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Profile of the Day: George Washington Carver

Today marks the 81st anniversary of the death of botanist and inventor George Washington Carver. Born into slavery, George would rise to become one of the most prominent scientists of his time. He revolutionized the agriculture industry by developing new crop rotation methods to better conserve nutrients in the soil.

Image: George Washington Carver / Library of Congress

George was born in Diamond, Missouri in 1864, shortly before the end of slavery. His mother, Mary, was a slave owned by Moses Carver, a German immigrant and farmer. During the Civil War, an infant George and his mother were kidnapped during a raid on the farm. Although George was eventually recovered, his mother was not. After slavery was abolished, Moses and his wife raised George and his brother as their own children and encouraged them to pursue an education.

After earning a masters degree in agriculture, George became the head of the Agriculture Department at the Tuskegee Institute, where he remained for the rest of his life. Determined to use his knowledge to help poor farmers in the rural South, George developed a new crop rotation to better preserve the nutrients in the soil. He also advocated for farmers to grow alternative crops, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes, to help restore nitrogen in the soil. He focused on developing new uses for these crops and earned the nickname “the Peanut Man” for his research into alternate uses for peanuts. He would come to discover over 300 uses!

George died on January 5, 1943 at the age of 78 after suffering a fall in his home. He was buried next to Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute. His epitaph reads: “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”

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