Couple examine Benjamin Banneker’s diary of Baltimore County cicadas – CBS Baltimore
CATONSVILLE, Maryland (WJZ) – Cicadas have fascinated Marylanders for hundreds of years.
In fact, one of the earliest known insect studies took place right here in Catonsville in the 18th century.
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“Benjamin Banneker began studying the cicada, which many people called the locust, in 1749 at the age of 17,” said Janet Barber, researcher and writer.
Barber and her husband, Asamoah Nkwanta, studied Banneker’s Diary, where he recorded his sightings of cicadas for 51 years on his Baltimore County farm which is now a historical park and museum.
“He thought maybe these bugs could be a little dangerous. He learned very quickly that they weren’t, ”Barber said.
The famous African-American scientist is best known for surveying the land that has become Washington DC, but his work on cicadas was largely overlooked until the couple began studying his journal at the Maryland Center for History and Culture.
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“Almost no one knew that Benjamin Banneker was part of the study for the cicadas. He was not recognized. He wasn’t in the storybooks, ”Barber said.
Banneker has observed insects for four cycles throughout his life and may have been one of the first to observe their brief appearance every few years.
“Looks like he’s really, really among the first Americans to record and document the 17-year cycle,” said Nkwanta, who is also president and professor of mathematics at Morgan State University.
The couple hope, through their research, that Banneker’s work on cicadas will be better known.
“That was the purpose of our research, is to bring him more notoriety and recognition for this contribution,” said Nkwanta.
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And if you want to learn more about Banneker’s work, you can head to the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday.