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African American Scientists

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

Benjamin Banneker mural cropped

  • Born in 1731 in Oella, Maryland to farmer parents
  • Only formal education was in a one room schoolhouse during his childhood
  • Curious and a voracious reader, Banneker taught himself a number of subjects based on readings and observation.
  • Banneker met George Ellicott in 1771, who taught him how to use a telescope, and who sparked his interest in astronomy. 
  • In 1791. Banneker joined a team of surveyors, tasked with laying out a plan for Washington DC in 1791 using astronomical data, which Banneker provided.
  • He began working on his own almanac, Benjamin Banneker's Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia Almanack and Ephemeris, published yearly from 1792 to 1797.
  • His publications gained international acclaim and his calculations were compared favorably to those of more classically trained astronomers, and were even lauded by then secretary of state Thomas Jefferson 

Image credit:  Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons