George Washington Carver: Inventions, Quotes & Biography

Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson we will learn about the famous inventor, George Washington Carver. We will identify his inventions and contributions, highlight his major life events, and explore a sampling of his quotes.

Who Was George Washington Carver?

When you think of peanuts, you probably think of peanut butter or the nuts that make a nice trail mix base. Ever thought about all the other uses for peanuts? George Washington Carver did.

George Washington Carver was an African-American scientist who pioneered research into the peanut plant and developed all kinds of uses for the peanut. Although he did not invent peanut butter as many people believe, he did use the peanut plant to develop all kinds of products, like soap, oils and lotions, paper, insecticides, pigment, dyes, and hundreds more. He is credited with having invented over 300 products from the peanut.

George Washington Carver is one of America's most important and fascinating scientists. In this lesson we will learn about his life, accomplishments, and we'll explore some of his quotes. Let's do it!

George Washington Carver is known for developing uses for the peanut.

Early Life and Career

The exact date of the birth of George Washington Carver is not known. He was born into slavery in Missouri in the 1860s, probably in 1864 or 1865. While only a week old, George was kidnapped by slave raiders, but his master, a man named Moses Carver, worked hard to ensure George's return.

After slavery was abolished, Moses and his wife raised George as their own son. He was raised to value education, and he showed tremendous proficiency in it. After relocating and attending a series of schools, he graduated from high school in Kansas.

Carver was accepted into Highland College in Kansas, but when he arrived he was turned away because of his race. He was then accepted into Simpson College in Iowa, and studied there for a time, before studying botany at Iowa State Agricultural College in 1891. He was their first African-American student. Carver went on to earn a master's degree there and also teach, making him the school's first African-American faculty member.

Teaching, Outside Pursuits, and Death

In 1896 Carver was invited by Booker T. Washington to teach agriculture at the Tuskegee Institute, a private black university in Tuskegee, Alabama. Carver taught there for 47 years, becoming one of the school's most respected faculty members.

He met with American Presidents and foreign leaders. He delivered lectures throughout the South and the entire nation, speaking not only about agriculture and economic development, but also about racial harmony.

Carver was a Christian and was active in teaching Bible classes. Carver died 1943 from complications arising from a fall down a flight of stairs. He was 78 years old. Carver is buried next to Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute.

George Washington Carver in his lab.

Inventions and Work with Peanuts

Crop Rotation

Carver's main area of focus was alternative crops and crop rotation. Cotton had been the primary cash crop of the South for decades. It was so popular, it became known as ''King Cotton''. However, the over-planting of cotton depleted the soil of nutrients. Carver sought to remedy this by exploring the possibilities of alternative crops, such as sweet potatoes, peanuts, soybeans and others. His system of crop rotation based on alternative crops helped improve the economy of the South.

During his time at Tuskegee, Carver published numerous bulletins. These Carver Bulletins were short pamphlets designed to inform and instruct farmers about agricultural practices. Titles of his bulletins include: How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption, The Possibilities of the Sweet Potato in Macon Co., and Saving the Wild Plum Crop.


Let's look at some of his uses for peanuts. We should note that Carver wasn't so much of an inventor, as a researcher. While he only held a few patents and didn't necessarily claim to have invented all of these peanut products, he was instrumental in their development. Some became commercially successful, while many did not. Below are just a few of the uses for peanuts developed by Carver:

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