Exhibit celebrates George Washington Carver

February 1, 2008 4:23:12 PM PST
George Washington Carver was a trailblazing scientist, conservationist and humanitarian. Friday marks the beginning of Black History Month, and a new exhibit about Carver's life and work has opened at Chicago's Field Museum.

Carver was born into slavery but used his gifts to become a ground-breaking scientist, educator and humanitarian. One of his greatest contributions was encouraging poor southern farmers with depleted cotton fields to make peanut farming economically viable.

"He was a great ecologist who was an expert in any of the natural sciences and chemistry. That's the part that is known. He was also a conserver who had practically no waste stream at all. He never failed to reuse anything in his life," said Carver biographer Peter Duncan Burchard.

On display at the Field Museum are hundreds of artifacts, videos and interactive displays that follow Carver's life from a remote frontier town to a famed teacher and researcher at the Tuskegee Institute.

" It was great to see what he has done," said Bob Valle, who was visiting the exhibit.

"Clearly a man before and beyond his time, even in today's environment," Ernest Armstrong, another exhibit visitor, said.

Visitors can see Carver's vision of turning barren fields into viable crops, his research on plant-based fuels, medicines and everyday products.

Those visiting the exhibit also can explore a life-size reproduction of a horse-driven wagon, a movable school that Carver designed to bring his ideas to farmers in their fields and homemakers.

For Carver, nature was the model of conservation. He did not believe in waste. He believed there was a use for everything.

The unique scientist was passionate about life, he loved to cook and talk to his plants. Carver proudly served in the military and was a respected artist and self-taught musician who played many instruments.

"I really think the unique thing about Dr. Carver is, all the work he did in scientific research was really informed by this passion he had of humanitarianists," said the Field Museum's Hilary Hansen.

"I see him as still ahead of our time, not just ahead of his," Burchard said.

Carver had a great respect for nature and believed it could provide everything. His plant and peanut vision revitalized the southern economy, and his passion for life and nature was not based on money, but the public good.

Einstein said George Washington Carver was one of the top 10 scientists of the world.