Benjamin Banniker

Essay by flotown_2006University, Bachelor'sA+, March 2006

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Benjamin Banneker was a self-educated scientist, astronomer, inventor, writer, and antislavery publicist. Banneker was one of the first African Americans to gain distinction in science.

In 1753, he built the first watch made in America, a wooden pocket watch. Twenty years later, Banneker began making astronomical calculations that enabled him to successfully forecast a 1789 solar eclipse. His estimate contradicted the predictions of better-known mathematicians and astronomers of the time.

Banneker first achieved national acclaim for his scientific work in the 1791 survey of the Federal Territory (now Washington, D.C.). He is best known for his six annual Farmer's Almanacs published between 1792 and 1797. These almanacs included information on mechines and medical treatment, and listed tides, astronomical information, and eclipses, all calculated by Banneker himself.

Banneker's mechanical and mathematical abilities impressed many, including Thomas Jefferson who encountered Banneker working with the surveying team that laid out Washington D.C.

Elijah McCoy (1843-1929) The son of former slaves who escaped via the Underground Railroad, at 15 years of age Elijah McCoy traveled to Scotland where he trained in mechanical engineering.

McCoy returned to the United States, where he was denied engineering employment because he was of African descent. He instead took a job as a railroad fireman (the person who put wood into the furnace).

At that time, locomotives needed to be shut down periodically to be lubricated to avoid overheating. McCoy developed the "lubricating cup" for steam engines. This invention kept the locomotives constantly lubricated, preventing frequent stops and overheating, and increasing the profitablity of railroads. He patented the lubricating cup in 1872. It worked so well that Machinists and engineers who wanted genuine McCoy lubricators began to use the expression "the real McCoy" to request his specific product.

The "Lubricating Cup" represents the most profitable of his more than...