Interesting Benjamin Banneker Facts for Kids
Benjamin Banneker was a man before his time. He is an African American that was completely self-taught. He was a mathematician, astronomer, tinker and author. He fought against great odds to self-educate himself in a time when African Americans had no rights and were never allowed to attend school.
There are many anecdotal stories about this great mind. One refers to a clock that he built. Without ever really seeing a watch, other than viewing a friends pocket watch he devised a clock made entirely from wood that ran until after his death. He used season wood to carve out the gears.
He was born in Baltimore County Maryland in 1731 to an African freed slave and his mixed heritage mother who was the daughter of a freed slave and an English mother. His mother may have given him the advantage that he needed to foster a love of learning.
His mother and his grandmother taught him to read and he would practice reading every night by reading the bible to his family. He did attend a Quaker school as a child for a couple of years but that was the only formal education that he had.
He pursued education on his own throughout his life time and taught himself literature, math and other subjects simply for the love of learning. At 58 he fell in love with the stars and began mapping out the constellations with a borrowed telescope and tools.
He created an almanac of where the planets would be on each day of the year. He was met with many rejection slips before he was finally published.
Dialog with Jefferson
Benjamin Banneker was truly a man before his time. He communicated with Thomas Jefferson with regards to the slave trade in the US and other issues and Mr. Jefferson, including his calculations. The letter opened up the door to multiple correspondences between the two.
The correspondence was than published in a pamphlet. Jefferson forwarded Benjamin’s calculations to Marquis de Condorcet, the secretary of the Académie des Sciences in Paris. The pamphlet that was created using the letters back and forth received tons of publicity right around the time that the almanac was published.
Mr. Banneker never married. His manuscript with calculations and notes has been preserved and tested many times over given proof to his genius. He was able to achieve amazingly accurate results with a small telescope and the desire to achieve.