, Carver published 44 practical bulletins for farmers. His first bulletin in 1898 was on feeding acorns to farm animals. His final bulletin in 1943 was about the peanut. Other individual bulletins dealt with sweet potatoes, cotton, cowpeas, alfalfa, wild plums, tomatoes, ornamental plants, corn, poultry, dairying, hogs, preserving meats in hot weather, and nature study in schools.

His most popular bulletin, How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption ,  was first published in 1916 and was reprinted many times. Carver’s bulletins were not the first American agricultural bulletins devoted to peanuts, but his bulletins were more popular and widespread than others.

Agricultural School On Wheels

Booker T Washington directed his faculty to “take their teaching into the community”

To take lessons to the community, Carver designed a “movable school.” Students built a wagon named for Morris k Jesup, a New York financier who gave Carver the money to equip and operate the movable school. The first one was a horse-drawn agricultural wagon called a Jesup Wagon. Later, a truck still called a Jesup Wagon carried agricultural exhibits to county fairs and community gatherings.

By 1930, the “Booker T Washington Agricultural School on Wheels” carried a nurse, a home demonstration agent, an agricultural agent, and an architect to share the latest techniques with rural people. Eventually, educational films and lectures were presented at local churches and schools. These vehicles were the foundation of Tuskegee’s extension services. 

biography about george washington carver

Research For Practical Applications

biography about george washington carver

“Soil enrichment, natural fertilizer use, and crop rotation” were Carvers message to students and farmers

From 1915 to 1923, Carver developed techniques to improve soils depleted by repeated planting of cotton. Also, in the early 20th century, the boll weevil destroyed much of the cotton crops, and planters and farm workers suffered. Together with other agricultural experts, he urged farmers to restore nitrogen to their soils by practicing systematic crop rotation: alternating cotton crops with the planting of sweet potatoes, peanuts, or soybeans. These alternative crops restored nitrogen to the soil and were also good for human consumption. Following the crop rotation practice resulted in improved cotton yield and gave farmers alternative cash crops. He also began research into crop products (chemurgy), and taught generations of black students farming techniques for self-sufficiency. In these years, he became one of the most well-known African Americans of his time.

Always looking for practical solutions from his wide-ranging research, Carver experimented with seeds, soils, soil enrichment, and feed grains. All of his efforts were geared to increasing the self-sufficiency of African American farmers. Ahead of his time, Carver used plant hybridization and recycling the use of locally available technology.

Carver’s research also looked to provide a replacement for commercial products, which were generally beyond the budget of the small one-horse farmer. George W. Carver reputedly discovered three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds more for soybean, pecans, and sweet potatoes. These alternative products included adhesives, axel grease, bleach, buttermilk, chili sauce, fuel briquettes, ink, instant coffee, linoleum, mayonnaise, meat tenderizer, metal polish, paper, plastic, pavement, shaving cream, shoe polish, synthetic rubber, talcum powder, and wood stain.

biography about george washington carver

Later Years

“Professor Carvers Advice” – George W Carver’s syndicated newspaper column

During the last two decades of his life, Carver seemed to enjoy his celebrity status. He was often on the road promoting the Tuskegee Institute, peanut, and racial harmony. Although he only published six agricultural bulletins in 1922, he published articles in peanut industry journals and wrote a syndicated newspaper column., “Professor Carver’s Advice.” Business leaders came to seek his help, and he often responded with free advice.

From 1933 to 1935, Carver worked to develop peanut oil massages to treat polio. Ultimately researchers found the massages, not the peanut oil, provided the benefits of maintaining some mobility in paralyzed limbs.

Carver had been frugal in his life, and in his 70s, he established a legacy by creating a museum on his work and the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee to continue agricultural research. He donated $60,000 in his savings to create the foundation.

biography about george washington carver

G.W. Carver Last Days

biography about george washington carver

Inscribed on Mr. Carver’s tombstone are the words, “He could have added fortune to his fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world”

Upon returning home one day, Carver took a bad fall down a flight of stairs; he was found unconscious by a maid who took him to the hospital. Carver died January 5, 1943, at the age of 78 from complications (anemia) resulting from his fall. He was buried next to Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Institute.

National Recognition and Naming

His work, which began for the sake of the poorest farmers, paved the way for a better life for the entire South and became an inspiration to all.

George Washington Carver was born a slave. Since his owner was Moses Carver and given the first name of George, Carver referred to himself as Carver’s George. This was more a property description than a name. When George left to attend school, he slept in a barn owned by the Watkins family. Of hearing how George referred to himself, Mrs. Watkins told him that was no proper name and declared that henceforth he would be George Carver.

Like the man, Carver High school did not start with that name. The Phoenix Union High School district opted to officially embrace segregation. In 1925, to accommodate African American high school students, a bond issue was passed to erect a new high school building. The new school was named the Phoenix Union Colored High school until 1940 when the school became the Phoenix Colored High School. On January 5, 1943, George Washington Carver Died and a few months later the school took on the name of this distinguished educator, scientist, and innovator. In 1953, educational segregation was ruled unconstitutional in Arizona and the school closed the following year.

Why are so many schools, parks, and other landmarks named in honor of Carver? Carver came to stand as a symbol of the intellectual achievements of African Americans. He brought about a significant advance in agricultural training in an era when agriculture was the largest single occupation of Americans. It is so often said that Carver saved Southern agriculture and helped feed the country. His great desire was simply to serve humanity; and his work, which began for the sake of the poorest black sharecroppers, pave the way for a better life for the entire South and became an inspiration to all.

biography about george washington carver

GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER NATIONAL MONUMENT

George Washington Carver National Monument orientation video. (NPS Movie 5min)

Our Monument to George Washington Carver

biography about george washington carver

“How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”

The George Washington Carver statue greeting visitors to the Carver Museum is an exhibit all to itself. The sculpture, Mr. Ed Dwight, is an internationally acclaimed sculptor whose works grace various venues around the United States. Among his works are major African American historic figures.

The Carver Statue was unveiled on February 15, 2004, in a ceremony where Governor Janet Napolitano, among many others, addressed the crowd. The artist, Ed Dwight, spoke movingly before the unveiling. There were musical presentations and acknowledgments of many distinguished guests. Visitors who have viewed and photographed the statue have praised its artistry.

The Carver Statue is an artistic achievement and a worthy monument to its namesake. This exquisite work faithfully captures Carver’s delicate features and somehow reflects the genius and hope that defined the man.

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Over the course of his lifetime, Carver rose from slavery to become a renowned educator and research scientist. For over 40 years, he worked endlessly to find practical alternatives to improve the agricultural practices and thus the economic status of African Americans. He is regarded as one of the most prominent black scientists of the early 20th century.

Carver was born enslaved in Missouri near the end of the Civil War. From a young age, Carver’s intellectual curiosity was quickly recognized by those around him. By the age of thirteen, he was encouraged to go to Kansas where there were greater educational resources for black students. 

George lived briefly in several small towns before settling in Minneapolis, Kansas and enrolled in school there in September 1880. By 1883, George was celebrated as “…one of the most intelligent colored men of this part of the state…” (The Progressive Current, 22 Dec 1883). 

Carver was accepted into Highland College in 1885, but his admission was withdrawn when the college discovered he was black. He then found work with a family that was in the process of platting a new town in western Kansas and, in the summer of 1886, relocated to Ness County in search of land to homestead.

From 1886 to 1889 he homesteaded on a quarter section of land where he built a sod house and worked the land.  The following spring, George moved onto his land and began clearing it, ultimately taming 17 acres. He planted 800 forest trees, mulberries, plums, and apricots and, in the field, sowed corn, vegetables, and rice. He also built a conservatory that housed 500 plant specimens and a large geological collection. 

After several years of drought, he decided not to complete the homesteading process. Carver purchased it outright in December 1889 rather than complete the five-year residency requirement. Carver sold his homestead a year later to Fred Borthwick to fund his education.

In 1890, Carver started studying art and piano at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. His art teacher, Etta Budd, recognized Carver's talent for painting flowers and plants; she encouraged him to study botany at Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) in Ames. When he began there in 1891, he was the first black student at Iowa State. He continued his education at  Iowa State Agricultural College, earning a Master of Science degree in 1896.

He departed Iowa for a position at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where he worked for 47 years. The Tuskegee Institute was a college established for black students by Booker T. Washington. He taught methods of crop rotation, introduced several alternative cash crops, and taught generations of black students farming techniques for self-sufficiency.

Carver made great strides in developing both agricultural and industrial products. He created 325 uses for peanuts, 108 applications for sweet potatoes and 75 products derived from pecans. Some of the products he created include chili sauce, meat tenderizer, instant coffee, shaving cream, and Worcestershire sauce.

George Washington Carver died on January 5, 1943. That July, Congress authorized the creation of George Washington Carver National Monument to celebrate his life.

Sources and Additional Reading:

  • Find a Grave. "George Washignton Carver.  George Washington Carver (1864-1943) - Find a Grave Memorial
  • Gart, Jason H. "He Shall Direct Thy Paths: The Early LIfe of George W. Carver" Historic Resource Study. National Park Service. 2014.  Microsoft Word - Document2 (nps.gov)
  • General Land Office Records. Bureau of Land Management. U.S. Department of the Interior.  Patent Details - BLM GLO Records
  • Toogood, Anna Coxe. Historic Resource Study and Administrative History George Washington Carver National Monument. National Park Service. July 1973.  472757 (nps.gov)
  •   "George Washington Carver".  Dunn Library Archives & Special Collections . Simpson College.  Archived  from the original on October 16, 2008.
  • Report of Minneapolis Public Schools , Minneapolis Messenger (Minneapolis, Kansas), 8 Oct 1880, p. 8. Newspapers.com.
  • The Progressive Current (Minneapolis, Kansas) 22 Dec 1883, p. 5, col. 4. Newspapers.com.
  • Highland University , The Kansas Chief (Troy, Kansas), 3 Dec 1885, pg. 3. Newspapers.com.
  • From Ness County , Kansas Chief (Troy, Kansas) 16 Aug 1886, p. 3. Newspapers.com.
  • Ness County News (Ness City, Kansas), 31 Mar 1888, p. 5. Newspapers.com.
  • Friends of Old Days in Kansas Saw Budding Genius of Negro Scientist , Kansas City Times, 9 Sep 1942, p. 16, newspapers.com.
  • Kansas Marker Honors Famous Negro Scientist , The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kansas) 17 Mar 1956, p. 28. Newspapers.com.
  • Detour in Scientist’s Life Led Him to a Ness County Sod House , The Salina Journal (Salina, Kansas), 22 May 1960, p. 25. Newspapers.com.

George Washington Carver National Monument , Homestead National Historical Park , Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

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Embed Video

This 28-minute film explores the life of the George Washington Carver. The film features Altorro Prince Black as the adult George Washington Carver and Tyler Black as the young Carver, narration by Sheryl Lee Ralph, and music by Bobby Horton.

Last updated: February 8, 2023

  • African American Heroes

George Washington Carver

How this scientist nurtured the land—and people’s minds

To George Washington Carver, peanuts were like paintbrushes: They were tools to express his imagination. Carver was a scientist and an inventor who found hundreds of uses for peanuts. He experimented with the legumes to make lotions, flour, soups, dyes, plastics, and gasoline—though not peanut butter!

Carver was born an enslaved person in the 1860s in Missouri . The exact date of his birth is unclear, but some historians believe it was around 1864, just before slavery was abolished in 1865. As a baby, George, his mother, and his sister were kidnapped from the man who enslaved them, Moses Carver. The kidnappers were slave raiders who planned to sell them. Moses Carver found George before he could be sold, but not his mother and sister. George never saw them again.

After slavery was abolished, George was raised by Moses Carver and his wife. He worked on their farm and in their garden, and became curious about plants, soils, and fertilizers. Neighbors called George “the plant doctor” because he knew how to nurse sick plants back to life. When he was about 13, he left to attend school and worked hard to get his education.

