An inventor and chemist who dedicated his life to knowledge and making the world a better place, George Washington Carver (1860-1943) was born on this day to slave parents in Diamond Grove, Missouri.
A sickly child, he showed an interest in nature and science early on. He'd take long walks through the woods and collect plants, earning the nickname, "the Plant Doctor."
"My work, my life, must be in the spirit of a little child seeking only to know the truth and follow it," he once said.
Because of post-Civil War life, Carver's quest for higher education in science was a challenge. It took him 20 years to get his degree. Finally, in 1894, he became the first African American to graduate from Iowa State Agricultural College at Ames. "When you can do the common things in an uncommon way," he observed, "you will command the attention of the world."
With the goal "to be of the greatest good to the greatest number of people" and at the urging of his friend Booker T. Washington, Carver served the next 47 years as the Director of the Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama as a scientist, teacher, and humanitarian.
With passionate dedication to research, he advocated crop rotation and compost use. He offered new options besides cotton for Southern farmers--sweet potato, soybean, and his most famous, the wonderful peanut that replenishes the nutrients in the soil.
"The Wizard of Tuskeegee" found over 300 products made from the peanut such as cooking oil, mayonnaise, cheese, plastics, printer's ink, and face powder... and another 150 different uses for the sweet potato, including molasses, vinegar, and shoe blacking ink.
With understated grace, this miracle worker and hero dedicated his life to goodness: "One of the things that has helped me as much as any other is not how long I am going to live but how much I can do while living."
Live with tenderness, sympathy, tolerance, and compassion.