Alexander Miles
  Elijah McCoy
  Lewis Latimer
  Jan Ernst Matzeliger
  Granville T. Woods
George Washington Carver
  Madam C. J. Walker
  Garrett Morgan
  Dr. Charles Richard Drew
  Otis Boykin
  James E. West
  Dr. Patricia Bath
  Lonnie G. Johnson
  Mark Dean

Famous African American Inventors

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George Washington Carver


Carver revolutionized agriculture in the South, transforming its economy.

Background: Carver was born near Diamond Grove, Mo., to enslaved parents. His exact birthdate is unknown, but is estimated to be around 1864. (Many people born into slavery never knew their exact birthdates.) Orphaned as an infant, he was raised by Moses and Susan Carver, the owners of the plantation. Susan Carver taught him the basics of reading and writing. George left the plantation at a young age to pursue an education, since no schools where he lived accepted African Americans. He attended several schools, living with foster parents for those years, before finally graduating high school.

Invention: Carver studied botany at the Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University). In 1896, Booker T. Washington recruited him to the Tuskegee Institute's agriculture school. There, Carver taught a groundbreaking crop rotation method. The South badly needed the new agricultural technique. The land was worn out by cotton growing because cotton drains the soil of its nutrients. Carver advised planting cotton one year, then soil-enriching peanuts or sweet potatoes the next. Southern farmers followed his lead to great success, yielding peanut surpluses that many used to feed livestock. Carver also famously developed more than 300 uses for peanuts, from ink to hand lotion to cooking oil. While the common myth that he invented peanut butter is untrue, he did help popularize the food. Even President Theodore Roosevelt asked for Carver's advice on agricultural matters.

Did You Know? In 1943, Carver's birthplace was declared a national monument, the first United States memorial dedicated to an African American. Congress also declared January 5th as George Washington Carver Day.