Benjamin Banneker was born in Endicott,
Maryland on November 9, 1731. His mother was a free black woman and
his father was a slave owned by his mother.
Benjamin attended a public school run
by the Quakers as a free Black and showed an early propensity for
mathematics. At the age of twenty-one, after viewing and then
dismantling a friends watch, he built a wooden clock that kept
accurate time for over forty years.
In 1790, Thomas Jefferson appointed
Banneker as a member of the surveying team that was to lay out the
plans for Washington, DC. The original chief architect of the project,
Pierre L'Enfant was fired and took the plans with him when he left.
Banneker was then placed in charge. He recreated the plans from memory
and completed the project.
In 1971 he published an Almanac
concerning his observations on astronomy. Banneker mailed a copy
of this almanac to Thomas Jefferson along with a letter as a counter
to Jefferson's belief in the inherent intellectual inferiority of the
Negro. Jefferson apologized and sent a favorable reply in a
return letter. Jefferson also forwarded a copy of the Almanac to The
French Academy of Sciences. Benjamin continued to publish his Almanac
until 1802. He died on October 9, 1806.
Banneker: Mathematician, Astronomer
Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Banneker