Science, Inventions, Medicine, and Aerospace


Who was Benjamin Banneker?

Benjamin Banneker (1731–1806) was the first African American to issue an almanac. His almanac series began in 1792 and continued until 1797. Because of his expertise in mathematics and astronomy, he is sometimes called the first African-American scientist. Banneker was born free in Maryland, where he became a tobacco farmer. As a result of his interest in mathematics and mechanics, he constructed a successful striking clock around 1752. His model for the clock was the mechanism of a watch someone lent to him. The clock was still running at the time of his death. In 1787 a Quaker neighbor lent Banneker some texts on astronomy and instruments, and he taught himself the skills necessary to produce his almanac. Banneker, one of the country’s earliest civil engineers, also helped in surveying the national capital. Although Banneker was unwell and unable to work in the field, he served as an assistant to George Ellicott in the survey of the ten-mile-square District of Columbia from early February to the end of April 1791, when he returned to his farm.


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