Born on November 9, 1731 in Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland, Benjamin Banneker, a free black man who owned a farm near Baltimore, was a largely self-educated mathematician, astronomer, compiler of almanacs and writer.
As the child of free parents, Banneker escaped slavery and was taught to read by his grandmother, even attending a small Quaker school for a short time. He was basically self-educated.
Early accomplishments included the construction of an irrigation system and a wooden clock that kept accurate time and ran for more than 50 years until his death. He also learned astronomy.
Banneker helped to survey territory for construction of the nation’s capital. He challenged Thomas Jefferson to do what he could to ensure racial equality.
After his father’s death, Banneker sold tobacco from his own farm.
He’s best known though for almanacs, of which he published for six consecutive years between 1792 and 1794. Their tidal information was particularly beneficial to fishermen. Additionally, he studied bees and calculated the cycle of the 17-year locust.
He died in his sleep October 9, 1806.
Read more about Benjamin Banneker at his website here.