Who Was Benjamin Banneker?

Benjamin Banneker portraitBest known for his invention of the first wooden clock, the writing of his almanac, and correspondence with President Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Banneker was born in 1731 and grew up on a 100 acre farm near Ellicott City in Baltimore County. Banneker's family, which was known as Bannaky, had gained freedom from slavery. They cherished and guarded their status as free men, for all around them members of their race were working in bondage.

Benjamin was taught to read and write at an early age and because he learned quickly, he was allowed to attend a nearby Quaker school until he became old enough to help with the work on the farm. His formal education was brief, but it was at school that he learned the basics of mathematics, a subject in which he showed special talent and interest. Banneker's major interest, however was astronomy.

He decided to publish an almanac in which the movements of the planets and stars would be predicted, month by month, for an entire year. From 1792 until 1802 he published an almanac which was very successful and his fame spread throughout the United States and Europe. Banneker is probably best remembered for his work with Pierre L'Enfant in helping to design Washington, D.C.

When L'Enfant suddenly resigned, Banneker redrew all the plans from memory. He also played a major role in the surveying of the city. On Sunday, October 25, 1806, Benjamin Banneker died. in He had spent his years absorbed in many important interests, acquiring great knowledge and doing the work he loved. His is a life of achievement to be remembered.