Astronomy/ Benjamin Banneker term paper 6994

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Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker was a phenomenal African-American mathematician, astronomer, and inventor. He was born near Baltimore, Md., on November 9, 1731. He was the son of a slave and a free black woman. He grew up as a free black, and while attending school he demonstrated early mathematical ability. His childhood curiosity led him to explore a wide variety of other subjects.

In about 1771, he began to make calculations in the field of astronomy. In the science of astronomy, Banneker was entirely self-taught. He wanted to find answers to his questions about the mysterious movements of the stars and cycles of the moon. In colonial times, most families owned an almanac. Farmers read their almanacs so they would know when to see their soil, when to plow, and when they could expect rain to water their crops. Some People read almanacs to find out when the sun and moon would rise and set, how the weather would change from season to season and when eclipses would occur. Banneker accurately predicted a solar eclipse in 1789.

There were many white scientists in Bannekar s day that taught themselves astronomy and published their own almanacs. They didn t think it was possible for a black man-free or slave-to be smart enough to calculate the movements of the stars the way Banneker did. Banneker was determined to create an almanac that would be the first of its kind. Therefore, he spent close to a year observing the sky every night. He plotted the cycles of the moon and made careful notes. He began publishing the Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanac and Ephemeris in 1791, and continued doing so until 1802.

Bannekar also knew that many people would use and learn from his almanac. However, he wondered what good his almanac would be to black people who were enslaved and could not read. He decided to write a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State, because Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, a document that stated, all men are created equal even though he himself owned slaves. Banneker believed that wasn t right. So, Mr. Bannekar sent a letter in which he expressed his strong feelings against slavery and praised the intellectual equality of blacks. Benjamin Bannekar strongly felt that all men no matter what color should have the right to an education. Bannekar made one of the first attempts at ending racism and segregation of African-Americans.

Banneker s almanac contained answers to some of the questions he had asked himself to when he was a boy watching the sky. It included cycles if full moons and new moons, times of sunrise and sunset, tide tables for the Chesapeake Bay, and news about festivals and horse habits. Benjamin Banneker was a truly successful person, as well as an outstanding mathematician. His death in Baltimore County, Md., in 1806 was a terrible tragedy.


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