Benjamin Banneker was a busy man. He was an autodidact known for his work as a surveyor, naturalist, farmer and he also dabbled in astronomy, leading him to publish a series of commercially successful almanacs and to work on an ephemeris. (I just learned that an ephemeris is “A table giving the coordinates of a celestial body at a number of specific times during a given period.” Thanks, American Heritage Dictionary!) At the age of 22, Banneker built a wooden clock that worked until his death. He corresponded at length with Thomas Jefferson on the issues of slavery and racial equality and was quite eloquent. Here are some of his words: “I am of the African race, and in the colour which is natural to them of the deepest dye; and it is under a sense of the most profound gratitude to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.” Like many geniuses, he suffered from addiction and alcoholism contributed to his death, just shy of his 75th birthday. In sum: this man was a badass.