George Washington Carver, Scientist and Symbol

George Washington Carver, Scientist and Symbol

George Washington Carver, Scientist and Symbol

George Washington Carver, Scientist and Symbol

Synopsis

An intimate and sensitive psychological portrait, a well informed intellectual sketch, and and unusually readable scientific treatise, this biography of Carver has a depth and a breadth of research rarely found in such studies.

Excerpt

George Washington Carver captured the imagination of the American people. The romance of his life story and the eccentricities of his personality led to his metamorphosis into a kind of folk saint both in his lifetime and after. He was readily appropriated by many diverse groups as a symbol for myriad causes. To Southern businessmen Carver was an incarnation of the New South philosophy. Religious leaders embraced the scientist's proclaimed reliance upon God as an inspirational source in an age of materialism. Those struggling through the depression saw Carver as a living Horatio Alger whose story offered hope to those who tried hard enough. To people concerned with race relations Carver's career was either proof of the ability and intelligence of Afro-Americans or an indication that slavery and segregation could not have been too bad if they produced a Carver. And to the general public puzzled by technology that was changing the world with frightening speed, Carver made science seem more human and understandable. Thus, segments of his life and personality were often highlighted and embellished in order to prove a point. The public image that emerged was of a kindly old "wizard," hardly offensive to any believer in the American dream.

Separating the real George Washington Carver from the symbolic portrayals of his life is difficult. Reality and mythology became blurred even within Carver's own mind, and his life did have mythic qualities. Yet Carver was more than a folk saint; he was a . . .

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