Banneker, Benjamin

Banneker, Benjamin (1731-1806): African-American Astronomer, Almanac writer: Born into Maryland's free black community, Banneker was educated at home and in a Quaker school, which allowed him to develop his gift for mathematics. He farmed land his parents left for him, spending his free time in independent study and correspondence with other scientists and mathematicians. In 1770, he built a clock that chimed all the hours, the first of its kind to be made in America. Banneker had such a high reputation that he was asked to be a member of a commission to survey the boundaries of the country's capital. He studied astronomy with books lent to him by a neighbor, becoming so proficient that he was able to publish his own almanac in 1792. Banneker supplemented the astronomical tables with writings by himself and others on pacifism, Christian love, and the abolition of the slave trade. He even proposed a "Peace Office" to be established in addition to the already existing War Office. Banneker put out an annual edition of his almanac every year until his death in 1806.