In 1894 he became the first Black person to graduate from Iowa State College, where he studied botany and fungal diseases, and later earned a master’s degree in agriculture. In 1896, Booker T. Washington offered him a teaching position at Tuskegee Institute, a college for African Americans.

There, Carver’s research with peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans flourished. He made agricultural advancements to help improve the lives of poor Black farmers like himself. With the help of his mobile classroom, the Jesup Wagon, he brought his lessons to former enslaved farmworkers and used showmanship to educate and entertain people about agriculture.

On January 5, 1943, Carver died after falling down some stairs. But his contributions to the field of agriculture would not be forgotten. Carver became the first Black scientist to be memorialized in a national monument, which was erected near his birthplace in Diamond Grove, Missouri.

Read this next!

African american pioneers of science, black history month, 1963 march on washington.

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Biography of George Washington Carver, Discovered 300 Uses for Peanuts

He also found many uses for soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes

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George Washington Carver (January 1, 1864–January 5, 1943) was an agricultural chemist who discovered 300 uses for peanuts as well as hundreds of uses for soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes. His work provided a much needed boost to southern farmers who benefited economically from his recipes and improvements to adhesives, axle grease, bleach, buttermilk, chili sauce, fuel briquettes, ink, instant coffee, linoleum, mayonnaise, meat tenderizer, metal polish, paper, plastic, pavement, shaving cream, shoe polish, synthetic rubber, talcum powder, and wood stain.

Fast Facts: George Washington Carver

  • Known For : Agricultural chemist who discovered 300 uses for peanuts as well as hundreds of uses for other crops
  • Also Known As : The Plant Doctor, The Peanut Man
  • Born : January 1, 1864 in Diamond, Missouri
  • Parents : Giles and Mary Carver
  • Died : January 5, 1943 in Tuskegee, Alabama
  • Education : Iowa State University (BA, 1894; MS, 1896)
  • Published Works : Carver published 44 agricultural bulletins laying out his findings while at the Tuskegee Institute, as well as numerous articles in peanut industry journals and a syndicated newspaper column, "Professor Carver's Advice."
  • Awards and Honors : The George Washington Carver Monument was established in 1943 west of Diamond, Missouri on the plantation where Carver was born. Carver appeared on U.S. commemorative postal stamps in 1948 and 1998, as well as a commemorative half dollar coin minted between 1951 and 1954, and many schools bear his name, as well as two United States military vessels. 
  • Notable Quote : "No books ever go into my laboratory. The thing I am to do and the way are revealed to me the moment I am inspired to create something new. Without God to draw aside the curtain, I would be helpless. Only alone can I draw close enough to God to discover His secrets."

Carver was born on Jan. 1, 1864 near Diamond Grove, Missouri on the farm of Moses Carver. He was born into difficult and changing times near the end of the Civil War. The infant Carver and his mother were kidnapped by Confederate night-raiders and possibly sent away to Arkansas.

Moses found and reclaimed Carver after the war, but his mother had disappeared forever. The identity of Carver's father remains unknown, although he believed his father was an enslaved man from a neighboring farm. Moses and his wife reared Carver and his brother as their own children. It was on the Moses' farm that Carver first fell in love with nature and collected in earnest all manner of rocks and plants, earning him the nickname "The Plant Doctor."

Carver began his formal education at the age of 12, which required him to leave the home of his adopted parents. Schools were segregated by race at that time and schools for Black students weren't available near Carver's home. He moved to Newton County in southwest Missouri, where he worked as a farmhand and studied in a one-room schoolhouse. He went on to attend Minneapolis High School in Kansas.

College entrance was also a struggle because of racial barriers. At the age of 30, Carver gained acceptance to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, where he was the first Black student. Carver studied piano and art but the college did not offer science classes. Intent on a science career, he later transferred to Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) in 1891, where he gained a Bachelor of Science degree in 1894 and a Master of Science degree in bacterial botany and agriculture in 1896.

Carver became a member of the faculty of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanics (he was the first Black faculty member at the Iowa college), where he taught classes about soil conservation and chemurgy.

Tuskegee Institute

In 1897, Booker T. Washington , founder of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute for Negroes, convinced Carver to come south and serve as the school's director of agriculture, where he remained until his death in 1943. At Tuskegee, Carver developed his crop rotation method, which revolutionized southern agriculture. He educated farmers on methods to alternate the soil-depleting cotton crops with soil-enriching crops such as peanuts, peas, soybeans, sweet potato, and pecans.

America's economy was heavily dependent upon agriculture during this era, making Carver's achievements very significant. Decades of growing only cotton and tobacco had depleted the southern region of the United States. The economy of the farming South had also been devastated during the Civil War years and by the fact that the cotton and tobacco plantations could no longer use the stolen labor of enslaved people. Carver convinced southern farmers to follow his suggestions and helped the region to recover.

Carver also worked at developing industrial applications from agricultural crops. During World War I, he found a way to replace the textile dyes formerly imported from Europe. He produced dyes of 500 different shades and was responsible for the invention of a process for producing paints and stains from soybeans. For that, he received three separate patents.

Later Years and Death

After finding fame, Carver toured the nation to promote his findings as well as the importance of agriculture and science in general for the rest of his life. He also wrote a syndicated newspaper column, "Professor Carver's Advice," explaining his inventions and other agricultural topics. In 1940, Carver donated his life savings to establish the Carver Research Foundation at Tuskegee for continuing research in agriculture.

Carver died on Jan. 5, 1943, at the age of 78 after falling down the stairs at his home. He was buried next to Booker T. Washington on the Tuskegee Institute grounds. 

Carver was widely recognized for his achievements and contributions. He was given an honorary doctorate from Simpson College, named an honorary member of the Royal Society of Arts in London, England, and received the Spingarn Medal given every year by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People . In 1939, he received the Roosevelt medal for restoring southern agriculture.

On July 14, 1943, The George Washington Carver Monument was established west of Diamond, Missouri, on the plantation where Carver was born and lived as a child. President Franklin Roosevelt provided $30,000 for the 210-acre complex, which includes a statue of Carver as well as a nature trail, museum, and cemetery. Additionally, Carver appeared on U.S. commemorative postal stamps in 1948 and 1998, as well as a commemorative half dollar coin minted between 1951 and 1954. Many schools bear his name, as do two United States military vessels.

