Science and Invention

George Washington Carver

How extensive were George Washington Carver‘s agricultural discoveries?

American botanist and agricultural chemist George Washington Carver (c. 1864–1943) won international fame for his research, which included finding more than 300 uses for peanuts and more than 100 uses for sweet potatoes. The son of slave parents, Carver was born near Diamond Grove, Missouri, and through his own efforts obtained an education, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1894 and his master of science in agriculture in 1896 from Iowa State University. That year he joined the faculty of Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), where he served as director of agricultural research until his death in 1943. His first research projects centered on soil conservation and agricultural practices. Carver gave lectures and made demonstrations to southern farmers, particularly black farmers, to help them increase crop production. He then turned his attention to finding new uses for two southern staple crops: peanuts and sweet potatoes. Carver found that peanuts could be used to make a milk substitute, printer’s ink, and soap. He also found new uses for soybeans and devised products that could be made from cotton waste. His efforts were all intended to improve the economy in the American South and better the way of life of southern black farmers.

Carver was lauded for his accomplishments: he was named a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts of London (1916); he was awarded the Spingarn Medal for distinguished service in agricultural chemistry (1923); and he was bestowed with the Theodore Roosevelt Medal for his valuable contributions to science (1939).

African American botanist and agricultural chemist George Washington Carver revolutionized agricultural development by developing new products from peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans.

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