Sunday, February 6, 2011

Celebrating Black History Month

It's February and time to recognize some of the African Americans who have helped to make our lives better.

Since my passion is gardening, I thought that I would focus on some inventors who through their inventions directly affect me.

Lets start with Benjamin Banneker: He was a free African American who lived from November 9, 1731 - October 9, 1806.  He was an astronomer, mathematician, surveyor, almanac author and farmer. He also fought against slavery and was one of the first African Americans to gain distinction in science.

Woodcut portrait of Benjamin Banneker in title page of a Baltimore edition of his 1795 Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanac

Now lets take a look at one of my favorites, George Washington Carver! He is believed to have been born in January 1864 and lived until January 5,1943.  He was an American scientist, botanist educator and inventor. This amazing man turned down an invitation to work for a salary of more than $100,000.00 to continue research on behalf of his countrymen. Mr. Carver discovered 300 uses for peanuts and hundreds more uses for soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes. This agricultural chemist encouraged southern farmers to plant these crops, among others to help themselves economically.

These two gentlemen I have known about since I was a child, but the next group of inventors I discovered while doing research for this article. I hope you will enjoy meeting them.

Can you imagine life in the garden without a lawnmower?  Well neither can I. And apparently neither could John Anthony Burr.  On May 9,1899, patented an improved rotary blade lawn mower. Mr. Burr designed a lawn mower with traction wheels and a rotary blade that was designed to not easily get plugged up from lawn clippings. He also improved the design of lawn mowers by making it possible to mow closer to building and wall edges.  Thank you John Anthony Burr!

An early Victa rotary mower - National Museum

Now in keeping with the lawn theme, lets meet the African American inventor credited with completing the first rotary lawn sprinkler in 1897, making a spinning head that sent water from two exits. That would be J.H. Smith.

History of the Lawn Sprinkler

My last tribute goes out to Powell Johnson. Safety glasses protect the eyes from flying material. While eye glasses were invented in the late 13th century AD the first United States patent for eye protectors was issued on November 2, 1880. Mr Powell Johnson, an African American was the inventor of eye protectors. I don't mow or trim without mine.

So here are just a few of the African American inventors that made contributions that have made all of our lives better; especially when it comes to gardening.

I hope this article has been educational as well as interesting and entertaining
I certainly had fun writing it.

Until next time,

Happy Gardening

No comments: