Chapter 9

[George Washington] Carver‘s students were greatly impressed that each morning he would rise at four o’clock to walk in the woods before the start of the working day and bring back countless plants with which to illustrate his lectures. Explaining this habit to friends, Carver said, “Nature is the greatest teacher and I learn from her best when others are asleep. In the still dark hours before sunrise God tells me of the plans I am to fulfill.”

In half a lifetime of research Carver, though he created fortunes for thousands, rarely took out a patent on any of his ideas. When practical-minded industrialists and politicians reminded him of the money he might have made had he only afforded himself of the money he might have made had he only afforded himself this protection, he replied simply: “God did not charge me or you for making peanuts. Why should I profit from their products?” Like Bose, Carver believed that the fruit of his mind, however valuable, should be granted free of charge to mankind.

Thomas A. Edison told his associates that “Carver is worth a fortune” and backed up his statement by offering to employ the black chemist at an astronomically high salary. Carver turned down the offer. Henry Ford, who thought Carver “the greatest scientist living,” tried to get him to come to his River Rouge establishment, with an equal lack of success.

To one puzzled interlocutor he said: “The secrets are in the plants. To elicit them you have to love them enough.”

“But why do so few people have your power?” the man persisted. “Who besides you can do these things?”

“Everyone can,” said Carver, “if only they believe it.” Tapping a large Bible on a table, he added, “The secrets are all here. In God’s promises. These promises are real, as real as, and more infinitely solid and substantial than, this table which the materialist so thoroughly believes in.”

Not long before Carver’s death a visitor to his laboratory saw him reach out his long sensitive fingers to a little flower on his workbench. “When I touch that flower,” he said rapturously, “I am touching infinity. It existed long before there were human beings on this earth and will continue to exist for millions of years to come. Through the flower, I talk to the Infinite, which is only a silent force. This is not a physical contact. It is not in the earthquake, wind or fire. It is in the invisible world. It is that still small voice that calls up the fairies.”

He suddenly stopped and after a moment of reflection smiled at his visitor. “Many people know this instinctively,” he said, “and none better than Tennyson when he wrote:

“Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower–but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.”