The African Influence on Modern Science and Technology
The African Influence on Modern Science and Technology
All American students have embedded in their brains a memory from a science class or history course on the history of the world or America. We are taught a very obscure calculated version of how the world was developed and who influenced the development. The most common teachings of African history are of the African people and the struggles of slavery and their contributions either during or after slavery. When in fact, African culture has influenced American culture even more than previously thought; this is especially true in the fields of science and mathematics.
The Ancient Pyramids of Egypt are largely magnificent and vastly beautiful structures that have been widely noted for their artistic greatness and their religious roots. What then is to be said of the amount of science, technology, and mathematics that went into the construction of these gorgeous master pieces; One’s response would most likely depend upon whom you believed laid out the blue print for what we now see thousands of years later. Van Sertima, Lumpkin, Newsome, & Hayden, Apri (1983) explains, that there is now evidence that agriculture began in Southern Egypt 10,000 years earlier than previously believed.
A team of Egyptian, Polish, `and U. S. scientists found remnants of barley with a radio carbon date of 17,000 to 18,300 years ago. “This early evidence of agriculture, the discovery by Wertime of the use of tin in Egypt hundreds of years earlier than previously believed and Nubian salvage evidence of pharaonic kings in Nubia twelve generations before Menes, should end, once and for all, the hypothesis of a “sudden” emergence of Egyptian civilization, full-blown and without roots in African soil. (Van Sertima, Lumpkin, Newsome, & Hayden, Apri) The fact that Egypt (which is in Africa) is the birthplace of these spectacular monuments should be enough evidence that Africans have been the original source of both science and the use of mathematics. Even the Roman and Asian pyramids were overseen by architects of African descent. The migration of the African to other continents opened up the door for other civilizations to learn how to use science and mathematics to develop their cities and build more concrete structures.
While many people’s first thought is of Blacks (Moors) as nannies and enslaved people who contributed to early American culture by servicing whites, the truth is that we owe much of our sciences and mathematics to the African. Van Sertima (1976) speaks of an expedition under Napoleon into Egypt. He says, “The scientists of that were equally astonished and impressed. From what they saw they concluded as the Greeks had done a thousand years before that Egyptian civilization owed its inspiration to a black race. ” The discovery of this magnificent ancient civilization threatened to expose the secret.
What is the secret you ask; the secret that blacks (Moors) were not inferior creatures that needed to be controlled, but that they were brilliant innovators who pioneered their way into our history books. They made their mark on history by leading the way in science with the rituals of embalming bodies before burial and developing medical procedure like autopsies. Their use of mathematics to build massive structures like the pyramids that would later survive over centuries would later give life to a new way of living, breathing and thinking all around the world.
This discovery would change the way the world would look at the African and ancient Egyptian civilization. “An Italian archaeologist F. Mori discovered in the hills of Fezan, the body of a Negroid child who was mummified, flexed and buried beneath the dirt floor of the family shelter. ” (F. Mori) “The body was carefully preserved (in this case by drying) before burial. ” (Van Sertima, 1976, p. 115) Mori claims a date of 3,500 B. C. for his find and he had the carbon-14 dates to back up his assumption.
This discovery Mori made in the Fezan hills makes the date of this body older than the oldest known Egyptian mummy. Van Sertima, 1976, p. 115) The Egyptians wrote medical textbooks and notes on many complex and chronic diseases. Lumpkin (1983) explains the similarities in ancient medical documents he says, “For instance a study of ancient Egyptian diagnostic methods reads disconcertingly like a modern textbook on physical diagnosis. ” (Van Sertima, Lumpkin, Newsome, & Hayden, Apri, Finch) A physician would start off by examining a patient’s outward appearance. This would be followed up with questions to get knowledge of the patient’s history and symptoms.
The physician would make note of the content and condition of bodily fluids, the appearance of limbs and the face and also take the patients pulse. Taking the patient’s pulse is significant because this shows that the Egyptians had knowledge of the importance of blood flow within the body and its relevance to a patient’s illness. As the African began to migrate across the globe over into Asia, Europe and other countries they would take with them these medical techniques and teach other civilizations how to live longer and control disease.
There is even evidence of Moors teaching at very high levels in learning institutions and earning very high salaries. I think that the Europeans valued their knowledge and this shows in the wages that they earned. I believe the alteration of history began when the Europeans discovered that they could claim the knowledge of the African people and enslave them to cover up the truth of their heritage. If you enslave a people and change the history of their ancestors you can then control their perception of their ancestor’s contribution to the world and the society that they live in.
