A Multi-faceted African American intellectual, Benjamin Banneker, is known for his rare and remarkable achievement for compiling almanacs. He also was an expert in mathematics and astronomy during the American Revolution period. Banneker played a vital role as a civil rights activist to safeguard legal rights for slaves in US history. To summarize, he is famous as the first American scientist of African origin.
We have compiled 10 interesting facts about this remarkable personality for our readers below.
Benjamin Banneker: 10 exciting and eye-opening facts about the African-American scientist
1. Banneker was an African American Scientist
Born on November 9, 1731, in Baltimore, Maryland, Benjamin Banneker’s mother was an African American while his father was a former slave. Therefore, this made Banneker among several African-Americans who were not born as slaves. Some biographers have maintained that Banneker’s mother, Mary, was the child of Molly Welsh. Molly was a Briton, which made Banneker an unbound slave. Authors still are unclear about the specifics of Banneker’s childhood.
2. Benjamin Banneker was a self-made personality
When Benjamin was a teenager, a Christian sect, called Quakers, rose in the middle of the 17th century in Britain. The Quakers became popular because they supported equal rights for everyone irrespective of the caste, creed, or race. Quakers were also staunch supporters of the anti-slavery movement. Benjamin met Peter Heinrichs, who was a Quaker, and soon they two became friends, an interesting fact about Benjamin Banneker.
Heinrichs allowed Benjamin to visit his library and borrow books. This room was the only place for him where he studied and learned, including everything about advanced mathematics and astronomy. Borrowed books proved a blessing for Benjamin.
3. Benjamin remained a farmer all his life
Banneker family was the owner of a 100-acre farm near Patapsco River valley in the rural area of Baltimore County. According to historians, Benjamin grew up and spent all his life there. During his childhood days, Benjamin used to help his family members with work at the farm. Despite being an intellectual, his primary profession was a peasant.
4. Banneker developed a wooden time piece
When Benjamin Banneker was in his early twenties, he built a wooden clock after studying books and a borrowed pocket watch. The clock which he made worked for over 40 years, and it was made entirely with wooden material. The claim, whether the clock was the first wooden timepiece build in American, cannot be validated. The United US Postal Service also credited Banneker for this remarkable development. Nevertheless, it was a critical development and added credibility to his intellect.
5. Banneker Made a Prediction about 1789 Solar Eclipse
An Ellicott family shifted to Baltimore County and settled near Banneker’s place. They were Quakers, and George Ellicott developed friendship with Banneker as George was interested in astronomy. Benjamin borrowed books and equipment from George to study in detail about astronomy with great interest. It was in 1788 when he made astronomical calculations and made a prediction about the 1789 solar eclipse. Several of the senior astronomers and mathematicians of his time criticized him, but his timely prediction brought laurels to him, an important fact about Benjamin Banneker.
6. Benjamin was part of the team to survey the land of US Capital
It was in 1791 that Major Andrew Ellicott led a team of surveyors to survey the land for the US Capital city, and Benjamin Banneker was selected and made part of the team, i.e., District of Columbia Commission. Later, that city became Washington, DC. Benjamin’s job was to perform astronomical computations and observations. Unfortunately, he was not able to continue work due to his illness.
When Pierre Charles L’Enfant resigned and left the commission, Banneker had to reproduce the entire city plan from his memory, which saved valuable time.
7. Almanacs Series brought fame to Benjamin
Benjamin Banneker wrote Almanacs and Ephemeris series entitled Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. His almanacs series comprised information about astronomical observations, literature, and medicines. The almanacs were published every year between 1792 and 1797 and sold in 4 states and 6 cities. The series became a success and brought fame and popularity to Benjamin, an interesting fact about Benjamin Banneker.
8. Thomas Jefferson and Wilberforce praised Benjamin’s work
Benjamin sent a letter to Thomas Jefferson, who was the US Secretary of State in 1791. He criticized Jefferson for holding slaves and, along with the message, attached a hand-written unpublished manuscript of his upcoming Almanac for 1792. In his reply to Banneker, Jefferson appreciated the work done by him irrespective of his race. William Wilberforce, an abolitionist in British House of Commons, also praised Banneker’s work.
9. Banneker died a month before his 75th birthday
As he grew old, Benjamin sold a large portion of his land to Ellicotts because he wanted to focus his attention on some other tasks. Besides his remarkable work on astronomy, Banneker published a research paper on bees and a locust production cycle. Benjamin died on October 9, 1806, a month before his 75th birthday. A fire broke out during his funeral, which burned all of his papers and belongings, a sad fact about Benjamin Banneker. Benjamin did not marry nor had any children.
He was laid to rest at Oella Maryland Mount Gilboa African Methodist Episcopal Church.
10. US Government issued a commemorative postage stamp
Benjamin Banner is still the most widely praised African American personality across the US for his variety of work. It was due to this that the US government issued a commemorative postage stamp in February 1980. Besides this, several buildings, schools, and other iconic places in the US have been named after Benjamin Banneker.
So, this was all about the first African American multi-faceted personality. He also worked at the District of Columbia Commission during President Washington’s tenure. He became a legend after his death.
Banneker’s inventions and almanacs continue to inspire later generations. In the year 1996, the US Government auctioned Benjamin’s belongings while the remaining were given to Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum. Maryland Historical Society took custody of the manuscripts and journals that survived during the fire, which destroyed his personal belongings.
So, this was all about an intellectual and genius personality.
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