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George Washington Carver Scientific Genius

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"George Washington Carver Scientific Genius"
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Contrary to popular belief, George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter. Recipes for peanut butter date past the Egyptians. Nonetheless, he did popularize the use of peanut butter, and went on to develop over 300 uses for peanuts as well as hundreds of uses for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes. Carver is one of those great people in history who did not receive much fame, fortune or notoriety despite great contribution. He did, however, greatly improve the world, ease the burden of life for others, and leave a legacy of sharing. In terms of true gifts to humanity, George Washington Carver may be the greatest American who ever lived.

He was born during the Civil War on the farm of Moses and Susan Carver near Diamond Grove, Missouri. He probably never knew his father who was a slave on a neighboring farm. Kidnapped in the night, George and his mother were taken south by slave raiders. Moses recovered George, but never located the boy's mother. Since George had no other family, Moses and his wife decided to raise him as one of their own, and he did not disappoint them.

Always a curious and intelligent child, he grew up to be the first African-American student at Iowa Agricultural College, which later became Iowa State University. After earning Bachelor and Masters Degrees, he became the first Black faculty member at his alma mater. In 1897, Booker T. Washington convinced him to take his work south to Tuskegee Institute. Carver went south and stayed at Tuskegee until his death in 1943. Carver even turned down a job offer of $100,000 a year, (around one million in today's dollars), to remain in his small room at Tuskegee with his $1500 a year salary. He cared more for helping people than amassing riches, and we are all richer today because of it.

While at Tuskegee, Carver pioneered the idea of crop rotation. The south had a history of depleting the soil with crops such as cotton and tobacco. Carver convinced them to alternate those crops with others such as peanuts and soybeans that enriched the soil. His idea saved southern farming. To help create more of a market for the new crops, he also developed hundreds of recipes and improvements to products using those new crops. He invented and improved cosmetics, adhesives, paint, tints and dyes, axle grease, bleach, ink, and buttermilk, to name a few. Your daily newspaper may well use soy ink pioneered by Carver. Despite all his ideas, he only patented three. He gladly shared his ideas with the world. He believed God gave the ideas to him and it was only right to share them with others. On occasion, Carver reportedly mixed up batches of his paints using his own special tints, took them out to farmers in the region, gave the paint away, and then stayed to help the farmers paint their buildings. Now that is true giving and that is the spirit of America we should all promote.

Carver was also a sought after speaker. Once before leaving for a speaking engagement, someone commented that he should discard his "trademark" ragged suit and put on a new one. Carver responded, "If they want a suit, I'll send them one. If they want me, then I'll go". Either through lectures, classes or indirectly, almost everyone benefited from Carver's research and we still benefit today. One of Carver's most significant ideas, the idea of a renewable source of energy, may prove even more valuable to us in the future.

Carver worked with Henry Ford on the idea of a car that ran on vegetable oil. Even then, both realized that the world supply of oil was limited. Since the very first diesel engine ran on vegetable oil, Carver and Ford realized that it might be possible to convert to diesel and use homegrown soybeans to make the fuel. Today we call the idea "bio-diesel", but its roots are in the 1940's with Carver and Ford.

George Washington Carver pioneered large-scale research into the use of plant products as sources for consumer products. His ideas, improvements and inventions helped people then and continue to benefit society today. His ideas also inspired the similar research of others into other areas. In that way, it is almost impossible to gauge the magnitude of his contribution to American society, and almost impossible to go through an average day without touching at least one invention directly or indirectly related to Carver. As time goes on and people realize more and more how much Carver and his inventions continue to contribute to society, George Washington Carver may prove to be the greatest American who ever lived.

More about this author: Stan Dyer

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