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George Washington Carver was a prominent African-American scientist and inventor. Carver is best known for the many uses he devised for the peanut.
Watch a short video about George Washington Carver and his life as a pioneering African-American scientist.
A short biography of George Washington Carver who was offered a horticultural position by Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute and went on to discovering countless uses for the peanut and other important crops.
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Despite his involvement with government-funded scientific research and programs, Carver largely remained outside of the political sphere, and declined to criticize prevailing social norms outright. Nonetheless, Carver's scholarship and research contributed to improved quality of life for many farming families, and made Carver an icon for African-Americans and Anglo-Americans alike.
George Washington Carver died on January 5, 1943,
at the age of 78 after falling down the stairs at his home. He was buried next to Booker T. Washington on the Tuskegee grounds. Carver's epitaph reads: "He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world."
Carver's iconic status remained after his death, in part due to steps that Carver and others took during his lifetime to establish his legacy. Carver, who had lived a frugal life, used his savings to establish a museum devoted to his work, including some of his own paintings and drawings. In December 1947, a fire broke out in the museum, destroying much of the collection. One of the surviving works by Carver is a painting of a yucca and a cactus, displayed at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. In addition to the museum, Carver also established the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee, with the aim of supporting future agricultural research.
A project to erect a national monument in Carver's honor also began before his death. Harry S. Truman, then a senator from Missouri, sponsored a bill in favor of a monument during World War II. Supporters of the bill argued that the wartime expenditure was warranted because the monument would promote patriotic fervor among African-Americans and encourage them to enlist in the military. The bill passed unanimously in both houses.
In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated $30,000 for the monument west of Diamond, Missouri—the site of the plantation where Carver lived as a child. This was the first national monument dedicated to an African-American. The 210-acre complex includes a statue of Carver as well as a nature trail, museum and cemetery.
Carver appeared on U.S. commemorative postal stamps in 1948 and 1998, as well as a commemorative half dollar coin minted between 1951 and 1954. Numerous schools bear his name, as do two United States military vessels. In 2005, the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis opened a George Washington Carver garden, which includes a life-size statue of the garden's famous namesake. These honors attest to George Washington Carver's enduring legacy as an icon of African-American achievement, and of American ingenuity more broadly. Carver's life has come to symbolize the transformative potential of education, even for those born into the most unfortunate and difficult of circumstances.
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