Black Inventors and Innovators - Benjamin Banneker
Benjamin Banneker was born November 9, 1731 in Baltimore, Maryland and died October 9, 1806. Banneker was taught by Quakers when he was young but quickly outgrew his instructors and had to teach himself. Banneker was an astronomer, mathematician, surveyor and a farmer. Banneker was the son of a slave and the grandson of African royalty.
When Banneker was young he met a man who owned a watch and was fascinated with how it worked. Banneker took the watch apart and put it back together several times and then proceeded to make a bigger version of the watch. Banneker carved each piece by hand and created the first clock ever built in the United States.
Banneker had incredible knowledge of soil and farming. During the Revolutionary War Banneker grew crops of wheat to feed the American troops on land that had been barren for years.
Banneker was fascinated by the stars and skies and taught himself astronomy and mathematics. Banneker’s fascination led him to be able to predict celestial events. Banneker developed an almanac that predicted weather, seasonal changes and included tips on farming and medical remedies. At the time Thomas Jefferson was Secretary of State and Banneker sent him a copy of his almanac with a long letter letting Thomas Jefferson know that Blacks should have the same rights as Whites. The correspondence between Jefferson and Banneker would last for years.
Banneker was hired on as an assistant to help survey the new Nation’s Capitol when President Washington decided to move from Philadelphia to Maryland. When the person that was commissioned to develop the plans for the new city quit unexpectedly Banneker was able to recreate the plans from memory and the plans that he drew up were the basis for the layout of the streets, buildings and monuments that exist today in WashingtonDC.
It is said that Banneker died doing what he loved; looking at the stars through his telescope.
Banneker is considered the United States’ first great Black Inventor but he is so much more than that. Banneker never received a formal education but was able to accomplish so many amazing things; creating a clock, turning barren land into wheat, planning a city and so much more.