Benjamin Banneker was born in Maryland on November 9, 1731, and grew up a free black man. From his farm near Baltimore, Banneker spent much of his time studying the stars. Although he lacked much of a formal education, he taught himself with borrowed books and became a noted mathematician, astronomer and inventor. Carving its gears with a pocket knife, he built a wooden clock in 1770 that was believed to have been the first built in America. Banneker began publishing scientific almanacs in 1791 after accurately predicting a solar eclipse. President George Washington appointed him to the District of Columbia Commission in 1789 to help survey the new capital city of Washington, D.C. Banneker, who died in 1806, also corresponded with Thomas Jefferson about his views against slavery.
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