What Is Benjamin Banneker's Contribution to Math?

Some of Benjamin Banneker's contributions to math include how to better study the stars to make predictions and calculations about events such as solar eclipses. When he successfully predicted a solar eclipse in 1789, he surprised the fields of mathematics and astronomy with his accuracy. He also applied his mathematical skills to survey Washington, D.C., helping to shape the capital. Known for his annual almanacs, Bannaker filled them with predictions and medical treatments.

Part of what made Benjamin Banneker so notable for his time period is that he was an African-American scholar and mathematician who learned almost entirely from self-study. He became one of the first African-Americans in the United States to make a name for himself in science. While he became better known for his successful predictions based on astronomical studies, he first appeared on the national radar by building the first entirely wooden clock. It was the first of its kind in the nation, and accurately recorded time for several decades.

Banneker impressed many people, including Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson recommended Banneker for the surveying of the nation's capital. Banneker also sent Jefferson a copy of the first almanac he printed. However, the almanac arrived with a letter in which Banneker criticized Jefferson's ideas about racial superiority because all races shared "one Universal Father" in his eyes.