George Washington Carver

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George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was born into slavery in 1864, and was an African American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. Carver's reputation is based on his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes, which also aided nutrition for farm families. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life. The most famous foods he used was peanuts, and sweet potatoes. He found recipes that make over 100 products. It helped A LOT when the boll weevil, a type of beetle, destroyed the most famous cash crop, cotton. Carver was born in Diamond, Missouri. He had 10 other brothers and sisters, all of whom, except 2, died prematurely. When he was only a week old, he, his sister, and mother, Mary, were kidnapped by night raiders from Arkansas. His broher James was rushed to safety before the kidnappers could get him. The the kidnappers sold Carver, his sister, and mother in Kentucky. His master, Moses Carver, hired John Bentley to find them, but only found infant George. Moses negotiated with the raiders for the boys return, and rewarded Bentley. When Moses was received word that slavery was outlawed, he let all of his slaves go, except James and George, for a reason no one knows yet. Moses raised George and James like they were his own children. He attended a series of schools before earning his diploma at Minneapolis High School, in Minneapolis, Kansas. Carver applied for many colleges before being accepted into Highland College, in Highland, Kansas. When he arrived, however, they rejected him because of his race. In August 1886, Carver traveled by wagon with J. F. Beeler from Highland to Eden Township in Ness County, Kansas. He bought a house in Beeler, where he maintained a small conservatory of plants and flowers and a geological collection. In early 1888, Carver obtained a $300 loan at the Bank of Ness City for education. By June he left the area. 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 in Ames. When he began in 1891, he was the first black student, and later taught as the first black faculty member. When he completed his B.S., professors Joseph Budd and Louis Pammel convinced Carver to continue at Iowa State for his master's degree. Carver did research at the Iowa Experiment Station under Pammel during the next two years. His work at the experiment station in plant pathology and mycology first gained him national recognition and respect as a botanist. In 1896, Booker T. Washington, the first principal and president of the Tuskegee Institute, invited Carver to head its Agriculture Department. Carver taught there for 47 years, developing the department into a strong research center and working with two additional college presidents during his tenure. He taught methods of crop rotation, introduced several alternative cash crops for farmers that would also improve the soil of areas heavily cultivated in cotton, initiated research into crop products, and taught generations of black students farming techniques for self-sufficiency. Carver designed a mobile classroom to take education out to farmers. He called it a "Jesup wagon" after the New York financier and philanthropist Morris Ketchum Jesup, who provided funding to support the program. To recruit Carver to Tuskegee, Booker gave him an above average salary and two rooms for his personal use, both of which concessions were resented by some other faculty. Unmarried faculty members normally had to share rooms, with two to a room, in the early days of the institute. One of Carver's duties was to administer the Agricultural Experiment Station farms. He had to manage the production and sale of farm products to generate revenue for the Institute. He soon proved to be a poor administrator. In 1900, Carver complained that the physical work and the letter-writing required were too much. In 1904, an Institute committee reported that Carver's reports on yields from the poultry yard were exaggerated, and Booker confronted Carver about the issue. Carver replied in writing, "Now to be branded as a liar and party to such deception it is more than I can bear, and if your committee feel that I have willfully lied, or was, party to such lies as were told my resignation is at your disposal." During Booker's last five years at Tuskegee, Carver submitted or threatened his resignation several times: when the administration reorganized the agriculture programs, when he disliked a teaching assignment, to manage an experiment station elsewhere, and when he did not get summer teaching assignments in 1913-1914. In each case, Booker smoothed things over. Carver also while a professor at Tuskegee joined the Gamma Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. Carver also spoke at the 1930 Conclave that was held at Tuskegee, Alabama. In which he delivered a powerful and emotional speech to the brothers in attendance. From 1915 to 1923, Carver concentrated on researching and experimenting with new uses for peanuts, sweet potatoes, soybeans, pecans, and other crops, as well as having his assistants research and compile existing uses. Carver developed techniques to improve soils depleted by repeated plantings of cotton. Together with other agricultural experts, he urged farmers to restore nitrogen to their soils by practicing systematic crop rotation: alternating cotton crops with plantings of sweet potatoes or legumes (such as peanuts, soybeans and cowpeas). These both restored nitrogen to the soil and the crops were good for human consumption. Following the crop rotation practice resulted in improved cotton yields and gave farmers alternative cash crops. To train farmers to successfully rotate and cultivate the new crops, Carver developed an agricultural extension program for Alabama that was similar to the one at Iowa State. To encourage better nutrition in the South, he widely distributed recipes using the alternative crops. In addition, he founded an industrial research laboratory, where he and assistants worked to popularize the new crops by developing hundreds of applications for them. They did original research as well as promoting applications and recipes which they collected from others. Carver distributed his information as agricultural bulletins. Carver's work was known by officials in the national capital before he became a public figure. President Theodore Roosevelt publicly admired his work. Former professors of Carver's from Iowa State University were appointed to positions as Secretary of Agriculture: James Wilson, a former dean and professor of Carver's, served from 1897 to 1913. Henry Cantwell Wallace served from 1921 to 1924. He knew Carver personally as his son Henry A. Wallace and the researcher were friends. The younger Wallace served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1933 to 1940, and as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's vice president from 1941 to 1945. The American industrialist, farmer, and inventor William Edenborn of Winn Parish, Louisiana, grew peanuts on his demonstration farm. He consulted with Carver. In 1916 Carver was made a member of the Royal Society of Arts in England, one of only a handful of Americans at that time to receive this honor. Carver's promotion of peanuts gained him the most notability. In 1919, Carver wrote to a peanut company about the potential he saw for peanut milk. Both he and the peanut industry seemed unaware that in 1917 William Melhuish had secured patent number 1,243,855 for a milk substitute made from peanuts and soybeans. The United Peanut Associations of America invited Carver to speak at their 1920 convention. He discussed "The Possibilities of the Peanut" and exhibited 145 peanut products. By 1920, the U.S. peanut farmers were being undercut by low prices on imported peanuts from the Republic of China. In 1921 peanut farmers and industry representatives planned to appear at Congressional hearings to ask for a tariff. Based on the quality of Carver's presentation at their convention, they asked the African-American professor to testify on the tariff issue before the Ways and Means Committee of the United States House of Representatives. Due to segregation, it was highly unusual for an African American to appear as an expert witness at Congress representing European-American industry and farmers. Southern congressmen, reportedly shocked at Carver's arriving to testify, were said to have mocked him. As he talked about the importance of the peanut and its uses for American agriculture, the committee members repeatedly extended the time for his testimony. The Fordney-McCumber Tariff of 1922 was passed including one on imported peanuts. Carver's testifying to Congress made him widely known as a public figure. During the last two decades of his life, Carver seemed to enjoy his celebrity status. He was often to be found on the road promoting Tuskegee, peanuts, and racial harmony. Although he only published six agricultural bulletins after 1922, he published articles in peanut industry journals and wrote a syndicated newspaper column, "Professor Carver's Advice". Carver made 44 practical bulletins for farmers in his life. Business leaders came to seek his help, and he often responded with free advice. Three American presidents—Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt—met with him, and the Crown Prince of Sweden studied with him for three weeks. From 1923 to 1933, Carver toured white Southern colleges for the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. With his increasing notability, Carver became the subject of biographies and articles. Raleigh H. Merritt contacted him for his biography published in 1929. Merritt wrote, "At present not a great deal has been done to utilize Dr. Carver's discoveries commercially. He says that he is merely scratching the surface of scientific investigations of the possibilities of the peanut and other Southern products." In 1932 the writer James Saxon Childers wrote that Carver and his peanut products were almost solely responsible for the rise in U.S. peanut production after the boll weevil devastated the American cotton crop beginning about 1892. His article, "A Boy Who Was Traded for a Horse" (1932), in The American Magazine, and its 1937 reprint in Reader's Digest, contributed to this myth about Carver's influence. Other popular media tended to exaggerate Carver's impact on the peanut industry. From 1933 to 1935, Carver worked to develop peanut oil massages to treat infantile paralysis. Ultimately researchers found that the massages, not the peanut oil, provided the benefits of maintaining some mobility to paralyzed limbs. From 1935 to 1937, Carver participated in the USDA Disease Survey. Carver had specialized in plant diseases and mycology for his master's degree. In 1937, Carver attended two chemurgy conferences, an emerging field in the 1930s, during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, concerned with developing new products from crops. He was invited by Henry Ford to speak at the conference held in Dearborn, Michigan, and they developed a friendship. That year Carver's health declined, and Ford later installed an elevator at the Tuskegee dormitory where Carver lived, so that the elderly man would not have to climb stairs. Carver had been frugal in his life, and in his seventies established a legacy by creating a museum on his work and the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee in 1938 to continue agricultural research. He donated nearly $60,000 in his savings to create the foundation. Then, January 5, 1943, George Washington Carver died from complications from a fall.


