George Washington Carver was born in 1860 in Diamond Grove, Missouri and in spite of earlier issues would advance to become one of the most commemorated and highly regarded scientists in United States history. His significant discoveries and methods allowed farmers through the South and Midwest to become successful and profitable.
His master dispatched him to Neosho, Missouri for an early education and managed to graduate from Minneapolis High School in Kansas. He eventually sent an application to Highland University in Kansas and ended up being accepted and also provided a scholarship. With pride, George journeyed to the school to accept the scholarship but upon meeting him, the School president asked ‚”why didn’t you tell me you were a Negro?” and immediately withdrew the scholarship and the acceptance.
In 1887 Carver was accepted into Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa where he turned out to be well respected for his artistic talent (later on his artwork would be included in the magnificent World‚’s Columbian Exposition Art Exhibit.) Carver’s interests, nevertheless, lay much more in science and he transferred from Simpson to Iowa Agricultural College (which is now known as Iowa State University.) He distinguished himself so much that upon graduating he was offered a position on the school’s faculty, the first African American afforded the honor. Carver was allowed great independence in working in agriculture and botany in the University’s greenhouses. In 1895, Carver co-authored a series of papers on the prevention and treatments for fungus diseases impacting on cherry plants.
In 1896 he obtained his master’s degree in agriculture and in 1897 discovered two fungus that would be named after him. At this point, the most critical moment of his life occurred – he was summoned by Booker T. Washington to teach at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. He was designated director of agriculture and rapidly set out to fully correct its wretched condition. He was given a twenty acre cheap piece of land and along with his students planted peas on it. Like all legumes, the peas had nitrogen-fixing bacteria on their roots which obtained nitrogen from the air and transformed it into nitrates which then labored to fertilize the soil. The depleted soil shortly became rich and fertile, so much in fact that he was able to grow five hundred pounds of natural cotton on each acre of land he worked on.
All of the sudden, the same farmers who cursed him now found that a new market had sprung up that could make use of their excess peanuts. Next, Carver looked at ways of utilizing the sweet potato and was able to create more than one hundred fifteen products from it including flour, starch and synthetic rubber (the United States Army employed many of his products and solutions during World War I).
Carver did not cease with these breakthroughs. From the low-cost pecan he created more than seventy five products, from thrown away corn stalks dozens of uses and from common clays he developed dyes and paints. Suddenly Carver’s fame grew more and more until he was asked to speak before the United States Congress and was consulted by leaders of industry and invention. Henry Ford, chief of Ford Motor Company asked Carver to his Dearborn, Michigan plant where the two devised a way to make use of goldenrod, a plant weed, to create synthetic rubber. Thomas Edison, the great inventor was so enthusiastic about that he requested Carver to move to Orange Grove, New Jersey to work at the Edison Laboratories at an yearly salary of $100,000 per year and state of the art facilities. He turned down the generous offer, wanting to continue on at Tuskegee.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce of Britain in 1916, the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1923, and in 1939 was awarded the Theodore Roosevelt Medal for “distinguished research in agricultural chemistry.” He was appointed to various boards and committees by the United States Department of Agriculture and was named Man of the Year in 1940 by the International Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists and Technicians. Last but not least, he was awarded Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Simpson College as well as the University of Rochester.
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