(January 5, 1864 – January 5, 1943)
A product of acumen, vision and perseverance, George Washington Carver overcame daunting challenges to become one of the most renowned botanists in history. His agricultural revolutions transformed America. Having dedicated over 50 years of his life to agronomical researches (including 47 years as a professor), his reputation stemmed from his brilliant experiments on plant breeding, crop rotation, chemurgy and alternative cropping. Amidst this fame, the TIME magazine dedicated one of its 1941 editorials to him (which was then a rare honor for a black American). Carver’s researches on legumes, fruits and vegetables paved the way for lucrative alternatives to cotton. He not only devised better cultivation methods, but provided farmers with comprehensive bulletins which dealt with food and cash crops. Apart from being one of the most brilliant and influential biologists that ever lived, he was also among the first scientists who prioritized both ecological conservation and environmental protection. His ingenuity secured him consultancies to many institutes and companies. He coached Sweden’s Crown Prince Olaf Gustaf Adolf on botany, in addition to advising three U.S. Presidents (Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt). Considering that he was an ex-slave who endured demeaning color-bar restrictions, it is amazing that he rose to the level where great honors were showered on him. For example, the 1948 edition of 3 cents postage stamp bore his portrait. He also featured on the half-dollar coin minted from 1951 to 1954. And during the Second World War, the Liberty Ship SS George Washington Carver was built and launched in his honor.