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The fascinating Mr. Carver

July 18, 2011 - Karin Elton
On July 19, 1942, the agricultural chemist George Washington Carver, head of Alabama's Tuskegee Institute, arrived in Dearborn, Mich., at the invitation of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Co.,” according to

I’m always fascinated how people can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Carver was born to slave parents and went on to get his master’s degree and became a well-known and respected scientist.

“Turned away by a Kansas university because he was an African American, Carver later became the first black student at Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames.”

Good for you, Ames, Iowa! What a legacy.

“By convincing farmers in the South to plant peanuts as an alternative to cotton, Carver helped resuscitate the region's agriculture.”

Another fascinating tidbit is that Ford “long believed that the world would eventually need a substitute for gasoline, and supported the production of ethanol (or grain alcohol) as an alternative fuel.”

According to the Iowa State University website, “Carver was the first African American to enroll at Iowa State College, becoming one of its most distinguished graduates. He arrived in Ames thanks to the encouragement of a faculty member at Simpson College in Indianola who noted his interest in plants. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1894, he went on to graduate school and joined the staff of the horticulture department as manager of the experiment station greenhouse. He received his master’s degree in 1896, then left for the Tuskegee Institute where, during a lifetime career as director of agricultural research, he won world acclaim for the development of hundreds of profitable uses for products like cotton, peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes.

Fast fact: While at Iowa State, Carver was a student leader involved in the YMCA, the debate club and other activities. He was captain of the campus military regiment. His poetry was published in the student newspaper, and two of his paintings were exhibited at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.”

Quite an achiever.


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