Credit Line: The bronze casting was commissioned by the University Museums, and is a gift of John and Linda Dasher. In the Christian Petersen Art Collection, Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
In 1949 Christian Petersen, Iowa State’s artist-in-residence, created a plaster sculpture of George Washington Carver. It depicts the scientist contemplating the peanut for which he discovered many uses. The plaster sculpture was cast into this bronze sculpture 50 years later.
In 1989 the original sculpture was displayed in the lobby of Carver Hall in a case made especially for it.
The bronze casting of the sculpture was placed in the courtyard between Carver Hall and Beardshear Hall. It was dedicated on April 15, 1999.
Carver was the first African American to enroll at Iowa State College, becoming one of its most distinguished graduates. He arrived in Ames thanks to the encouragement of a faculty member at Simpson College in Indianola who noted his interest in plants. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1894, he went on to graduate school and joined the staff of the horticulture department as manager of the experiment station greenhouse. He received his master’s degree in 1896, then left for the Tuskegee Institute where, during a lifetime career as director of agricultural research, he won world acclaim for the development of hundreds of profitable uses for products like cotton, peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes.
Fast fact: While at Iowa State, Carver was a student leader involved in the YMCA, the debate club and other activities. He was captain of the campus military regiment. His poetry was published in the student newspaper, and two of his paintings were exhibited at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
George Washington Carver (1864-1943) was one of Iowa State’s most distinguished graduates, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1894 and a master’s degree in 1896. He became one of the nation’s greatest educations and agricultural researchers, and is renowended for developing innovative uses for a variety of agricultural crops such as peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes. Carver’s legacy at Iowa State goes above and beyond academic achievement. He was an accomplished musician, artist, orator, athletic trainer, and student leader.
Christian Petersen’s portrayal of Carver depicts the scientist holding the product for which he found so many uses – the peanut. Carver was also known for his spirituality, a characteristic Petersen captures in his portrait figure. Petersen showed this sculpture to his Danish-American friend August Bang, who said of the sculpture, “When I look upon Carver as you have him here, the words which were written at his death came to mind: ‘he wandered with God.’” “That is just what I have tried to say,” answered Petersen.