Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book Review: George Washington Carver

Resourceful. Determined. Quirky.  Egocentric. Christian.  These words could be used to described the life of the famous "Peanut Man,"  George Washington Carver.  John Perry writes an excellent book on the the life of George Washington Carver in yet another of the Christian Encounter series. 

If anyone appeared to be destined for failure, it would be George Washington Carver.  Orphaned at a young age, Carver was also sickly and on top of that a slave.  But God had His hand on the young black man.  This book provides an excellent overview of his life.  This book focuses primarily on his adult years spent at the Tuskegee Institute.  The chapters are short and 152 pages make this an easy read.

It's been at least twenty years since I read anything on George Washington Carver.  I remembered the general story, but there were some fascinating tidbits I learned from reading this book:
  • George always kept a boy's voice, probably due to childhood illnesses 
  • He loved to be the center of attention and often fished for compliments
  • He threatened to resign from his position at the Tuskegee Institute numerous times
  • He never earned a doctorate, but was bestowed an honorary one by Simpson College
  • His Sunday evening Bible study grew to more than 100 in attendance
It was fascinating to read the details about the tense relationship between Booker T. Washington, the refined administrator,  and George Washington Carver, the rumpled absent-minded professor.  Carver's agricultural bulletins provided invaluable information to farmers regarding crops and livestock.  Perry notes that none of his hundreds of experiments proved to be a commercial success.  How sad.  Unfortunately he failed to use accepted scientific standards to substantiate his discoveries and didn't properly document most of his findings.  

The author explains how Carver's gentle spirit endeared him to his students.  He was a mentor and father-figure to most.  His hands-on method of teaching helped his students retain the lessons he taught.  He also used his time in the classroom to expound on the connection between God and creation:
"To me nature in its varied forms are the little windows through which God permits me to commune with him, and to see much of his glory, by simply lifting the curtain, and looking in." (pg. 61)
I am amazed to read the accounts of Carver facing racial injustice and slights with a resolute calmness.  His behavior reminds me of how our Savior responded when He was maligned.   In this day and age when rights are the rage, Carver's behavior is refreshing.  At the same time, the book is an excellent reminder of how unjustly our fellow citizens were treated not so long ago (and continue to be treated poorly in some areas to this day).

Carver never married so his legacy was comprised of his students, his biography, and the exhibits of his discoveries and artwork in his museum.   In the epilogue, Perry notes:  "Of all the experiments and programs and peanut products George Washington Carver left behind, his greatest gift is a legacy of hope:  a timeless message to black and white, rich and poor, farmer and factory owner, through word and deed, that God made us all and has given us everything we need to find our sunlit place in the Creator's world."  (pg.154)

I highly recommend this easy read to those who want an overview of the man, George Washington Carver, from a Christian perspective. 

Disclaimer: Thomas Nelson Publications provided a complimentary copy of this book to me.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


  1. I remember how our son was impressed by George Washington Carver when we studied about him back in the ole homeschool days. Whatever happened to peanut milk? I bet it tasted good.

  2. I think I'll stick with cow's milk, thank you. :)


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