Inventor, Mathematician, Author
Benjamin Banneker was born a free man on November 9, 1731 in Ellicott, Maryland. His interests were many, but he excelled in the fields of mathematics and astronomy. In 1761, Banneker invented what was probably the first clock made in America. The clock struck accurately every hour for the next 20 years. Banneker also predicted the solar eclipse of 1789. In 1791, he published an almanac that included tide tables, data on future eclipses, and a listing of useful medical products and formulas. His almanac was the first scientific book ever written by a Black American. On August 19, 1791 he sent a copy of his almanac to the Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, along with a letter which lashed out at the injustices of slavery. "Suffer me to recall to your mind that time in which the arms of the British crown exerted ... that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others." Banneker is best known for his key contribution as a surveyor on the six-man team which helped lay out the blueprint for Washington, D.C. He was named to the committee by President Thomas Jefferson. When the chairman of the committee, Major L'Enfant, abruptly resigned and returned to France with Banneker's plans, it seemed that the design that won the international contest was lost. However, Banneker reproduced the plans for the entire city from memory!