Continuing along with our Discovery Journey about George Washington Carver’s unique and storied career and his amazing work with the peanut, let’s look at some of the things he is credited with doing in that area.
From the website Biography. com, Sara Kettler notes that “he was known for his work with peanuts (though he did not invent peanut butter, as some may believe and possibly were even taught in grade school). However, there’s a lot more to this scientist and inventor than simply being “the Peanut Man.”
“Even as a child, Carver was interested in nature. As he was excused from any physically demanding work because of his poor health, he used that time to study plants. His talents flourished to the extent that neighbors and friends started to ask him for help with their ailing vegetation.
“In a 1922 interview, he recalled, ‘Often the people of the neighborhood who had plants would say to me, ‘George, my fern is sick. See what you can do with it.’ So I would take their plants off to my garden and soon have them blooming again. At this time I had never heard of botany and could scarcely read.’ “Though Carver would continue to gain new skills and increase in wisdom over the years, the path he’d follow in life was already cast in stone. Besides peanuts, Carver’s research also involved clays, seeds and sweet potatoes. So why is his name associated with just one legume? It is no doubt due in large part to an appearance he made before the House Ways and Means Committee.
“In 1920, Carver spoke at the United Peanut Association of America’s convention. He was such a success that the group decided to have him tell Congress about peanuts and the need for a tariff in January of 1921. Though his congressional presentation didn’t start out well — the representatives weren’t predisposed to listen to a black man — Carver eventually won over the entire committee. They were drawn into his testimony that covered many of the products Carver had created with peanuts, such as flour, milk, dyes and cheese; they ended up inviting him to take as much time as he needed to talk.
“After his appearance, peanuts and Carver were intertwined in the public’s mind. The scientist didn’t mind the association; however, when asked in 1938 if his work with peanuts was his best, Carver answered: ‘No, but it has been featured more than my other work.’ “Carver was a friend, colleague or associate to a veritable “Who’s Who” of the 20th century. This began in 1896, when Booker T. Washington (the founder of Tuskegee Institute) hired him to oversee the agricultural department at the school. Between 1919 and 1926, Carver corresponded with John Harvey Kellogg (think Corn Flakes), since they held a shared an interest in food and health. Carver and automaker Henry Ford quickly struck up a friendship after their meeting in 1937. Carver would stop by Ford’s laboratory in Dearborn, Mich., and Ford himself visited Tuskegee in Alabama. Ford also gave the funds to install an elevator in Carver’s dormitory as the scientist grew weaker in his later years. But if that’s not amazing enough, George Washington Carver’s connections also extended outside the United States.
“Supporters of Mahatma Gandhi asked Carver for advice about how Gandhi could build up strength in between his hunger strikes. And the famous Indian leader wrote Carver to thank him for sending agricultural bulletins. Sadly, Carver filed only three patents on the products he’d developed. As he explained, ‘One reason I never patented my products is that if I did, it would take so much time I would get nothing else done. But mainly I don’t want any discoveries to benefit specific favored persons. I think they should be available to all peoples.’ In 1917, Carter revealed what motivated him: ‘Well, some day I will have to leave this world. And when that day comes, I want to feel that my life has been of some service to my fellow man.’ By the time he passed away in 1943, everyone knew he lived just such a life.”
“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” (George Washington Carver)
Fred Robinson is the owner of Rabbit Ridge Nursery in Coats.
Reach him at Fred@RabbitRidgeNursery.com or call 910-897-2639.