George Washington Carver: God-glorifying Agricultural Innovator
George Washington Carver is one of the most significant inventors and scientists in the history of the United States. As an agricultural chemist and agronomist, he helped transform the agricultural industry in the South. Excelling also in music and art, Dr. Carver has been called a modern day Leonardo da Vinci. God’s grace and redemptive power shone through Dr. Carver’s life as he conquered adversities one by one, from being kidnapped as a slave baby to breaking racial barriers in academia. He was truly aware of his role under his Creator and even called his laboratory at the Tuskegee Institute, “God’s Little Workshop.” He would uncover mysteries of the design behind peanuts, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and pecans and is credited for discovering hundreds of uses for different plants. However, when lauded for his work, he gave full credit to Another.
Dr. Carver grew up as a slave and early on was considered delayed in speech and learning. Because of work and his slave status, he did not finish high school until his late twenties. However, when he did return to his studies, he excelled and eventually earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Iowa State Agricultural College, all the while quickly gaining national recognition for his work in botany. Despite being offered a lucrative job at Iowa State, he turned down the position and worked instead at the Tuskegee Institute for the opportunity to teach others and to give hope to a people torn by poverty.
Southern agriculture industry relied heavily upon cotton; however, this single crop depleted the soil. Dr. Carver discovered that alternative crops such as peanuts and soybeans could restore the fertility in the soil. In addition, to create demand for these crops, he developed over 300 products from peanuts, 118 products from sweet potatoes and over 500 dyes. By the 1940s, peanut had become the second largest crop in the South. In this way, Dr. Carver used his scientific expertise to transform an entire economy to help those in need.
Dr. Carver was a scientist, but it was quite clear to him that science and faith were not opposing forces. In fact, the two are very much intertwined. Science seeks truth, and as per John 8:32, goes hand in hand with Scripture: “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The belief that God created this world to work a specific way formed the foundation for so many of Dr. Carver’s scientific discoveries, and he looked to and was inspired by the Creator of the nature around him.
For Dr. Carver, there was no division between faith and science, and he approached his work as unto the Lord. He believed that the Lord made all that is in the world, and that He commanded man to have dominion over it. He considered Genesis greater than the words and methods of human scientists: “I know of no one who has ever worked with these roots in this way. I know of no book from which I can get this information, yet I will have no trouble in doing it. If this is not inspiration and information from a source greater than myself, or greater than any one has wrought up to the present time, kindly tell me what it is.”
George Washington Carver also heeded well the Lord’s command to serve others. He impacted generations of farmers by uncovering agricultural pearls that God enabled him to uncover. Doing scientific research for the glory of the Lord resulted in serving others with practical and inventive ways for using creation as it was designed to be used. In addition, he was active in his local church and, despite his prolific scientific career, continued to teach Sunday school for his students in Tuskegee.
Dr. Carver claimed he could not have done what he did without God’s inspiration: “God is going to reveal to us things He never revealed before if we put our hands in His…The method is revealed to me the moment I am inspired to create something new. Without God to draw aside the curtain I would be helpless.” And in doing His work, Carver grew closer to the Lord while working for a living: “We get closer to God as we get more intimately and understandingly acquainted with the things he has created.” Carver didn’t need to be in full time ministry to do the Lord’s work. That is because the Lord’s work for Carver was to be in full time scientific research. “I am simply trying as best I can and as fast as God gives me light to do the job I believe He has given me in trust to do.” As such, Dr. Carver was able to praise God using his calling as a scientist, and in this way, is a model example of a scientific doxologist – as part of the League of Ordinary Doxologists.