WASHINGTON - Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) was a free-born descendant of slaves who became a famous 18th-century astronomer, mathematician and surveyor. He is considered by many to be the first African-American scientist.
C. R. Gibbs—author, lecturer and historian of the African Diaspora—will present a talk titled “Benjamin Banneker, Surveyor and the African Roots of His Science” at noon on Wednesday, March 30, in the Geography and Map Division Reading Room on the basement level of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by the Library’s Geography and Map Division, the lecture is free and open to the public. No tickets or reservations are needed.
Gibbs will review the life and achievements of the nation’s first African-American mathematician and astronomer. He will emphasize the scientific roots of ancient Africa and how African knowledge and tradition influenced Banneker’s work. Gibbs will also review Banneker’s role as an early surveyor of Washington, D.C.
Banneker was raised on a tobacco farm in rural Maryland, where he attended school but was largely self-taught in the sciences. Although Banneker worked most of his life as a farmer, his analytical and problem-solving skills became legendary. His achievements were indeed impressive. At age 24, he studied clockworks and constructed his own clock from wood. He taught himself astronomy and published the popular Benjamin Banneker’s Almanac from 1792 to 1797.
Gibbs is the author/co-author of six books and a frequent national and international lecturer on an array of historical information. He researched, wrote and narrated “Sketches in Color,” a 13-part companion series to the acclaimed PBS series “The Civil War” for WHUT-TV, the Howard University television station.
In 1989, Gibbs founded the African History and Culture Lecture Series, featuring scholars who provide presentations at libraries, churches and other locations in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area. In 1997, he led 26 people on a study tour across the African continent. He received the 2008 Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation in Public Education, given annually by the mayor of Washington, D.C. In 2009, the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans’ Braintrust honored Gibbs for his more than three decades of articles, exhibits and presentations on the military heritage of Africans and African Americans.
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