Throughout America's history, African Americans have been shortchanged in being recognized for their achievements and contributions. Nevertheless, there have been African-Americans who have influenced America entirely. One particula r African-American is George Washington Carver. Carver's 300 plus discoveries--from peanuts, potatoes, and cotton--obviously have allowed him to burst through the glass ceiling.

Born as a slave on a Missouri farm near Diamond Grove in 1864, Carver received a B.S. from the Iowa Agricultural College in 1894 and an M.S. in 1896. He became a member of the faculty of Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechani cs in charge of the schoolís bacterial laboratory work in the Systematic Botany department. Carverís development of industrial applications from farm products is called chemurgy. The term chemurgy is used because of the wide and substantial impact of his exploration of farm products in industrial uses. The derivation of chemurgist comes from combining chemist with metallurgist. According to this interpretation, Dr. Carver was creating new combinations of products withou t trying to create new chemical compounds. Since Dr. Carver did not have a formal chemical education, this makes his explorations even more impressive. Dr. Carver was a true gentleman scientist.

Carver developed 325 products from peanuts. One product that was developed from the peanut was detergent, and everyday soap can be included in this category also. Today, detergent is utilized when everyone washes their clothes. Ot her peanut products synthesized by George Washington Carver were paints and dyes. Carver synthesized and manipulated the peanut's pigment to obtain different colors of paint and dye.


Carver produced 118 applications for sweet potatoes. One of these amazing discoveries was fuel alcohol. Fuel alcohol can be used to run small engines, such as lawn mowers and mopeds. Flour, the basic ingredient in one of the fou r basic food groups, is also amalgamated from the sweet potato, not to mention other products, such as glue and starch. These are all synthesized from the sweet potato.

Carver also derived 75 products from cotton. One product that has emerged from Carver's tenacious work with cotton is the rug. Today, cotton rugs are in many households in America. From the usage of cotton, Carver is also responsible for the forma tion of asphalt. Today, asphalt is a major component of America's interstate/highway system. Paper cordage and insulating boards are also products of Carver's innovation with cotton products.

Overcoming racism, bigotry, and ignorance, George Washington Carver was honored by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on July 14, 1943. President Roosevelt issued $30,000 for a national monument to be dedicated to Carverís accomplishmen ts. The area of Carver's childhood near Diamond Grove, Missouri has been preserved as a park, with a bust of the agricultural researcher, instructor, and chemical investigator. This park was the first designated national monument to an African American in the United States. George Washington Carver was awarded an honorary doctorate from Simpson College in 1928. He received the Spingarn Medal in 1923, which is given every year by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The Spingarn Medal is bestowed upon the black person who has made the greatest contribution to the advancement of his race. Carver definitely proves that African Americans influence and shape America as we know it.

---H. Douglas Dixon