1864 - Born1964 - July 30th Kidnapped1865 - Civil War ended1878 - Nov. 3 formal education begins1890 - Sept. 10, starts Simpson Art School1891 - Sept. 15, starts Iowa State Agricultural College1900 - April 2, Trouble at Tuskeegee1910 - Feb. 28, Resignation1914 - World War 1 starts1918- World War 1 ends1919 - May 27, Innovations with Peanuts1921 - Oct. 4, Recognition by the president1933 - April 2, Peanut Oil Massages invented1927 - Jun. 21 George meets Henry1939 - World War 2 starts1943 - January 5, death

George Washington Carver developed crop-rotation methods for conserving nutrients in soil and discovered hundreds of new uses for crops such as the peanut, which created new markets for farmers, especially in the South. He also discovered more than 100 ways to use things from peanuts to make everyday products. From cosmetics to gasoline!

Lasting Impact

We still use Carver's crop rotation methods, and use the products from peanuts to make things.

My Sources

- Wikipedia Now Hall of Fame Inventors Peanut World

George Washington Carver

Biography answers innovation question 3


At work in his labratory

Copyrights and Patents answers innovation question 2

George Washington Carver only applied for 3 patents. # 1,522,176 1/6/1925 Cosmetics and Plant Products# 1,541,478 6/9/1925 Paints & Stains # 1,632,365 6/14/1927Paints & Stains

George Washington Carver wanted to help farmers with failing farms, and show people a new cash crop after a beetle called the Boll Weevil's numbers grew rapidly suddenly, and many farms no longer made money because the Boll Weevil ate most cotton plants where they were grown the most. Which was currently America's biggest cash crop, then the soil no longer had much nutrients from having cotton plants in the same spot for a long time, so the farms could no longer grow crops. He did experimentation with peanuts, America's next most famous cash crop, and figured out what it was made of. He found more than 100 recipes using peanut products to make every day need stuff. He also discovered crop-rotation methods to replenish the soil's nutrient supply. All that solved the problems of soil nutrient loss, and farm losses. Carver came up with these ideas because he was aware that many farms weren't able to grow crops and that the boll weevil was destroying some cotton farms. It did not start any new problems. Carver had his innovations and discoveries right in between World War 1 and World War 2. He died 1 year before World War 2 ended, but didn't serve, of course, because he was too old.

Reasons for Innovation answers innovation question 1, 4, and 5.


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