Benjamin Banneker

1731-1806

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His Early Years

  • Born November 9, 1731 in Ellicott's Mills (Ellicott City), Maryland
  • One of only 200 freed blacks in a total population of 17,000
  • Taught to read by his maternal grandmother and attended a Quaker school in the winter for mathematics and writing
  • Preferred books to active play and taught himself many things by watching the stars and borrowing books

Banneker's Secret to Success

A curiosity and fascination with the stars, clocks, and books led Banneker to his achievements in astronomy and mathematics.
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Banneker's Astounding Accomplishments in Mathematics and Life

  1. Created his own wooden clock that struck on the hour for nearly 40 years (1752, age 21).
  2. Accurately predicted the solar eclipse in 1789, that contradicted many renowned mathematicians and astronomers of that day (age 57).
  3. Selected by George Washington to survey the area that would become Washington, D.C. in 1791 (age 60).
  4. Benjamin Banneker's Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanac and Ephemeris: medicines, tides, eclipses, and other astronomical information determined by Banneker were included. (1792-1802)
  5. Through his work and his support for peace, Banneker disproved Thomas Jefferson's idea of black inferiority.
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Banneker's Last Days

He walked his land in Maryland and kept working on his scientific studies up until the day he died (October 9, 1806). When he died, his house burned down, along with the clock that he had created.

Banneker Today

References

Famous Mathematicians: Benjamin Banneker
http://www.famous-mathematicians.com/benjamin-banneker/

Mathematicians of the African Diaspora: Benjamin Banneker
http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/special/banneker-benjamin.html

Africans in America: People and Events- Benjamin Banneker
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p84.html

America's Story from America's Library: Mathematician and Astronomer Benjamin Banneker
http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/colonial/jb_colonial_banneker_1.html