George Washington Carver

"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"

- G. W. Carver


George Washington Carver was a male African-American scientist and agricultural expert. He was a person of many titles ranging from Educator, Businessman, and Medical Worker to Artist, Lecturer, and Reformer.

Carver was born during the Civil War years and he was never certain of his birthdate. Carver recalled his birth came "near the end of the Civil War" or "just as freedom was declared." He reported his birth year as 1864, but it is likely that he was born in the spring of 1865. He was born on a farm near Diamond Grove, Missouri.

Both of Carver's parents were slaves. Their owners, Moses and Susan Carver, purchased his mother, Mary, at age thirteen. She bore another son named Jim, who died of smallpox at age twenty four, and twin girls who died in infancy. The paternity of George is uncertain. Since slave marriages could not be legalized in Missouri, many slave women were victims of unsolicited sexual contacts. George thought of his father as a slave who died shortly after he was born. George was listed as "Negro" while his brother Jim was listed as "mulatto."

Near the end of the Civil War, George and his mother were kidnapped and taken into Confederate Arkansas. George was returned to his mother's owner in the end of 1865. When his mother was never found, his owners Moses and Susan Carver decided to raise George.

George was a frail and sickly child, dealing often with bouts of whooping cough, croup and lung infections. Due to his illness, he never grew to full size and had a notably high voice. His strength of spirit remained strong, though, throughout his constant sicknesses and misfortunes and he was known to be "special" or gifted even at a very young age. As a child he was known around the neighborhood as the "plant doctor" because of his great understanding and knowledge of plants. He had a small "nursery" in the woods where he learned to transplant and cultivate most of the native plants.

Carver received some schooling from home, but desired a more formal education. In 1885, Carver applied by mail to Highland College, a small Presbyterian school in Highland Kansas. The college accepted him, but when he arrived and they saw that he was black, the college officials refused to admit him.

In 1890 Carver moved to Iowa w here he continue his education at Simpson College that admitted students without regard to race. Carver's ambitions at Simpson were not focused on science. His main interest was in painting. He enrolled in an art class and was one of the only male students in the Fine Arts Department. Carver soon reasoned that he could better serve the needs of humanity and especially those of poor black farmers by becoming an agriculturist. He transferred to Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts.

At Iowa State, Carver once again met race discrimination. He was not allowed to live or eat with the white students. An old office was converted into a sleeping quarters for him and he ate his meals in the basement with the kitchen employees. Despite his difficulties Carver did not neglect his studies and became highly regarded by his teachers for his talents in grafting plants and cross-fertilizing. He received a Bachelor of Agriculture degree in 1894 and became a member of the Iowa State College faculty as an assistant in biology. In 1896 Carver received a Master of Agriculture degree and became an expert on plant disease and fungi.

In 1886, he received his MS degree in Agriculture. Booker T. Washington, a man already becoming well known as a black leader was principal at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. Tuskegee was the nation's leading black industrial school where a variety of vocational skills could be learned. His chief responsibility at Tuskegee was establishing and overseeing the institute's agricultural program. Carver was the only black in America to have received advanced training in scientific agriculture. He was the only teacher at Tuskegee with a degree from a white college and was the institute's highest paid professor. In the classroom Carver had a great natural ability to captivate, inspire and instruct his students as a teacher and lecture. He knew he would stay here for life because he wanted to help his people.

In 1923, he was awarded a Spingarn Medal and in 1928, he received his Doctor of Science Degree, which was conferred by Simpson College. He had no laboratory at first and worked his way around that by using things to do his research. His first project was to make the soil better on the ten acres he was given to use. He knew farmers where very poor because the soil was poor, so he thought he would have to find way to enrich the soil. He first planted cow peas because he knew that they would put the nitrogen back in the soil, which was very important food for plants. His idea worked well because he planted cotton and more grew than what had been planted. He discovered that the farmers can't plant the same crop over and over they needed to do a "crop rotation" so the soil could stay rich and they used different crops that have nitrogen fixing bacteria on their roots known as Legumes. He than tried sweet potatoes and soy beans these worked very good.

Although Carver's research encompassed several southern crops, the peanut was the most-well known and helped him to rise to national fame. In 1919 Carver found over a hundred new and diverse uses for the peanut, making it a major part of the southern agriculture and helping to free the South from its dependency on cotton. Carver ultimately claimed to have developed more than 300 products including foods, beverages, dyes and cosmetics that were derived from the legume. It was these reasons why he was known as the "Savior of Southern Agriculture." Throughout the 1920's and 1930's his research projects were remarkable for their diversity, making paper from peanuts shells, creating a synthetic marble from wood shavings, using cotton in a number of road paving process and developing an artificial rubber from sweet potatoes. Only one of Carver's products was ever successfully manufactured. The product was an emulsion of creosote and peanuts called Penol, developed by Carver in 1922 as a medication. In 1926 the Carver Penol Company was founded, but had little success.