Many of these procedural techniques are commonly practiced today in modern medicine When I think of African and African-American influences in science and mathematics many people come to mind. The one person that sticks out the most for me is Benjamin Banneker. There are two distinct versions of who Benjamin Banneker was and what he contributed to African-American history. Benjamin was the grandson of Bannaky who was a slave but was freed by Molly Walsh when after years of working for her on her farm they fell in love and wed.
Bannaky did not have a last name so they formed his last name from his first name and made his name Bannaky Banneker. Bannaky and Molly had a daughter Mary who married a slave and he took Mary’s last name. They moved into a cabin on a piece of land given to them by Bannaky, Benjamin’s grandfather. It was on that farm that Benjamin found his love for farming and science and began studying nature. “Master-scripted” information about the life and contributions of Benjamin Banneker have been taught in elementary, middle, and high school curricula and textbooks (Swartz, 2012) .
Most of what we have been taught about who Benjamin Banneker was revolves around him as an inventor, and his involvement in the project of mapping the site of Washington, D. C. in 1791. This generalized version of the life of Benjamin Banneker does not give credit to the connection between his many attributes in science, mathematics, and architecture and his African ancestry. There are many parallels between his “self-taught”, God given knowledge of nature and the environment, and the inventions of his African ancestors.
Benjamin learned so much about farming and planting crops from his father and grandfather who utilized many of the farming techniques they brought over from Africa. Some of these techniques include early forms of farming and irrigation from the Nile River to the dry dessert lands in Egypt. From my research of Benjamin Banneker and his letter to President Thomas Jefferson I got a sense of his anger and resentment toward the hypocrisy of Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal” yet he himself was a slaver.
Here is an excerpt from Banneker’s letter to Jefferson “Here was a time, in which your tender feelings for yourselves had engaged you thus to declare; you were then impressed with proper ideas of the great violation of liberty, and the free possession of those blessings, to which you were entitled by nature; but sir, how pitiable it is to reflect, that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of Mankind, and of His equal and impartial distribution of these rights and privileges, which He hath conferred upon them, that you should at the same time counteract His mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence, so numerous a part of my brethren under groaning captivity, and cruel oppression, that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves” (Bennett, 1968, p. 23).
It is very likely that Benjamin’s self-study and knowledge of science and astronomy derived from his ancestor’s knowledge of irrigation technology and the planets that taught them when to plant and harvest certain crops. In colonial times watches and clocks were very expensive; Benjamin Banneker made a clock out of wood which was the first of its kind. He was an innovator in his own right and paved the way for African Americans today to have the knowledge of self and the will to make bigger and better strides in the world specifically in the areas of politics, science, mathematics and astronomy.
Benjamin Banneker is one of he most important African-American people who encouraged blacks who fought their way through slavery to follow their dreams and become great inventors and innovators. In order to speak about modern science and technology I think it would be highly offensive to fail to bring to the forefront the contribution that the Tuskegee Institute had on science and technology. Booker T. Washington was the founder of Tuskegee which was originally called Negro Normal School. Washington was born a slave in 1856 in Franklin County, Virginia. The first nine years of his life he spent as a slave on a plantation until they were emancipated. As a young man he worked in salt mines with his father and brother.
It has been said that he hated working meaningless jobs and longed to get an education. He saved his money to travel to Norfolk, Virginia, to attend Hampton Normal & Agricultural Institute where he worked off his tuition by working as a janitor for the school. Washington was a graduate of Hampton and began teaching for the school. The director of Hampton Samuel Armstrong would later recommend Booker T. Washington to be the principal of a new school for blacks in Tuskegee. Tuskegee is a historically black institution of higher education that became the birthplace of many great scientific experiments and discoveries of many medical break through.
From Booker T. Washington who changed the education system for Black Americans. To George Washington Carver who derived new products from peanuts, sweet potatoes and soy beans and Frederick Douglas Patterson who was an educator who received a Doctorate in both Veterinary medicine and a Master of Science. Patterson later became the president of Tuskegee where he introduced new programs in dietetics, veterinary medicine, and commercial aviation which later made it possible for the Tuskegee Airmen program. The world we live in and the leaps that mankind has taken to progress and move society forward can be attributed to many different cultures and people.
It is our choice whether we choose to believe a generalized version of our history or research and learn an in depth more accurate and detailed story of who influenced the way that we live in modern society. We should dig deeper for the truth and as Maya Angelou once said “There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth. ” The credit should be given to the individuals and the Africans who many years ago laid the foundation for modern science and mathematics. These truths will bring about facts that give relevance to evidence that African culture has influenced American culture even more than previously thought especially in the fields of science and mathematics.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 18 October 2016
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