George Washington Carver was an agricultural chemist who developed crop-rotation methods for conserving nutrients in soil and discovered hundreds of new uses for crops that didnít seem that useful such as the peanut, which created new markets for farmers, especially in the South.
Carver was born to slave parents in Diamond Grove, Missouri, he was rescued from Confederate kidnappers as an infant. He began his education in Newton County in southwest Missouri, where he worked as a farm hand and studied in an one-room schoolhouse. He then went to Minneapolis High School in Kansas. Though denied admission to Highland University because he was black, Carver gained acceptance to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, in 1887.
Because he was planning on a career in agricultural science, he transferred to Iowa Agricultural College ,now Iowa State University, in 1891 and gained a B.S. in 1894 and an M.S. in agriculture in 1897. Later that year Booker T. Washington convinced Carver to come south and serve as the school's director of agriculture at the Tuskegee Institute.
This is where Carver developed his crop rotation method, which alternated nitrate producing legumes-such as peanuts and peas-with cotton, which depletes soil of its nutrients. Following Carver's lead, southern farmers soon began planting peanuts one year and cotton the next. While many of the peanuts were used to feed livestock, large surpluses quickly developed. To find uses for these surpluses Carver developed 325 different uses for the extra peanuts-from cooking oil to printers ink. When he discovered that the sweet potato and the pecan also enriched depleted soils, Carver found almost 20 uses for these crops, including synthetic rubber and material for paving highways.
Upon his death, Carver contributed his life savings to establish a research institute at Tuskegee. His birthplace was declared a national monument in 1953.
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