Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 155-156


Banneker, Benjamin

BornBaltimore County, Maryland, (USA), 9 November 1731

Diednear Ellicott Mills, Maryland, (USA), 9 October 1806

Benjamin Banneker was a mathematician, astronomer, writer, inventor, landowning farmer, and important African American intellectual. His parents were Mary Banneky, a free African American, and Robert, a freed African slave, who adopted his wife’s surname upon marriage. (Over the years, the spelling of the surname became fixed as Banneker.) In 1737, Benjamin, their firstborn and only son, was named co-owner on the deed to their 100-acre farm that was located in the Patapsco River Valley of rural Baltimore County, Maryland. Benjamin had three younger sisters. He never married and had no offspring.

Banneker was taught to read and write by his maternal grandmother, Molly Welsh, a white woman who arrived from England as an indentured servant, completed her contract, and managed to assemble sufficient assets to purchase land for a farm on the Patapsco River. Banneker attended a rural ...

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