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What were George Washington Carver's inventions?

Carver and the Peanut

No plant captured Carver's imagination quite as much as the peanut, and his legendary 1921 appearance before the House Ways and Means Committee earned him the nickname "The Peanut Man" [source: American Heritage]. Accounts vary widely as to how many different uses Carver actually developed for the peanut and how original his discoveries actually were.

At Tuskegee, Carver published a bulletin titled "How to Grow the Peanut and 105 ways of Preparing It for Human Consumption" to promote various uses and recipes for peanuts. He later claimed to have a mental catalogue of more than 300 uses of peanuts (Carver didn't believe in keeping written lists). However, as historian Barry Mackintosh noted in a 1977 article, many of Carver's peanut uses were unoriginal, and peanut production had already been well established in the South before Carver took up the cause. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had detailed the plant's potential value in a comprehensive bulletin in 1896 [source: American Heritage].

Carver compiled dozens of peanut recipes and different uses for the plant, including cheese, milk, coffee, flour, ink, dyes, plastics, wood stains, soap, linoleum, medicinal oils and cosmetics, and he even claimed to have developed a type of peanut nitroglycerine. One of the recipes that Carver was proudest of was peanut milk, a nutritious and inexpensive alternative to dairy milk that he believed had "unlimited possibilities." However, an Englishman had already patented a similar peanut milk process in 1917 [source: Abrams].

In 1922, Carver developed a medication called Penol, which was an emulsion of peanuts creosote (a liquid distilled from wood tar). The product was supposed to cure respiratory disorders, but was later proven to be ineffective [source: Abrams]. Although many of the uses and applications for peanuts that Carver championed were untraditional, peanuts continued to be sold and used almost entirely as foodstuffs [source: American Heritage].