Born on November 9, 1731 to a free African American mother and former slave, Benjamin Banneker was a self-taught mathematician, astronomer, and inventor. Banneker’s family established a farm in present-day Ellicott City, Maryland, where Banneker would live throughout his life. As a child, Banneker attended a Quaker school. Quakers believed in racial equality and spearheaded the anti-slavery movement. While at school, Banneker showed his skills with mathematics, but by age 15, he was required to return to his family’s farm to work. At age 22, Banneker built a wooden clock, using a pocket watch as his model. Each gear was a scaled replica of the ones in the watch and was carved by hand. Banneker’s clock, which worked for over 40 years, was the first wooden clock made in the United States. With his exceptional mathematical skills, Banneker was also a gifted astronomer. Using mathematics and astronomy knowledge he had gained from his neighbor George Ellicott, he was able to predict a solar eclipse on April 14, 1789. Beginning in 1792, Banneker began publishing a series of almanacs, which featured a tide chart for the Chesapeake Bay and weather information along with anti-slavery essays and poems. Banneker was also a member of the survey crew which helped determine the location of Washington, DC. Along with his scientific works, Banneker was also corresponded with Thomas Jefferson about the state of slavery in the United States.
Items in Our Collection:
Benjamin Banneker : surveyor, astronomer, publisher, patriot by Charles A Cerami
The life of Benjamin Banneker : the first African-American man of science by Silvio A Bedini
A Salute to Black scientists and inventors. by Empak Enterprises