Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

American astronomer, compiler of almanacs, and inventor. He was born a free black in Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland, and owned a farm near Baltimore. He taught himself astronomy and mathematics and began astronomical calculations in 1773. He accurately predicted a solar eclipse in 1789. In 1790 he was appointed to the commission that surveyed the site for Washington, D.C. From 1791 to 1802 he published annual almanacs; he sent an early copy to Thomas Jefferson to counter a contention that blacks were intellectually inferior. He also wrote essays denouncing slavery and war.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

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