A Synonym for Genius
The biography of Benjamin Banneker is incomplete without the mention of Peter Heinrichs. He made a lifelong friend in Peter Heinrichs. Heinrichs had established a school not far from where Banneker lived. The duo shared quality time in Heinrichs' library. Research reveals that he had designed a clock that struck by the hour at the age of 21, in 1753. The clock worked consistently till his death on October 9, 1806. In 1788, he began a formal study of astronomy. He was able to submit a report on his research of the solar eclipse by the following year.
Major Andrew Ellicott hired Banneker as an assistant to survey of the boundaries that Virginia and Maryland would cede to the federal government, in accordance with the Residence Act of 1790. He used celestial navigation for astronomical observations. He calculated the starting point for the survey and used a clock to relate to locations and specific positions of stars. The most intriguing fact about him is that while conducting the survey, he correctly pointed out the exact location of the federal capital city and regenerated a misplaced plan through photographic memory. He is credited with having exacted the locations of the White House, Capitol and Treasury Building, much before they were even conceived on blueprint.
Banneker's predictions on the solar and lunar eclipses were part of his ephemeris, which he published in Philadelphia and Baltimore. He maintained journals comprising periodical astronomical observations and a number of mathematical deductions that backed his findings. The almanac, designed by Banneker, in 1792 included:
- Rising and setting times of the sun and moon.
- Daily weather forecasts.
- Dates of important annual celebrations.
- Tide table for Chesapeake Bay.
- Home remedies for a number of illnesses that plagued Maryland.