Great Engineers & Scientists Blog

Great Engineers & Scientists

In 1676, Sir Isaac Newton wrote "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants." In this blog, we take Newton's words to heart, and recognize the many great engineers and scientists upon whose shoulders we stand.

So who do you think of when you hear "Great Engineer"? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add him or her to the pantheon. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

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Benjamin Banneker

Posted February 04, 2010 10:30 AM by nsbe

Benjamin Banneker was born November 9, 1731 and is well known for his work in astronomy. One of Banneker's greatest projects was being an integral part of the surveying of Washington D.C.

While he made many contributions to science, he got a late start on his science education. Even though he did go to high school, Banneker did not buy his first book until he was 32: the Bible. As an adult he befriended the Ellicott brothers Ben and George who would help him learn about astronomy. He educated himself reading astronomy books leant to him by the Ellicott brothers. His knowledge of astronomy and using it to predict the behaviors of the seasons helped him write many almanacs as well as astronomical journals. His calculations predicted solar and lunar eclipses. He was also talented at celestial navigation which his skills helped him survey Washington D.C. before Maryland and Virginia ceded the land to the federal government of the United States.

Banneker's almanacs did not just outline the seasons and movement of the sun and moon; some contained his view on slavery. In addition to writing these views into some of his almanacs, he also exchanged letters with Thomas Jefferson about slavery. Jefferson politely responded though he wasn't completely sold in the idea of an America without slavery though he did offer to send Banneker's almanac to the Academy of Sciences in Paris.

The last almanac of Banneker's was published in 1797, and he died in 1806. Today people can visit a obelisk monument near Banneker's unmarked grave in a churchyard in Oella, Maryland.

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The mission of NSBE is to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.

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