George Washington Carver


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

(1864–1943) American agricultural chemist

Carver was born a slave in Diamond Grove, Missouri. Nevertheless, he managed to acquire some elementary education and went on to study at the Iowa State Agricultural College from which he graduated in 1892. He taught at Iowa until 1896, when he returned to the South to become director of the department of agricultural research at the Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. There he stayed despite lucrative offers to work for such magnates as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

His main achievement was to introduce new crops into the agricultural system of the South, in particular arguing for large-scale plantings of peanuts and sweet potatoes. He saw that such new crops were vital if only to replenish the soil, which had become impoverished by the regular growth of cotton and tobacco.

But he did much more than introduce new crops for he tried to show that they could be used to develop many new products. He showed that peanuts contained several different kinds of oil. So successful was he in this that by the 1930s the South was producing 60 million dollars worth of oil a year. Peanut butter was another of his innovations. In all he is reported to have developed over 300 new products from peanuts and over 100 from sweet potatoes.

Subjects: United States History — Science and Mathematics.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.