Interesting Facts on Benjamin Banneker

Interesting Facts on Benjamin Banneker

(November 9th, 1731- October 9th, 1806)

  • He was born in Baltimore County Maryland to a free black woman and a father who was a freed slave from Guinea. He lived on his family’s 100-acre farmland for most of his life. He only had a little formal education because he had to help his father on the farm.
  • At the age of 22, he invented the first wooden clock that struck the hour. The clock worked until his death.
  • In 1788 a man named George Elliot who believed in the equality of all races loaned Banneker books & equipment. These books and equipment were on the study of astronomy. Within a year Banneker was able to calculate a solar eclipse.
  • In 1790 he prepared an ephemeris (a diary giving the position of naturally occurring astronomical objects) for 1791, however, he could find no one to publish his work.
  • He was hired by Major Andrew Ellicott who was under Thomas Jefferson as a replacement to assist in the initial survey of the boundaries of soon to be Washington DC. He made astronomical observations in Virginia to measure the location of the starting point of the Survey. He had a clock that related points on the ground to the positions of the stars at specific times. He could not complete the project due to ill health.
  • He returned to his farm and began to make astronomical Calculations. His astronomical calculations predicted eclipses and planetary conjunctions. He published theses calculations in an ephemeris for the year 1792.
  • He had a 6-year series of almanacs ( an annual publication that includes information such as weather forecast, farmers planting dates and tide tables) and he found printers to publish and sell them. They were printed in 4 American states. In his 1793 Almanac, he published written letters between him and Thomas Jefferson where he expressed his views on slavery. He also added a copy of “a plan of a piece office” written by Benjamin Rush.
  • Benjamin Banneker never got married; he died in a log cabin exactly a month before he turned 75. His obituary stated:

Mr Banneker is a prominent instance to prove that a descendant of Africa is susceptible of as great mental improvement and deep knowledge of the mysteries of nature as that of any other nation.”

  • Some sources say the London Big Ben was named after him because of his invention of the wooden clock. However, some Europeans say this in untrue. I guess it is hard to know the truth because a lot of black inventors at that time never got credit for their inventions.
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