Carver did not patent or profit from most of his products. He freely gave his discoveries to mankind. His work transformed the South from being a one-crop land of cotton to a region of multi-crop farmlands, with farmers having hundreds of profitable uses for their new crops. Perhaps the best summary of his legacy is the epitaph that appears on his gravesite: "He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world."

  • “ Distinguished Alumni | Iowa State University Admissions. ”  Admissions , iastate.edu.
  • “ George Washington Carver. ”  Biography.com , A&E Networks Television, 17 Apr. 2019.
  • “ George Washington Carver Publications from the Tuskegee Institute Bulletin, 1911-1943 3482. ”  George Washington Carver Publications from the Tuskegee Institute Bulletin, 1911-1943.
  • “ Learn About the Park. ”  National Parks Service , U.S. Department of the Interior.
  • Kettler, Sara. “ 7 Facts on George Washington Carver. ”  Biography.com , A&E Networks Television, 12 Apr. 2016.
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  • George Washington Carver Biography

George Washington Carver in 1906.

George Washington Carver was born around 1864 in Diamond, Missouri . Although the date of his birth is unknown, we do know that it was before Missouri abolished slavery. George Washington Carver is best-known for his contributions to the agricultural sciences, as well as for his environmental work. Through his research, he came up with over 300 derivative products for peanuts and 118 uses for sweet potatoes. This was key in helping impoverished black farmers rotate crops (thereby adding nutrients to the soil via restored nitrogen) and added an income source other than cotton.

George Washington Carver was born to Mary and Giles Carver, who had been purchased by Moses Carver in 1855 for $700. George was an infant when he, his mother, and his sister were kidnapped by slave traders. His brother, James, was hidden away and not captured. Moses Carver sent someone to recover them, however, only George was brought back from Kentucky , where the kidnappers had sold the slaves.

biography about george washington carver

The George Washington Carver Monument preserves the scientist's childhood home in Diamond, Missouri. 

Susan and Moses raised the two boys after slavery had ended. Susan taught George how to read and they both encouraged him in his academic pursuits. Because black children were not allowed to attend the local school in Diamond Grove, George walked to Neosho when he was between 11 and 12 years old. Here, he stayed with Andrew and Mariah Watkins and studied at the school. The couple was black and childless and in exchange for help with the household chores, they allowed Carver to stay. Mariah was a midwife and taught Carver much of her knowledge of medicinal herbs and plants.

For several years, Carver traveled around the Midwest , supporting himself with his domestic skills while learning whatever he could in school. In 1880, after graduating from high school George applied to Highland College in Kansas and was initially accepted, but when the administration realized he was black, they rescinded the acceptance to the all-white school. In 1890 he began to study piano and art at Simpson College in Iowa. He then moved on to studying botany at the Iowa State Agricultural School - known today as Iowa State University - and received both his Bachelor’s (1894) and his Master’s (1896) degrees from the school. He was the first African-American to earn a Bachelor’s of Science. Upon graduation with his Master’s degree, he received several offers of work. He decided to accept Booker T. Washington’s invitation to join the Tuskegee Institute.

Tuskegee Institute

Carver came to the Institute and built his department and laboratory from the ground up; he would teach there for 47 years, until the day he died. To entice him, Booker T. Washington offered him two private rooms as well as a higher salary than most other staff received. It was unusual for an unmarried professor to have one private room, let alone two.

George Washington Carver taught classes and did research. Much of his research was around soil and plants. He is credited with introducing the idea of planting peanuts as a crop; he discovered that the boll weevil, which was attacking cotton plants, did not eat peanuts. Peanuts and soy beans both belong to the legumes family and alternating them (and sweet potatoes) with other crops would enable the soil to heal by returning nitrogen to it. Then, when the cotton plants were reintroduced, the soil would be healthier and yield stronger crops. Carver took the classroom to the farms by traveling to the farms in a “Jesup wagon” which was a sort of mobile laboratory and classroom that he invented.

The rotation of crops led to a surplus of peanuts, soy, and sweet potatoes. So Carver investigated and experimented with ways to use these products. He is credited with discovering over 300 products using peanuts and 118 using sweet potatoes. Some of the products included flour, vinegar, stains, dyes, paints, cosmetics, cooking oils and salad oils, medicines, and soaps. Due to his work in peanuts, he was asked to speak in 1920 to the Peanut Grower’s Association and to testify before Congress in 1921 in support of a tariff on imported peanuts.

Recognition and Awards

During his lifetime and posthumously, Carver received many honors and accolades. He was honored by Time Magazine, who named him a “Black Leonardo” and featured him in a 1941 issue. He was made a member of the Royal Society of Arts (in England) in 1916. Carver received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in 1923. George Washington Carver was the first African-American to be honored with the naming of a national park – and the movement for this to occur began before his death. It is located in Missouri, in Diamond. There is also not one, but two postage stamps that were issued with his image and name on it. One in 1948 and the second in 1998. A half dollar also was in circulation from 1951-1954 with his image.

biography about george washington carver

A postage stamp honoring George Washington Carver, circa 1998. Editorial credit: Olga Popova / Shutterstock.com. 

George Washington Carver died in 1943 at the age of 78 after falling down a flight of stairs and having complications from the fall. He is buried at Tuskegee Institute, right next to Booker T. Washington.

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Famous Scientists

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver

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 slaves, George won several awards for his 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 parents were Mary and Giles. His birth year is somewhere was probably 1860 or 1864.

Their master was Moses Carver, a German American immigrant. At a week old, George was kidnapped. Moses Carver paid for him to be returned to his parents. Moses Carver was a kind-hearted man who, after the abolition of slavery in America, 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.

Later, George moved from school to school seeking knowledge, struggling against discrimination. Rejected by universities, he began homesteading. 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. George got a loan, and in 1891, he became Iowa State Agricultural College’s first black student. He obtained a master’s degree in Botany, conducting field research at the Iowa Experiment Station.

Contributions and Achievements:

George Carver began teaching as Iowa State Agricultural College’s first black faculty member. His successful work in plant pathology and mycology gained him countrywide acclaim and fame as a prominent botanist.

In 1896, Carver moved to Alabama as head of the Agriculture Department at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), a historically black college, where he worked until his death 47 years later.

Carver and faculty

Tuskegee Institute faculty photo in 1902. Carver is in the middle of the front row.

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.

A lack of crop rotation was a problem in America’s southern states. Repeated plantings of cotton were depleting the soil of it nutrients. Carver promoted nitrogen-providing peanuts as an alternative crop to cotton to prevent soil depletion. He advocated farmers rotate their crops between cotton and the highly nutritious food crops of peanuts and sweet potatoes.

george-washington-carver-war-management

Carver featured in this issue from the News Bureau of the Office for Emergency Management during World War 2.

Beliefs and Death:

Carver was a devout Christian. He believed faith in Jesus Christ could help heal divisions in society. On Sundays he led a Bible class at Tuskegee University.

George Washington Carver died after falling down a flight of stairs on January 5, 1943 in Tuskegee, Alabama. He was about 80 years old. He had never married and donated all his assets to the Carver Museum and to the George Washington Carver Foundation. He was buried in the Tuskegee University Campus Cemetery.

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George Washington Carver Biography

Birthday: 1864 ( Capricorn )

Born In: Diamond, Missouri, United States

Often referred to as the ‘Father of Chemurgy’, George Washington Carver was an African-American scientist, botanist and inventor who discovered more than 300 uses for peanuts. He is regarded as one among the ‘100 Greatest African-Americans’, for his innovative agricultural methods that made a positive change in the lives of countless poor farmers. He overcame racial prejudice, got education and became a scientist, dedicating his entire life in the research of plant life and its numerous possibilities that led to the betterment of mankind. He encouraged the growth of alternative crops, which helped increase nutrition in soil, thus helping poor farmers increase their productivity. He created products from peanuts that could be used for the home and in the farm, which included cosmetics, dyes, plastics, paints and even gasoline. He is revered as one of the greatest inventors of the 20th century, who advised distinguished personalities including President Theodore Roosevelt, Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, President John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. and the Crown Prince of Sweden. His work played a significant and pivotal role in the revival of the agricultural economy in the late 19th century and the early half of the 20th century.

George Washington Carver

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Died At Age: 79

father: Giles

mother: Mary

siblings: James

Born Country: United States

Chemists Inventors & Discoverers

Died on: January 5 , 1943

place of death: Tuskegee, Alabama, United States

Cause of Death: Anemia

Notable Alumni: Iowa State University

U.S. State: Missouri

Founder/Co-Founder: Carver Penol Company, The Carver Products Company Carvoline Company

discoveries/inventions: Discovered Three Hundred Uses For Peanuts And Hundreds More For Soybeans, Pecans And Sweet Potatoes, Peanut Butter

education: Iowa State University

awards: 1923 - Spingarn Medal from the NAACP for outstanding achievement. 1939 - Roosevelt Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Southern Agriculture.

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George Washington Carver Biography

Born: c. 1864 Diamond Grove, Missouri Died: January 5, 1943 Tuskegee, Alabama African American agricultural chemist

George Washington Carver started his life as a slave and worked his way to becoming a respected and world-renowned agricultural chemist. He helped develop agricultural techniques used around the world.

Early years

George Washington Carver was born in Kansas Territory near Diamond Grove, Missouri, during the bloody struggle between free-soilers and slaveholders. His father, a slave on a nearby farm, was killed shortly before Carver was born. Carver himself became the kidnap victim of night riders while still a baby. With his mother and brother, James, he was held for ransom. Before they were rescued, his mother died. Moses Carver, a German farmer, ransomed (traded) the infant Carver for a $300 race-horse. Thus he was orphaned and left in the custody of a white guardian from early childhood.

George Washington Carver. Reproduced by permission of Fisk University Library.

An agricultural education

Carver applied to study at the Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts, but he was turned down when it was learned that he was of African heritage. He then applied to Simpson College at Indianola, Iowa, where he was the second African American to be admitted. Tuition was $12 a year, but it was hard to come by even this small amount. Carver worked as a cook at a hotel in Winterset, Iowa, to raise the money.

After attending Simpson College for three years, he once again applied for admission to Iowa State. He was admitted and was placed in charge of the greenhouse of the horticultural department while doing graduate work. Carver quickly won the respect and admiration of the faculty and student body. He earned his master's degree in agriculture in 1896, and, by the time he left, Carver was an expert at mycology (the study of fungi) and plant cross-fertilization.

A career begins

In April 1896 Carver received a unique offer from the African American educator Booker T. Washington (1856–1915) to teach at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Said Washington: "I cannot offer you money, position or fame. The first two you have. The last from the position you now occupy you will no doubt achieve. These things I now ask you to give up. I offer you in their place: work—hard, hard work, the task of bringing a people from degradation, poverty, and waste to full manhood. Your department exists only on paper and your laboratory will have to be in your head."

Carver accepted the challenge. He arrived at the tiny railroad station at Chehaw, Alabama, on October 8, 1896. In a report to Washington he wrote: "8:00 to 9:00 A.M. , Agricultural Chemistry; 9:20 to 10:00 A.M. , the Foundation of Colors (for painters); 10:00 to 11:00 A.M. , a class of farmers. Additional hours in the afternoon. In addition I must oversee and rather imperfectly supervise seven industrial classes, scattered here and there over the grounds. I must test all seeds, examine all fertilizers, based upon an examination of soils in different plots."

Through the years Carver gained a national, as well as an international, reputation. Chinese and Japanese farmers raised many unique problems for him. Questions were referred to him from Russia, India, Europe, and South America. He later had to turn down a request to journey to the Soviet Union, the country that once consisted of Russia and other smaller nations. In 1916 he was elected a member of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts in England, the world's oldest scientific organization. Later, in 1918, he went to the War Department in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate his findings on the sweet potato. He was awarded the Spingarn Medal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1923.

The personality of Carver

An early close friend of Carver was Henry A. Wallace; the pair knew each other for forty-seven years. Wallace said that Carver often took him on botanical (relating to plants) expeditions, and it was he who first introduced Wallace to the mysteries of plant fertilizers. Carver was a shy and modest bachelor, an unmarried man. An attack of whooping cough (a contagious disease that attacks the respiratory system) as a child had permanently caused him to have a high-pitched tenor voice. He considered it a high duty to attend classes and was seldom absent. In 1908 he returned to the West to visit his ninety-six-year-old guardian, Moses Carver, and to visit the grave of his brother, James, in Missouri.

A careful and modest scientist, Carver was not without a sense of humor. When one of his students, hoping to play a trick on him, showed him a bug with the wings of a fly and the body of a mosquito, Carver was quick to label it "a humbug."

Developments and world fame

Carver utilized the materials at hand. He was interested in crop rotation and soil conservation. From the clay soil of Alabama he extracted a full range of dyestuffs, including a brilliant blue. He created sixty products from the pecan. From the common sweet potato he developed a cereal coffee, a shoe polish, paste, oils—about one hundred products. From the peanut he came up with over 145 products. Carver suggested peanuts, pecans, and sweet potatoes replace cotton as money crops. He published all of his findings in a series of nearly fifty bulletins.

The testimony of Carver before the congressional House Ways and Means Committee in 1921 led to the passage of the Fordney-McCumber Tariff Bill of 1922. Scheduled to speak a short ten minutes, he was granted several time extensions because of the intense interest in his presentation. At the lecture he appeared in a greenish-blue suit many seasons old, having refused to invest in a new suit and announced, "They want to hear what I have to say; they will not be interested in how I look."

In 1935 Carver was chosen to work with the Bureau of Plant Industry of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He received the Theodore Roosevelt Medal in 1939 for distinguished achievement in science. During his lifetime Carver had made many friends. Automobile manufacturer Henry Ford (1863– 1947) was his frequent host. Carver was also a treasured friend of inventor Thomas A. Edison (1847–1931). It was Edison who offered to make him independent with his own laboratories and an annual stipend (fixed payment) of $50 thousand. Other famous friends included horticulturist Luther Burbank (1849–1926), industrialist Harvey Firestone (1868–1938), and naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921). He was also a friend of three presidents: Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933), and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945).

Carver had earned the salary of $125 a month from the beginning until the end of his service at Tuskegee Institute, which spanned forty-six years. He might have had much more. In 1940 he gave his life savings, $33 thousand, to establish the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee Institute to continue research in agriculture and chemistry. He later left his entire estate to the foundation, a total of about $60 thousand. He died on January 5, 1943.

At the dedication of a building in his honor at Simpson College, Ralph Bunche (1904–1971), a Nobel Prize winner, pronounced Carver to be "the least imposing celebrity the world has ever known." Carver's birthplace was made a national monument on July 14, 1953.

For More Information

Gray, James Marion. George Washington Carver. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Silver Burdett Press, 1991.

Holt, Rackham. George Washington Carver: An American Biography. Rev. ed. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963.

McKissack, Pat, and Fredrick McKissack. George Washington Carver: The Peanut Scientist. Rev. ed. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2002.

Moore, Eva. The Story of George Washington Carver. New York: Scholastic, 1995.

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biography about george washington carver

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver

  • Occupation: Scientist and educator
  • Born: January 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri
  • Died: January 5, 1943 in Tuskegee, Alabama
  • Best known for: Discovering many ways to use the peanut

Professor Washington working in his lab

  • Growing up George had been known as Carver's George. When he started school he went by George Carver. He later added the W in the middle telling his friends it stood for Washington.
  • People in the south at the time called peanuts "goobers".
  • Carver would sometimes take his classes out to the farms and teach farmers directly what they could do to improve their crops.
  • His nickname later in life was the "Wizard of Tuskegee".
  • He wrote up a pamphlet called "Help for Hard Times" that instructed farmers on what they could do to improve their crops.
  • It takes over 500 peanuts to make one 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
  • Listen to a recorded reading of this page:

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George Washington Carver, The Father of the Peanut Industry

George Washington Carver, The Father of the Peanut Industry

George washington carver: a brief history of his life & legacy.

George Washington Carver was a scientist, inventor and educator who is most remembered for helping turn peanuts into a major cash crop throughout the South, revolutionizing agriculture in the South by teaching the importance of crop rotation and modeling the idea of an extension agent traveling to help the farmer problem-solve on site.

Carver was born into slavery in Missouri in 1864. Freed at the age of four, he stayed with the Carvers where he was fond of working in their garden. He came to be known as “the plant doctor” to many neighbors.

At 13, he began studying art and music at Simpson College in Iowa. He was an accomplished pianist and painter. His work was displayed at the 1893 World Fair and some of his paintings can still be seen at the George Washington Carver Museum at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

George Washington Carver was one of the few African Americans of his time to receive a formal education. The first African American to enroll, he received a undergraduate degree in Agricultural Science in 1894 and then a Master of Science degree in 1896 from Iowa State Agricultural College (today known as Iowa State University). After graduation, he became the first African American faculty member at the college.

In the Fall of 1896, Carver left Missouri for Alabama where a teaching position had opened at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute’s newly established Department of Agriculture. Tuskegee is a historically black college headed by Booker T. Washington at the time.

It was at the Tuskegee Institute that Carver began experimenting with peanuts. At the time, cotton was the primary cash crop throughout the South, but it had depleted the soil causing erosion and making it increasingly vulnerable to crop-killing pests and diseases. Peanuts were not yet recognized as a crop, but Carver saw their potential in solving some of the South’s most pressing issues – erosion, nutrition and diversifying revenue.

Carver discovered that peanuts were able to restore nutrients to the soil , most notably nitrogen which is a main ingredient in modern fertilizers. Peanuts were also naturally resistant to many pests and diseases that were running rampant across South. He began to write and distribute free, easily understandable brochures about crops, soil conservation, food preservation and nutrition.

