Celebrating George Washington Carver DayFebruary 1, 2023

Today has been designated as George Washington Carver Day in Iowa and what a fitting tribute to kick off Black History Month in February. Born into slavery in Missouri around 1864, Carver sought higher education in Iowa, at Simpson College and then Iowa State University. He was Iowa State’s first black student, earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. After graduation, he was convinced to become a member of the faculty due to his expertise in plant breeding, becoming Iowa State’s first black faculty member. He eventually left Iowa State and joined the faculty at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where he developed hundreds of food products from various plants such as peanuts, sweet potatoes and about a dozen others native to the southern United States. Carver created over 300 uses for the peanut, over 150 uses for the sweet potato and he also made several food and beverages using soybeans. He showed farmers how alternative crops and practices could benefit their bottom line, sustain both their land and themselves, and further develop pride in their farmsteads. Carver’s efforts to utilize organic materials, such as farm products, for industrial applications earned him the title, “the father of chemurgy.”

Some of Carver’s most interesting discoveries and inventions include Axle Grease, Charcoal from Shells, Cleaner for Hands, Diesel Fuel, Dyes, Stains, and Paints, Fuel Briquettes, Gasoline, Glue, Illuminating Oil, Insecticides, Insulating Boards, Linoleum, Lubricating Oil, Nitroglycerine, Paper from skins, Paper from vines, Printer’s Ink, Plastics, Rubber, Shoe and Leather Blacking, Sizing for Walls, Soap Stock, Soil Conditioner, Wall Boards from hulls, Washing Powder, Wood Filler, Laundry Soap, Sweeping Compound, Iron Tonic, Laxatives, and Medicines similar to Castor Oil.

Carver received numerous awards and recognition over his lifetime, including induction into the National and Iowa Inventors Halls of Fame, Fellow of the Royal Society of London, and Honorary Doctorate degrees from Simpson College, University of Rochester and Iowa State University.

The MVS attorneys on the Plant Breeding and Plant-Related Technology Team continue the work started by Carver by helping those protect innovations for their work in the agricultural science areas. Many of the items we commonly use in everyday life are due to the inventive mind of George Washington Carver and we salute him on this day of recognition.

More on George Washington Carver’s life and his impact on society can be found here: https://www.cals.iastate.edu/george-washington-carver-day

Richard Marsolais is the Business Development Director at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. To learn more, visit our MVS website , or contact Richard directly via email.

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