Americans found Carver to be a very appealing figure. His personality and public image were probably as important to his becoming a national celebrity as was his purported wizardry. His popularity depended to a huge extent on various groups that gave him recognition. In 1923 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) awarded him the Spingarn Medal, perhaps the most prestigious national honor given to blacks. In 1928, Simpson College gave Carver an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Throughout the 1930's awards and recognition continued to flow. In 1932 an article was published on Carver in American Magazine which had an enormous impact on the Carver legend. In 1939 Carver was awarded an honorary membership to the American Inventors Society; received a Roosevelt Medal and became the first black to address a forum sponsored by the New York Herald-Tribune.

Carver's last major undertaking was setting up the George Washington Carver Museum and Foundation in Tuskegee. In 1938, the institute designated an old laundry building for conversion into a museum and laboratory. A year later 2,000 people attended the opening of the partially completed museum. And two years after that in 1940, another big crowd flowed into the building for the opening of its art rooms, which displayed Carver" paintings and handicrafts. Carver saw the museum and foundation as a way of emphasizing and preserving the inspirational qualities of his career. The museum still stands as a testament to Carver's life and vision which was to help the "Man farthest down."

Carver was a very religious man that credit "God" for his talents and accomplishment. Carver died on the evening of January 5, 1943, at the age of 77. He was buried on the campus of Tuskegee near the grave of Booker T. Washington. Honors continued to flow after his death and in 1947 a Carver commemorative stamp was issued by the U.S. Post Office. Carver will be remembered as a man who won both US and international fame for his efforts to find commercial uses for Southern resources and for being proclaimed one the world's greatest chemists.

George Washington Carver was a man who touched the lives of a variety of people. "To southern businessmen Carver was an incarnation of the New South philosophy. Religious leaders embraced his proclaimed reliance upon God as an inspirational source in an age of materialism. Those struggling through the depression saw Carver as a living Horatio Alger whose story offered to those who tried hard enough. To people concerned with race relations Carver's career was either proof of the ability and intelligence African Americans or an indication that slavery and segregation could not have been too bad if they produced a Carver. And to the general public puzzled by technology that was changing the world with frightening speed, Carver made science seem more human and understandable."

George Washington Carver received many awards and honors for his scientific endeavors. He was given the Spingam Medal by the NAACP in 1923. J.E. Spingam was the NAACP chairman who instituted the medal in 1914 for the "highest of noblest achievement by an African Negro during the preceding year or years." Carver was bestowed an honorary doctrine from Simpson College in 1928 and was given the Roosevelt Medal in 1939. He was also made a member of the Royal Society of Arts in London, England. On July 14, 1943 Carver was honored by US President Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt dedicated $30,000 for a national monument to be dedicated to Carver's accomplishments. The area where Carver spent his childhood, in Missouri, has been preserved as a park. This was the first national monument to an African American in the United States.


Diane Clue

Andrea Cornejo

Kelly Foster

Danielle Galiffa

Heidi Gilman

Kerri Hitchcock




George Washington Carver websites (as of 5/98):

Inventors and Inventions

Faces of Science: African Americans in the Sciences (Past, present and future)




Carver’s recipes


No. 72 Peanut Caramels

1 Cup butter 1 Cup molasses

1 Cup milk or cream 1 Cup sugar

1 Cup ground peanuts

Cream sugar and butter; add molasses, cream or milk, stirring constantly; put mixture in a boiler and let boil, gently scraping the bottom to prevent burning (do not stir); let cook until it forms a soft mass when dropped into cool water; add peanuts and pour into buttered tins. The layer should be not more than 1/2 inch thick. When cool enough, cut into small squares and wrap in thin glazed paper (waxed paper).

No. 85 Peanut and Popcorn Balls

1/2 teaspoon soda 1 pint syrup

2 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon vinegar

3 quarts freshly popped popcorn 1 quart freshly roasted peanuts

Cook until the syrup hardens when a little is dropped into cold water; remove to back of stove; add the soda dissolved in a teaspoon of hot water; pour syrup over corn and nuts, stirring until each kernel is well coated; mold into balls.

No.71 Peanut Candy

2 Cups sugar 1 Cup peanuts

Melt the sugar in a frying pan; melt slowly, stirring constantly until melted; butter a shallow dish, and cover the bottom with the roasted and cleaned nuts; pour the candy over them; set aside; when cool break into pieces and serve.

No. 12 Oat Meal Peanut Bread (delicious)

2 Cups liquid yeast 1 teaspoon salt

2 Cups rolled oats 1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons sugar

Add white flour as long as you can stir it; beat well; let rise overnight; stir up well in the morning; add one cup of chopped or ground peanuts; pour into buttered baking pan and set in a warm place to rise; when light, bake in a moderate oven for one hour.


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