Facts about Benjamin Banneker
Benjamin Banneker Biography
Benjamin Banneker was a free-born descendant of slaves who became a famous 18th-century astronomer, mathematician, and surveyor. Banneker is often called the first Black American scientist, and he became part of the team that designed Washington, D.C.
Benjamin Banneker was raised on a tobacco farm in rural Maryland, where he attended school but was largely self-taught in the sciences. Although Banneker worked most of his life as a farmer, his analytical and problem-solving skills were legendary.
His achievements were indeed impressive: at age 24 he studied clockworks and constructed his own clock from wood; he taught himself astronomy and published a popular almanac, Benjamin Banneker’s Almanac, from 1792 to 1797; he was appointed to assist in surveying the Federal Territory, the plot of land that was to become Washington, D.C.; he worked on calculating the precise measurement of the meter; and he corresponded with Thomas Jefferson on the issue of slavery and the intellectual equality of blacks.
Benjamin Banneker never married and much of his personal life is now a mystery, as his papers and belongings were destroyed in a fire that occurred on the day of his funeral.
Benjamin Banneker’s precise contributions to the planning of Washington, D.C. may never be known. A legendary story has it that Banneker was able to reproduce the plans from memory after the departure of the original designer.