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Spotlight on George Washington Carver, the Ultimate Creative Technologist



A creative technologist is someone who tackles solving problems with a mix of technology and design; that was what George Washington Carver embodied before the term was even coined. Dubbed ‘The Wizard of Tuskegee’, Carver excelled at many things. He is most remembered for his reverence for nature and his unwavering dedication to supporting poor black farmers.


George Washington Carver was born into slavery near Diamond, Missouri, a western frontier village in either 1864 or 1865, as he recalls. Separated from his mother, Mary, at a very early age, he was raised by older German immigrants, Moses and Sarah Carver, alongside his older brother, Jim. He lived on a farm that boasted over 200 acres of grains and grasses, an orchard, and a vegetable garden.



Due to his sickly nature as a child, Carver was often excused from performing farming chores during his youth. Many of his duties were limited to more domestic chores such as mending clothes, cooking, laundry, and his favorite activity, working in the family garden. Tending to the garden and growing up near woods and wildlife gave George an appreciation for nature at an early age and it carried over throughout the rest of his life.


It is not entirely known that this future botanist and agricultural scientist once had aspirations of becoming an artist. His first love was painting and more often than not, flowers and plants were the subjects. George Washington Carver's life is a remarkable story of resilience in the face of adversity, but also one that centers the thirst for knowledge. He knew a lot more than his early teachers simply from the questions he would ask, questions they never had encountered.


These questions led him to Simpson College, where he studied the arts, and Iowa State, where he studied agriculture. He participated in groups such as the Welsh Electric Society (a campus debating club), the Art Club, and the German club. He organized the Agricultural Society, arranged prayer meetings with other devout students, and also became the first trainer and masseur for the Iowa State football team. In addition, Carver also had to perform various odd jobs in order to get by but his grades and studies were never neglected. He really got it done by any means necessary.


Carver’s laboratory work at Tuskegee Institute in the first two decades of the 20th century contributed greatly to his growing reputation as a creative chemist. It took Booker T. Washington several letter exchanges to get Carver to come to Tuskegee and once that decision was made, Carver never looked back.

Carver began raising peanuts at Tuskegee’s experiment station around 1903. Like soybeans, lentils, and other legumes, peanuts are edible seeds that grow in pods. Still, most people think of them as nuts, along with tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts. Ultimately, Carver developed more than 300 products including foods, beverages, dyes and cosmetics that were derived from peanuts.


By 1921, when he appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee to discuss the many uses of the peanut, he was on the verge of becoming a nationally recognized scientist and became a revered public figure.


These questions led him to Simpson College, where he studied the arts, and Iowa State, where he studied agriculture. He participated in groups such as the Welsh Electric Society (a campus debating club), the Art Club, and the German club. He organized the Agricultural Society, arranged prayer meetings with other devout students, and also became the first trainer and masseur for the Iowa State football team. In addition, Carver also had to perform various odd jobs in order to get by, but his grades and studies were never neglected. He really got it done by any means necessary.


Written by Brittany Wallace

Edited by Naomi Arroyo

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