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Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker was one of the first well known African American scientists and mathematicians. He was born on November 9, 1731 to an ex slave named Robert, and Mary Banneky, the daughter of an Englishwoman and a free African slave. He grew up on his parents farm along with three of his sisters where he was taught how to read and write by his mother and grandmother. He received very little formal education, other than a short time spent at the Quaker country school. Most of his knowledge came from extensive reading and self education. From an early age, as soon as he learned to read, Banneker would read the Bible aloud to his family. Soon, he taught himself literature, history, astronomy and mathematics.

Banneker inherited and successfully ran his father’s farm, which he expanded by growing tobacco. In the meantime, he continued to learn and experiment on his own. In 1761, he manufactured a wooden clock from scratch, despite the fact that all he had ever seen before in his life was one pocket watch. He carved out all the components of the clock by hand, and it functioned perfectly. Banneker had a deep interest in astronomy, developed after his neighbor, George Ellicott, lent him several books on the subject. He also borrowed Ellicott’s telescope and instruments and began studying the subject on his own.

Banneker worked with a surveyor named Major Andrew Ellicott who was responsible for mapping out the Federal Territory. Banneker joined Ellicott as his scientific assistant. Soon after, he published his first almanac, that is, an annual publication that includes information about weather forecasts, plantation dates, tides etc, usually arranged according to the calendar. Banneker made accurate forecasts about solar and lunar eclipses, and his almanac was published each year between 1792 and 1797.

Benjamin Banneker was one of the most intelligent men of his time, but his genius was not limited to the field of science. He had strong political views which he chose to express openly and worked towards achieving. The

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