“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.” – George Washington Carver.
George Washington Carver paved the way for agriculturists to come. He always went for the best throughout his whole life. He didn’t just keep the best for himself; he gave it away freely for the benefit of mankind. Not only did he achieve his goal as the world’s greatest agriculturist, but also he achieved the equality and respect of all. George Washington Carver was born near Diamond Grove, Missouri in 1864. He was born on a farm owned by Moses and Susan Carver. He was born a sick, weak baby and was unable to work on the farm. His weak condition started when a raiding party kidnapped him with his mom.
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He was returned to the Carver’s farm with a whooping cough. His mother had disappeared and the identity of his father was unknown, so the Carver’s were left to care for him and his brother James. Here on the farm is where George first fell in love with plants and Mother Nature. He had his own little garden in the nearby woods where he would talk to the plants. He soon earned the nickname, “The Plant Doctor,” and was producing his own medicines right on the farm. George’s formal education started when he was twelve. He had, however, tried to get into schools in the past but was denied on the basis of race. No black school was available locally so he was forced to move. He said “Good-bye” to his adopted parents, Susan and Moses, and headed to Newton County in southwest Missouri. Here is where the path of his education began. He studied in a one-room schoolhouse and worked on a farm to pay for it. He ended up, shortly after, moving with another family to Fort Scott in Kansas.
In Kansas, he worked as a baker in a kitchen while he attended High School. He paid for his schooling with the money he earned from winning bake-off contests. From there he moved all over bouncing from school to school. “College entrance was a struggle again because of racial barriers.”2 At the age of thirty he gained acceptance to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. He was the first black student accepted to this college. Here he studied piano and art. With his ambition to pursue a science major, he transformed to Iowa Agricultural College (Iowa State) in 1891.
He received his Bachelors of Science in 1894 and his Masters in bacterial botany and agriculture in 1897. He learned about fungi and the disease it causes. During his research, he became known to agricultural centers all over the country. He went on to become the first black faculty member at Iowa State. He taught classes about soil conservation and chemurgy. In 1896, Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute for Negroes, convinced Carver to go south and serve as the Tuskegee school director of agriculture. Here he would remain for the rest of his life.
Here, in Alabama, he did experiments with peanuts, sweet potatoes, pecans, peas, and soybeans. He soon developed his crop rotation method where he alternated the soil depleting cotton crops with these soil-enriching crops. Since America depended mostly on southern agriculture at this time, his achievement was very important and valuable to southern farmers. Since a combination of cotton, tobacco, and the Civil War had depleted the soil of rich nutrients, Carver convinced all of the southern farmers to adopt his technique. This helped the south to recover and produce not only more but bigger crops.
He continued constantly working with peanuts, sweet potatoes, and pecans trying to produce new products. He developed more than 300 products from the peanut (including Peanut Butter), 175 from the sweet potato, and 60 from the pecan. He extracted blue, purple, and red pigments from the clay soil of Alabama. He researched the manufacture of synthetic marble from greenwood shavings, rope from cornstalk fibres, and veneers from the palmetto root. During WWI, he worked to replace the textile dyes that were being imported from Europe. He ended up producing and replacing over 500 different shades. In 1927, he invented a process for producing paints and stains from soybeans. Three different patents were issued:” US 1,522,176 Cosmetics and Producing the Same. Jan. 6, 1925, George Washington Carver. Tuskegee, Alabama. US 1,541,478 Paint and Stain and Producing the Same. June 9, 1925, George Washington Carver. Tuskegee, Alabama US 1,632,365 Producing Paints and Stains June 14, 1927, George Washington Carver. Tuskegee, Alabama.”3 He did not patent or sell hundreds of his other inventions and products but gave them away for the world to benefit from them.
His most famous peanut product was peanut butter. He received his doctorate from Simpson College in 1928. He became a member of the Royal Society of Arts in London, England. He also received, by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Spingarn Medal. He became part of the U.S. Department of agriculture in 1935. In 1939, he was awarded the Roosevelt Medal for restoring southern agriculture. George Washington Carver died at the age of 79 (1864-1943) in 1943 from anemia. He donated his whole life savings to Tuskegee University for further study in agriculture.
For his great accomplishments, he was honoured with many things. In 1951, a national monument near his home was formed and named after him. This was the first national monument to be named after an African American. He was given a commemorative stamp and was inducted into the NY University of Hall of Fame. He was the second African American to make it into the hall of fame. George Washington Carver, in the end, achieved his goal as the greatest agriculturist and so much more.
Everything that he invented, he invented for the benefit of mankind. He even gave away well over half of his invented products. “But most importantly, he changed the south from being a one-crop land of cotton to multi-crop farmlands, and gave the farmers hundreds of profitable uses for their new crops.”4 Truly an American hero of agriculturists, he paved and planted the road for future ones to come. He even put a smile on a child’s face by giving them the gift of peanut butter. ” ‘He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honour in being helpful to the world.” ‘-Epitaph of George Washington Carver 5
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