Dr. George Washington Carver (1864 - 1943) was a renowned agricultural scientist and inventor who found success by learning how to make the most of limited resources. He was born a slave in Missouri and remained an advocate for justice and equal rights throughout his lifetime.
Born enslaved to Moses and Susan Carver, George Washington Carver lived in Diamond Grove, Missouri, before escaping to freedom. He became the first African-American student to attend the Iowa State Agricultural College, where he earned both a B.S. and a master’s degree in 1894. His research focused not only on standard topics such as breeding, soil chemistry and plant diseases, but on creative solutions for problems arising from crop diversity and soil depletion.
Carver's research allowed farmers to diversify their crops and use the nut, pea, and sweet potato plants to improve their soil health. Through his process of crop rotation, Carver re-introduced nitrogen and other valuable nutrients back into the soil. This form of farming revolutionized the agricultural industry in the south, impacting hundreds of thousands of farmers.
Carver's groundbreaking research and scientific advancements generated a one-hundred-fold increase in the production of peanuts, which he then utilized to create over a hundred products, including soaps, dyes and textiles. He also invented many recipes and utilized sweet potatoes to develop dozens of new industrial products. His innovations enabled farmers to rise above poverty and help lead the United States to becoming the world's leading agricultural nation. Despite the enormous significance of his work, Carver continually refused personal recognition or money, opting instead to collaborate with local farmers to foster education and promote social justice.
Throughout his lifetime, Carver became an inspiration to African-Americans and to people from around the world. He was a respected professor and mentor at the Tuskegee Institute, where he was an influential leader in the black community. As he rightly said, “Where there is no vision, there is no hope.” Carver's vision and pioneering spirit have enabled the world to use science to create a better future for generations to come.
1. George Washington Carver National Monument. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/GWCN/index.htm
2. PBS - People and Discoveries: George Washington Carver. (n.d). Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/baca01.html
3. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (2020). George Washington Carver. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Washington-Carver