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Discovery Magazine 8/1/1997

George Washington Carver (1864-1943)

In a discussion of scientists who tried to honor God in their work, it is hard to decide which ones to include, since there are so many. George Washington Carver is selected in this study because his unusual accomplishments came from such a humble background. George was born to slave parents whom he never knew. At the age of ten, he set out on his own to educate himself. Years later, he finally received a master’s degree at the age of thirty-two. Mr. Carver became the director of agricultural research at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. From a scrap heap of odds and ends, the young man constructed a laboratory, from which came some truly amazing developments. For example, Carver developed 118 different products from the sweet potato. These included: tapioca, starch, vinegar, molasses, library paste, and rubber. From pecans he produced more than 60 different items. He made some 300 synthetic products from the peanut, including milk, cheese, coffee, ink, dye (30 kinds), shoe polish, cereal, soap, wood stain, and insulation board. George once invited some friends to dinner. He served them a salad, soup, a creamed vegetable, "chicken," coffee, cookies and ice cream. What his guests did not know was that he had made all of these dishes from peanuts!

George Washington Carver marveled at God’s creation. He arose each day at 4:00 a.m. and took long walks in the woods so that he could think quietly about his Creator. He once told a friend, "At no other time have I so sharp an understanding of what God means to do with me." Every Sunday at Tuskegee he conducted an afternoon Bible class, during which he read the Scriptures and talked about God and nature.

Carver once was asked why he developed such an interest in the peanut. In a joking way, he made up this little story (sort of like a parable) to illustrate his interest in science. One day, he said, while talking with God, he asked the Lord: "Mr. Creator, why was the Universe made?" He said the Lord told him: "You want to know too much. Your mind is too small to know that."

"Well," he inquired, "why then did You make man?" The Creator answered: "Little man, you still want to know too much." Finally, he asked: "Well, Mr. Creator, what’s the peanut for?" And the Lord said: "That’s more like it!" Dr. Carver said his work on the peanut was an attempt to discover why God made it. George Washington Carver received numerous tributes, both in America and in Europe. He would never have entertained the belief that science and religion are enemies. Be proud of your faith!

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