The Carver family was purchased by Moses Carver, a white farm owner who needed help maintaining his property. Moses and his wife raised George and his brother, James, like their own children. The boys were taught to read and write, which was uncommon for the time period. While living with the Carver’s, George learned to cook, do laundry, garden and even create herbal medicines.
Carver left the farm to attend a school for African Americans in a neighboring town. He was taken in by an African American couple, the Watkins, who allowed him to live in their home in exchange for completing household chores. He was also able to increase his knowledge of medicinal herbs through his stay with the Watkins.
After graduating high school in 1880, Carver attended the Iowa State Agricultural School (now Iowa State University) to study botany. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1894. Two years later he earned his Master of Agriculture degree and took a position working at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama with Booker T. Washington.
While teaching at Tuskegee, Carver was responsible for tasks such as teaching, managing the school’s farms and serving on different committees and councils. Carver also worked on research projects that allowed him to discover crop rotation techniques and teach poor farmers new methods for growing their crops.
Carver found peanuts to be abundant is usage. He created hundreds of industrial and commercial products from peanuts, including milk, cooking oils, paper, cosmetics and soaps. He even experimented with peanut-based medicines like laxatives and antiseptics.
He spent the remainder of his career traveling the South speaking on race relations and to developing countries speaking on nutrition. He also released public bulletins that featured cultivation information for farmers, science updates for teachers and recipes for housewives.
George Washington Carver died on January 5, 1943, at 78 years old. His legacy is remembered by The George Washington Carver National Monument which was commissioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990.
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