Benjamin Banneker was a free-born descendant of slaves who became a famous 18th-century astronomer, mathematician and surveyor. Banneker is considered by many to be the first Black American scientist, and he was on the team that designed Washington, D.C. Benjamin Banneker was raised on a tobacco farm in rural Maryland, where he attended school but was largely self-taught in the sciences. Although Banneker worked most of his life as a farmer, his analytical and problem-solving skills became legendary. His achievements were indeed impressive: at age 24 he studied clockworks and constructed his own clock from wood; he taught himself astronomy and published a popular almanac, Benjamin Banneker's Almanac
, from 1792 to 1797; he was appointed to assist in surveying the Federal Territory, the plot of land that was to become Washington, D.C.; he worked on calculating the precise measurement of the meter; and he corresponded with Thomas Jefferson
on the issue of slavery and the intellectual equality of blacks. Benjamin Banneker never married and much of his personal life is now a mystery, as his papers and belongings were destroyed in a fire that occurred on the day of his funeral.