Mathematician, Astronomer, Surveyor
Birthplace: Ellicot's Mills, MD
Benjamin Banneker has been called the first African-American intellectual. Self-taught,
after studying the inner workings of a friend's watch, he made one of wood
that accurately kept time for more than 40 years. Banneker taught himself
astronomy well enough to correctly predict a solar eclipse in 1789. From
1791 to 1802 he published the Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia
Almanac and Ephemeris
, which contained tide tables, future eclipses,
and medicinal formulas. It is believed to be the first scientific book published
by an African American. Also a surveyor and mathematician, Banneker was
appointed by President George Washington to the District of Columbia Commission,
which was responsible for the survey work that established the city's original
boundaries. When the chairman of the committee, Pierre Charles L'Enfant,
suddenly resigned and left, taking the plans with him, Banneker reproduced
the plans from memory, saving valuable time. A staunch opponent of slavery,
Banneker sent a copy of his first almanac to then-Secretary of State Thomas
Jefferson to counter Jefferson's belief in the intellectual inferiority
Benjamin Banneker's Letter
Explores the letter Banneker wrote Jefferson concerning slavery.
Additional information on Banneker.
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