By Bonnie Hinman
Born unfastened whilst so much blacks have been slaves, Banneker was once a profitable land surveyor, astronomer, and writer of almanacs.
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Extra resources for Benjamin Banneker: American Mathematician and Astronomer (Colonial Leaders)
Ben decided to figure out his own ephemeris for 1791. He filled many pages with math calculations. He spent long hours at the telescope each night. A sleepy Ben got up each morning after a few hours of sleep. The cows and chickens didn’t care if he wanted to look at the stars. They just wanted breakfast. Ben’s mother had died so now he had to cook and clean as well as do the farm work. It was a busy time for Ben. At last Ben finished the ephemeris in the fall of 1790. There were 12 pages of numbers, one for each month of 1791.
It took almost 70 different math steps to figure out the time of an eclipse. Ben worked first on scratch paper. After he checked his math, he carefully copied the results into his new journal. By June of 1791 Ben had finished his ephemeris. He sent a copy to a printer in Georgetown and delivered another copy to William Goddard, the Baltimore printer who had rejected the 1791 ephemeris. Then he waited. An ephemeris was the most important part of an almanac but not the only part. Almanacs of the late 1700s included articles and stories and poems.
He couldn’t work on the new ephemeris from bed. May arrived before he was well enough to return to his table. But he finished in plenty of time. Several separate editions were published for 1794. The different editions had the same ephemeris but different covers and articles. Sales of Ben’s almanacs reached their highest Success point with the 1794 editions. Ben was more comfortable with his success by now, but it still seemed unbelievable. The 1795 almanac had a new feature. Several editions had a portrait of Ben on their covers.
Benjamin Banneker: American Mathematician and Astronomer (Colonial Leaders) by Bonnie Hinman