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Missouri History in Science and Technology: George Washington Carver (1864?-1943)

Photo gallery

Photo of George Washington Carver as a student at Iowa Agricultural College/Iowa Sate University

George Washington Carver: Inventor, Scientist, Educator with author Dr. Gary Kremer on Livestream (60 mins). Also available on the library's Facebook page.

Sculpture honoring George Washington Carver in the Carver Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.
Photo: John W. Schulze

George Washington Carver (1864?-1943)

George Washington Carver is one of the most famous Missourians. Known primarily as "the Peanut Man", Carver's research gained him international recognition as an agricultural chemist, a conservationist, and an inventor.

Born in Diamond, MO, Carver survived a childhood marked by an attempted kidnapping (with his mother, by bushwackers) and frequent illness (he was not expect to live to adulthood).  Raised by his mother's owners, George's frail health forced him indoors where Susan Carver taught him basic chores. She also taught George to read and write. 

Working in the garden piqued Carver's interest in nature and plants. He eventually attended college, State Agricultural College - now Iowa State University - earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in agriculture. 

In 1896, Carver joined Tuskegee Institute as head of the Agricultural Department.  As a researcher, he wanted his work to improve the lives of poor farmers - black and white. He recommended methods to improve crop yield, such as systematic crop rotation to replace soil nutrients depleted by farming cotton. He also demonstrated alternative uses for their cash crops (e.g. turning sweet potatoes into flour, animal feed, dyes, starch, sugar or library paste), as well as encouraged better nutrition - peanuts are a cheap source of protein.

Carver died in 1943; his life savings of $60,000 was donated for the museum and foundation he'd established while at Tuskegee. The U.S. National Park Service manages the George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, MO.