“From oppressive and crippling surroundings, George Washington Carver lifted his searching, creative mind to the ordinary peanut, and found therein extraordinary possibilities for goods and products unthinkable by minds of the past and left for succeeding generations an inspiring example of how an individual could rise above the paralyzing conditions of circumstance.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Despite the protein that was badly needed in the diets of many Southerners, when peanuts were brought to the market, they found little success. Carver then investigated new ways to use peanuts in food products and manufacturing processes. In 1916, he published How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption . In total, he developed 300 products from peanuts. Within the next 50 years, peanuts would become the second most produced crop in the South.

In addition to his work on peanuts, Carver was a proponent of sustainable agriculture, livestock care and education. He encouraged farmers to grow a variety of crops, such as sweet potatoes and soybeans, to maintain soil health and diversify their income. He also encouraged farmers to submit samples of their soil and water and visited local farms to teach livestock care and food preservation techniques. His goal was to improve the life of “the man farthest down,” and he did that by educating poor famers and their families.

In 1906, Carver designed the Jessup Wagon, a kind of laboratory on wheels that would help him educate farmers throughout the rural South. He had a particular desire to bring the Jessup Wagon to formerly enslaved farmers. With them, he often relied upon his showmanship to educate.

Throughout his life, George Washington Carver became known as the “father of the peanut industry.” He helped to transform the agricultural economy of the South, especially among African American farmers, through education. He became so influential that his friends included Henry Ford and Mahatma Gandhi and several foreign countries requested his advice on agricultural matters.

Despite his groundbreaking work, Carver faced discrimination and obstacles as an African American scientist. Her persevered, however, and devoted his life to education and public service. He worked with farmers, businesses and government agencies to promote sustainable agriculture and economic development. In the 1940s, Carver left his life savings to establish the Carver Research Foundation at Tuskegee. This foundation is still active today.

Today, Carver’s legacy lives on in the peanut industry, as well as in the fields of agriculture, botany, and chemistry. He is remembered as a brilliant scientist, a dedicated educator and a visionary leader who overcame adversity to make a lasting impact on American history.

Article by Abby Wagner

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2023, January 1). George Washington Carver. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Washington-Carver

The Legacy of Dr. George Washington Carver . Tuskegee University. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2023, from https://www.tuskegee.edu/support-tu/george-washington-carver

Fleur, N. S. (2021, February 16). George Washington Carver . History. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/george-washington-carver

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2023-11-21
this was a pretty good biography honestly! :) god bless! :):):):):):):)
2023-09-15
God blessed this person, may he bless you all too
Tanyin
2022-12-07
Honestly this was my school and I had a great time reading this it was amazing he was a very kind man I suggest to read it again tbh-
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This story about george was very interesring and i hope to learn more
brazil
2019-09-09
Hey this is rlly cool its a little long but its ausome
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2017-03-29
wow he is cool

(AHHH GAMER)

Did George Washington Carver Invent Peanut Butter?

The African American scientist is known as the "Peanut Man," but did he actually create the popular spread?

george washington carver

Carver helped farmers find alternate uses for popular crops

Born into slavery in Missouri, near the end of the Civil War , Carver displayed a curiosity for learning and delicate touch for plant life from his earliest years. Rejected from one college, which had accepted him before realizing he was Black, Carver eventually entered Iowa's Simpson College and then the school that became Iowa State University, where he earned his master's in agriculture in 1896.

As director of the agricultural department at Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute, Carver worked to develop sustainable farming practices when he wasn't bogged down by more menial tasks like actually teaching. Generations of cotton planting and the intrusion of the boll weevil had decimated Southern farms by the early 1900s, and Carver encouraged farmers to develop other crops that revitalized the soil, like cowpeas, beans, sweet potatoes and peanuts.

One of his earliest known achievements was the development of the Jesup Wagon, a school on wheels that paid visits to poor farmers in remote areas beginning in 1906. Carver also sought to give growers additional incentive by devising alternate uses for the crops he championed, producing an array of items that included medicines, lotions and soap.

George Washington Carver

John Harvey Kellogg filed a patent for peanut butter in 1895

Meanwhile, the product that Carver supposedly invented had already made its way onto dining room tables by the mid-1890s. As detailed in Jon Krampner's Creamy & Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food , credit for its existence can either go to physician John Harvey Kellogg, who filed its first patent, or snack food entrepreneur George A. Bayle, whose creation bears a stronger resemblance to today's ubiquitous spread.

After making a celebrated appearance at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, peanut butter began appearing in stores under the names of national brands like Beech-Nut and Heinz. By 1919, according to Creamy & Crunchy , companies had churned out 158 million pounds of peanut butter, nearly five times the number from 1907.

George Washington Carver working in a laboratory, 1910s

Carver didn't get the nickname 'Peanut Man' until after World War I

Carver's association with the legume began with his 1916 pamphlet "How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it For Human Consumption," but it wasn't until after the war that his reputation as the "Peanut Man" took root.

In 1920, Carver was invited to share his discoveries with the United Peanut Association of America, which was seeking a protective tariff from international competitors. He then appeared on the UPAA's behalf before the House Ways and Means Committee in early 1921 and won over a hostile audience with his clear enthusiasm for the peanut dyes, milk, powders and the like arranged on the table.

Thanks in large part to his presentation, the UPAA got their tariff, and Carver became a celebrity.

READ MORE: George Washington Carver’s Powerful Circle of Friends

Despite not inventing peanut butter, Carver still created hundreds of peanut products, many of which he did not patent

He eventually earned more attention for promoting peanut oil massages as a means for curing polio, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt reportedly among those who touted its benefits. Altogether, the agricultural scientist came up with hundreds of peanut products before his death in 1943, though many of them are novelty items that are more easily made from other substances.

So how is that Carver became known as the man who invented peanut butter?

It helps that his life story was already being described in mythological terms while he was still alive. Creamy & Crunchy cites a 1921 article in Success Magazine that called Carver the "Columbus of the Soil." And for all his renown, Carver's actual innovations are harder to pin down, as he filed for very few patents and refused to document most of his research.

