Benjamin Banneker was born a free African American on a farm in Maryland. He was the grandson of a freed slave who brought a great deal of knowledge of Astronomy from Africa to Virginia.
Benjamin learned about the movement of the stars, sun, moon and planets from his grandmother, and later studied in the library of a Quaker who moved nearby.
When Benjamin Banneker was given a watch to study, he made a model of it in wood. It was the first striking clock totally manufactured in America.
Benjamin Banneker dug ditches and built dams to irrigate his farm so that the family could grow good crops even in years of drought. Due to his work, the family farm was very successful.
Benjamin used his astronomy knowledge in surveying the land that later became the city of Washington, DC.
When he was too old to work outdoors, he returned to his farm and wrote an ephemeris. An ephemeris is a book that predicts movement of planets and stars. He predicted eclipses of the sun and moon accurately. Benjamin also wrote almanacs and kept journals.
Benjamin Banneker was strongly anti-slavery, and corresponded with Thomas Jefferson on the matter. He pointed out to Jefferson that in the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson claimed that freedom was God-given. Benjamin pointed out that it was with fraud and violence that kept slaves from enjoying the same freedoms. Jefferson replied that Africans were incapable of living free.
After Benjamin Banneker died, Jefferson told others that Benjamin Banneker's almanacs were not his own work, but done with help. Banneker's neighbors, the Ellicott brothers, gave all credit for the work to Benjamin.
Benjamin Banneker was the first African-American scientist!
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Page created October 20, 2009. Anne Pemberton. Updated Mon, Jan 23, 2012. AP.