Benjamin Banneker was born in 1731 in Ellicott's Mills, Maryland. That is the same year that George Washington was born.
Banneker lived all of his life on his parents' farm. He went to school until age 15 and taught himself advanced mathematics and astronomy.
Banneker was one of the first African Americans to make important discoveries in science. He successfully predicted solar and lunar eclipses, published his own astronomy journal, and helped with the mapping out of Washington D.C.
Banneker is also famous for building the very first wooden clock in the United States. When he was young, someone gave him a small pocket watch. He spent days taking it apart and putting it back together. Using the watch as a model, Banneker built a large clock, carving each wooden gear by hand. His clock kept perfect time, striking every hour, for more than forty years. People were amazed and came from all over to see the clock and the man who made it.
In 1791, Banneker began writing an almanac (journal) that was bought and read by farmers in the Mid-Atlantic states. It had weather information, astronomy facts, recipes, medical cures, poems, puzzles, and anti-slavery essays. This was the first scientific book written by a black American. It was published every year until 1798.
Science was not Banneker's only area of interest. He had a huge concern for America's black people. In 1791, Banneker sent a copy of his first almanac to Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, along with a well-written letter to convince Jefferson of the equality of blacks and whites.
Banneker died in 1806 at the age of 75, wrapped in a blanket, observing the stars through his telescope. On the day of his funeral, his house and everything in it (including his clock) caught fire and burned to the ground.