GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER
"I ask the Great Creator ... to permit me to speak to Him through the three great Kingdoms of the world, which He has created, viz.--the animal, mineral and vegetable Kingdoms; their relations to each other, to us, our relations to them and the Great God who made all of us.”
GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER
George Washington Carver is best known for inventing more than 300 products from peanuts, including milk, plastics, and ink. He also developed new uses for crops like sweet potatoes, soybeans, and pecans.
Carver was born into slavery. His passion for education led him to study botany at Iowa State University (the first African American to be admitted) and eventually lead the agricultural department at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). He taught generations of African American scientists new farming techniques. In his scientific research, Carver developed methods of crop rotation to improve soil depleted by repeated plantings of cotton. He also came up with alternative cash crops to help former slaves with new means of income to become self-sufficient. Carver also pioneered a mobile classroom to take science lessons to farmers.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Carver was a devout follower of Jesus from the time he was 10 years old. He viewed God and science as impossible to separate, often writing about God as the “Great Creator.” Carver said that his faith in Jesus was the only way he could pursue science. He insisted that science proves God’s existence and liked to say, “And you shall know science and science shall set you free, because science is truth.” (restating John 8:32 from the Bible.)
He frequently wrote about nature as a way for God to speak to us. In one letter to a friend, Carver wrote, “I love to think of Nature as unlimited broadcasting stations, through which God speaks to us every day, every hour, and every moment of our lives, if we will only tune in and remain so.”
Carver did not view himself as a scientific genius. Instead he credited God with divine inspiration and revelation for his work. For example, in making hundreds of products with peanuts, Carver started with a simple question: “Why, I just took a handful of peanuts and looked at them. ‘Great Creator,’ I said, ‘why did you make the peanut? Why?’” Carver called his science lab “God’s little workshop.” About his scientific method, Carver said, “"[I] ask the Great Creator ... to permit me to speak to Him through the three great Kingdoms of the world, which He has created, viz.--the animal, mineral and vegetable Kingdoms."
Although Carver invented hundreds of products during his tenure at Tuskegee, he held only three patents. Carver said, "God gave them to me, how can I sell them to someone else?"
George Washington Carver (front row center) poses with fellow staff at the Tuskegee Institute Photo: Frances Benjamin Johnston
George W Carver
Painting of George Washington Carver Artist: Betsy Graves Reyneau
One of America's great scientists
George Washington Carver, U.S. World War II poster, 1943
Carver in his lab
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver, 1910