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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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George Washington Carver

Posted February 22, 2010 7:46 AM by nsbe

George Washington Carver is one of the more well-known African American inventors. While most people know he invented peanut butter, there is much more to his story than his contribution to a staple part of the American culinary palate.

George Washington Carver was born around 1864 in Missouri. He was born just as the Civil War was ending and both of his parents were slaves. While Carver was still a baby, he lost his father to a farm accident, and his mother was killed by kidnappers involved in the violent dispute over slavery at the Missouri-Kansas border at the time.

After his parents' deaths, he remained on the farm owned by his parents' former owners and became their foster son after they freed their slaves. His now foster parents, Susan and Moses Carver, noted his love for learning (especially about plants) and music. His love for learning gave him a love for reading, as well as a love for learning more about farming. While on the farm, George taught himself a great deal about the plants and conducted his own planting experiments. He became an expert on the type of soil best for each plant, how to save dying plants, and even the types of bugs you do and do not want in your garden or crops.

Despite George's bright mind and passion for learning, because of George's skin color he was denied access to the education his local school provided. Susan and Moses Carver, wanting to encourage George's thirst for learning, hired George a tutor. Around the age of 11 or 12 years old, George started attending a school for black students in a nearby town, Neosho, Missouri. While many kids today eagerly await the end of the school day, George was so dedicated to his education, he walked eight miles to school every day. During his time in Neosho for his education, an African American couple agreed to let George live with them in exchange doing household work. The wife, Mariah Watkins, had a vast knowledge of medicinal plants that George was eager to learn about from her. This was the beginning of George's foundations in medicinal plant usage, which many years later would turn into his medicinal discoveries with plants.

After years in Neosho, George felt he needed more challenge from his education and eventually found a high school in Kansas he could attend. After completing high school, George's thirst for education was still not quenched and he started applying to college. One college accepted George right away when reading about all of his qualifications in his application, but then immediately rejected him when the president of that college saw George was not white.

Years later, after working different jobs to support himself, George was accepted to Simpson College in Iowa, and was the college's only African American student. At the time George was studying several subjects including math and English, he was especially good at art. Though George felt accepted at Simpson, one of his professors suggested George follow his interest in agriculture. Realizing agriculture was his first passion, George transferred to Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. Unlike at Simpson, George was the first African American student to walk the halls of Iowa State, and endured discrimination and prejudice during his time as a student there. That did not stop George from achieving his education at Iowa State, as he graduated with good grades with his Bachelor of Science degree in 1864, and as the first African American student to graduate from Iowa State. Despite the challenges he faced at Iowa State as an undergraduate, Carver decided to continue his education there and achieve his master's degree. Carver began to teach at Iowa State and learned he was good at another thing: teaching.

Eventually Carver left Iowa State for a teaching job at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute after Booker T. Washington, the founder, offered Carver the opportunity to teach there. Carver conducted many scientific experiments while at Tuskegee. During his lab work, Carver discovered 300 different uses for peanuts, including a medicine that treated the affects of polio. Many people have called him the "Peanut Man," but few people have heard of another term people called him, the "Black Leonardo."

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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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#1

Re: George Washington Carver

02/22/2010 10:40 PM

George Washington Carver is one of the most outstanding Americans ever to grace this earth. He has been one of my personal heroes for many years, and it has nothing to do with skin color. One element missing from the peanut story- George Washington Carver had discovered that by rotating peanuts with cotton or tobacco, the soil would be regenerated (peanuts have nitrogen-fixing bacteria living in nodules on their roots). The problem was, there was at the time no commercial use for peanuts. So, he invented his 300 uses (including peanut butter), which resulted in such a demand for the crop, that southern farmers started farming only peanuts, missing the whole point of rotating crops to re-invigorate the soil...

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Re: George Washington Carver

02/23/2010 10:38 AM

G. W. Carver's bio was one of the first 'young readers' books I could read by myself. One of the things that amazed me was that untill he ate a tomatoe at a symposium, everyone thought tomatoes were poisonous.

Every time I plant tomatoes in my garden I think, 'Thank you George'

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Re: George Washington Carver

02/24/2010 2:42 PM

Impressive biography. George Washington Carver should be an inspiration to everyone, especially the african american community, but somehow it seems many parents overlook this man in favor of popular culture icons of whatever the current generation and popular culture are financially rewarding for entertainment. He overcame huge personal and social limitations that even a few of which would debilitate most people from any accomplishment in their lives. One typo of note is that he was born in 1864 in Missouri and received his bachelor of science degree in 1864 from Iowa State. Even Martin Luther King didn't approach the lasting real world impacts that Carver had, but had far more accolades draped upon him.

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