Benjamin Banneker was born in 1731 just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, the son of a slave. His grandfather had been a member of a royal family in Africa and was wise in agricultural endeavors.His father, Robert, was an African slave who purchased his freedom and his mother, Mary, was the daughter of a freed African slave and an English woman. As a young man, he was allowed to enroll in a school run by Quakers and excelled in his studies, particularly in mathematics. Soon, he had progressed beyond the capabilities of his teacher and would often make up his own math problems in order to solve them.
One day his family was introduced to a man named Josef Levi who owned a watch. Young Benjamin was so fascinated by the object that Mr. Levi gave it to him to keep, explaining how it worked. Over the course of the next few days, Benjamin repeatedly took the watch apart and then put it back together. After borrowing a book on geometry and another on Isaac Newton’s Principia (laws of motion) he made plans to build a larger version of the watch, mimicking a picture he had seen of a clock. After two years of designing the clock and carving each piece by hand, including the gears, Banneker had successfully created the first clock ever built in the United States. For the next thirty years, the clock kept perfect time.
In 1776, the Third Continental Congress met and submitted the Declaration of Independence from England. Soon thereafter, the Revolutionary War broke out and Banneker set out to grow crops of wheat in order to help feed American troops. His knowledge of soil gained from his grandfather allowed him to raise crops in areas which had previously stood barren for years.
When a family friend died and left him a book on astronomy, a telescope and other scientific inventions, Banneker became fascinated with the stars and the skies. His friends Joseph and Joseph Ellicott loaned him books on astronomy as well as other tools and he taught