While he didn't invent peanut butter, Carver still deserves kudos for the attention and aid he brought to the peanut industry as it was still expanding, particularly at a time when the contributions of African Americans were often overlooked.

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  1. George Washington Carver: Biography, Inventions, Facts

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  3. George Washington Carver Biography

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  4. George Washington Carver Biography

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  5. George Washington Carver, Agricultural Chemist

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  6. George Washington Carver: Biography, Inventions & Quotes

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COMMENTS

  1. George Washington Carver: Biography, Inventor, Scientist, Teacher

    Born into slavery, George Washington Carver became an internationally famous scientist known for his many inventions, including more than 300 uses for the peanut.

  2. George Washington Carver

    George Washington Carver was a revolutionary American agricultural chemist, agronomist, and experimenter who was born into slavery and sought to uplift Black farmers through the development of new products derived from peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans. His work helped transform the stagnant agricultural economy of the South following the American Civil War.

  3. George Washington Carver

    George Washington Carver. George Washington Carver ( c. 1864 [1] - January 5, 1943) was an American agricultural scientist and inventor who promoted alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion. [2] He was one of the most prominent black scientists of the early 20th century. While a professor at Tuskegee Institute, Carver ...

  4. George Washington Carver: Facts, Inventions & Quotes

    George Washington Carver, born into slavery, was a scientist and inventor who developed hundreds of products using peanuts (but not peanut butter) and other crops.

  5. George Washington Carver

    George Washington Carver (ca. 1864-1943) was born enslaved in Missouri at the time of the Civil War. His exact birth date and year are unknown, and reported dates range between 1860 and 1865. He was orphaned as an infant, and, with the war bringing an end to slavery, he grew up a free child, albeit on the farm of his mother's former master ...

  6. George Washington Carver: Biography, Inventions & Quotes

    George Washington Carver was a prominent American scientist and inventor in the early 1900s. Carver developed hundreds of products using the peanut, sweet potatoes and soybeans.

  7. George Washington Carver

    George Washington Carver was an agricultural chemist and botanist whose colorful life story and eccentric personality transformed him into a popular American folk hero to people of all races. Born into slavery, he spent his first 30 years wandering through three states and working at odd jobs to obtain a basic education. His lifelong effort thereafter to better the lives of poor Southern black ...

  8. George Washington Carver

    George Washington Carver, Born a slave around 1864, became a famous artist, teacher, scientist, and humanitarian. From childhood, he developed a remarkable understanding of the natural world. Carver devoted his life to improving agriculture and the economic conditions of African-Americans in the south.

  9. How George Washington Carver Went From Enslaved to ...

    One of the most accomplished and famous people of the 20th century, George Washington Carver overcame nearly every obstacle placed in his path to fulfill his lifelong passion for learning, using ...

  10. George Washington Carver

    George Washington Carver. Over the course of his lifetime, Carver rose from slavery to become a renowned educator and research scientist. For over 40 years, he worked endlessly to find practical alternatives to improve the agricultural practices and thus the economic status of African Americans. He is regarded as one of the most prominent black ...

  11. George Washington Carver

    To George Washington Carver, peanuts were like paintbrushes: They were tools to express his imagination. Carver was a scientist and an inventor who found hundreds of uses for peanuts. He experimented with the legumes to make lotions, flour, soups, dyes, plastics, and gasoline—though not peanut butter!

  12. George Washington Carver, Agricultural Chemist

    George Washington Carver (January 1, 1864-January 5, 1943) was an agricultural chemist who discovered 300 uses for peanuts as well as hundreds of uses for soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes. His work provided a much needed boost to southern farmers who benefited economically from his recipes and improvements to adhesives, axle grease, bleach, buttermilk, chili sauce, fuel briquettes, ink ...

  13. 7 Facts on George Washington Carver

    7 Facts on George Washington Carver. The African American agricultural scientist invented more than 300 products from the peanut plant. George Washington Carver is known for his work with peanuts ...

  14. George Washington Carver Biography

    George Washington Carver was an African-American researcher and scientists who is best-known for his advancements in crop rotation and soil research.

  15. George Washington Carver

    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.

  16. George Washington Carver Biography

    George Washington Carver was an American scientist and inventor. This biography provides detailed information about his childhood, life, achievements and timeline.

  17. George Washington Carver Biography

    George Washington Carver was born in Kansas Territory near Diamond Grove, Missouri, during the bloody struggle between free-soilers and slaveholders. His father, a slave on a nearby farm, was killed shortly before Carver was born. Carver himself became the kidnap victim of night riders while still a baby.

  18. Biography: George Washington Carver

    George Washington Carver. Biography. Go here to watch a video about George Washington Carver . George Washington Carver by Arthur Rothstein. Occupation: Scientist and educator. Born: January 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri. Died: January 5, 1943 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Best known for: Discovering many ways to use the peanut.

  19. George Washington Carver: An Uncommon Life

    While George Washington Carver's rise from slavery to scientific accomplishment has inspired millions, time has reduced him to the man who did something with peanuts. This documentary uncovers ...

  20. George Washington Carver, The Father of the Peanut Industry

    George Washington Carver was a scientist, inventor and educator who is most remembered for helping turn peanuts into a major cash crop throughout the South.

  21. George Washington Carver's Powerful Circle of Friends

    George Washington Carver's Powerful Circle of Friends. The botanist and inventor was friends with some of the 20th century's most iconic men. Born enslaved just before the end of the American ...

  22. Garden of Praise: George Washington Carver Biography

    Biographies for children. Biography of George Washington Carver for elementry and middle school students. Fun online educational games and worksheets are provided free for each biography.

  23. File:Hanford Village George Washington Carver Addition Historic

    Hanford Village George Washington Carver Addition Historic District; National Register of Historic Places listings in Columbus, Ohio; Global file usage. The following other wikis use this file: Usage on www.wikidata.org Q104821648; Metadata.

  24. Did George Washington Carver Invent Peanut Butter?

    George Washington Carver created more than 300 products from the peanut plant but is often remembered for the one he didn't invent: peanut butter. The agricultural scientist is often given credit ...