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Biography of George Washington Carver

Gaynor Borade Jan 23, 2019
A botanist, inventor and educator in new-age agricultural techniques focused on research and promotion of peanut and sweet potato cultivation. Let's get to know more about George Washington Carver.
George Washington Carver primarily used his skill as a botanist to empower poor farmers to identify and grow alternative cash crops. His endeavor was to enable them to cultivate land to source their own food as well as grow crops that had good market value, to subsequently improve their lifestyles.
He authored 44 practical bulletins that promoted the cultivation of peanuts and even came up with 105 peanut recipes, including peanut butter recipes! He revolutionized peanut cultivation via research and increased awareness towards peanut products such as a whole range of self-designed peanut cosmetics, dyes, plastics, paints and gasoline.
In South America, in the early 20th century, the production of cotton as a cash crop was extensive. This led to a monoculture that resulted in soil fertility depletion. The onslaught of boll weevil destroyed a lot of the cotton crop, forcing farmers to look for an alternative.
His research on peanuts gave them much respite. He was an ardent advocate of sustainable agriculture. His deep admiration for food crops, general plants and nature was above boundary. He professed racial interaction, religious tolerance and mentoring adolescents.
A slave of Moses Carver, George was born to Giles and Mary, the possessions of Moses Carver, in Old Calibrator, Missouri. His parents were 'bought' from William P. McGinnis in 1855, for seven hundred dollars.
When slavery was abolished in the United States of America, Moses Carver and his wife raised George and James, his older brother. They encouraged George Carver to pursue his studies. He attended a school for blacks located ten miles south from where they lived. At thirteen, he relocated to Kansas. He earned a diploma at Minneapolis High School, Kansas.
Carver was refused college admission because he was an African-American. He filed for homestead and began maintaining a plant conservatory. He plowed all the 17 acres allotted to him. He planted rice, corn, fruit trees and assorted shrubbery.
Alongside, he filled in as a ranch hand. With the help of a bank loan from the Bank of Ness city, he moved to Iowa and pursued art and lessons in piano music. His art teacher recognized his accuracy when it came to plant parts and influenced him to consider studying botany.
He enrolled at Iowa State Agricultural College, Ames and was the first black student. He went on to become the first black professor at the same institution.
George researched plant mycology and pathology and earned nationwide recognition as a botanist. From 1896, he led the Tuskegee University Agriculture Department for the next 47 years. His endeavors focused on teaching freed slaves such as himself innovative farming techniques, to generate and promote self-sufficiency.
He came up with a mobile school, 'Jesup wagon', named after New York's Morris Ketchum Jesup, who funded the project. Between 1915 and 1923, he focused on propagating alternate uses for peanuts, pecans and sweet potatoes.
Carver concentrated on helping the southern farmers who struggled with low-quality, nutrition deprived soil that resulted on account of extensive and repeated growing of cotton. In the endeavor to restore nitrogen to the soil, he promoted crop rotation. This involved growing cotton crop interspersed with cultivation of legumes and sweet potatoes.
Subsequent increase and improved cotton produce offered the farmers the much-needed alternative to cash crops. He founded a research laboratory to promote peanut recipes and agrarian applications via agricultural bulletins. He was an exemplary example of hard work and a positive attitude.
His ability to make the most of frugal resources won him the admiration of the agrarian society. Time magazine called him the 'Black Leonardo', a reference to Leonardo da Vinci. George Washington Carver Recognition Day is a tribute to this philanthropist on the 5th day of January each year, his death anniversary.


1916: Inducted to the Royal Society of Arts, England.
1923: Awarded Spingarn Medal from NAACP.
1928: Awarded Honorary Doctorate from Simpson College.
1939: Awarded Roosevelt Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Southern Agriculture.

Posthumous Achievements

1943: George Washington Carver National Monument, Missouri.
1948: U.S. commemorative stamps.
1951: Depiction on a half dollar coin.
1977: Elected to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans.
1990: Inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
1994: Awarded Doctor of Humane Letters by Iowa State University.
2000: Inducted to the USDA Hall of Heroes as 'Father of Chemurgy'.
2002: Listed by Molefi Kete Asante among 100 Greatest African-Americans.
2005: Designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark for research, by the American Chemical Society.