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Aiken, D. Wyatt (17 March 1828–06 April 1887), agricultural editor and congressman, was born David Wyatt Aiken in Winnsboro, South Carolina, the son of David Aiken, a merchant and planter, and Nancy Kerr. Descended from an Irish family that had prospered in the United States, Aiken received an excellent education at Mount Zion Institute in his hometown and, as was common for the sons of planters, attended South Carolina College. He graduated in 1849 and taught mathematics for two years at Mount Zion. After traveling to Europe in 1851, he returned home to marry Mattie Gaillard in 1852. Before her death in 1855, they had two children. Aiken married Virginia Carolina Smith in 1857; they had eleven children. The following year he purchased a plantation from the estate of Virginia’s father in Cokesbury, Abbeville District. As the proprietor of “Coronaca” plantation, he became involved in the agricultural reform movement and in states’ rights politics. He fervently believed that “agriculture climbs high in the scale of science: it develops thought, matures judgment, and requires for the execution, untiring energy, perseverance, and industry.” He was instrumental in the formation of the Abbeville Agricultural Society and was a member of its executive committee. In 1858 he attended the Southern Commercial Convention in Montgomery, Alabama, a meeting that quickly became a forum for disunionist politics....

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Armsby, Henry Prentiss (21 September 1853–19 October 1921), agricultural chemist, was born in Northbridge, Massachusetts, the son of Lewis Armsby, an artisan and cabinetmaker, and Mary A. Prentiss. He attended the common schools of Whitinsville and Millbury and was interested in chemical experiments from an early age. Armsby graduated in 1871 with a B.S. from Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science (later Worcester Polytechnic Institute), where he was subsequently an instructor in chemistry from 1871 to 1872. As a postgraduate he specialized in analytical chemistry and spent two periods at Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School, from which he received a Ph.B. in 1874 and a Ph.D. in 1879. In the meantime, and after a year as a teacher at Fitchburg High School in Massachusetts, he had gone to Germany in 1875 to study animal nutrition with the University of Leipzig’s leading agricultural scientists and with Julius Kühn and his colleagues at nearby Möckern Agricultural Experiment Station, Germany’s oldest agricultural experiment station. It was there that Emil von Wolff had begun his pioneering research into agricultural chemistry in 1851....

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Babcock, Stephen Moulton (22 October 1843–01 July 1931), agricultural chemist, was born near Bridgewater, New York, the son of Pelig Brown Babcock and Cornelia Scott, farmers. Babcock worked from childhood on the family farm. His inquisitive mind attracted him to science, and he enrolled in Tufts College, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in 1866. He began engineering studies at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute but returned to the farm after the death of his father. In 1872 he was a student of chemistry at Cornell University and in 1875 an instructor of chemistry. In 1877 he began graduate studies at the University of Göttingen. After receiving a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1879, he resumed his Cornell instructorship. In 1882 he became chief chemist at the newly founded New York Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. During his six years there he devised several methods of analysis for food materials....

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Bennett, Hugh Hammond (15 April 1881–07 July 1960), soil conservationist and soil scientist, was born near Wadesboro in Anson County, North Carolina, the son of William Osborne Bennett and Rosa May Hammond, farmers.

Bennett earned a bachelor of science degree with an emphasis in chemistry and geology from the University of North Carolina in June 1903. At that time, the Bureau of Soils within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had just begun to make county-based soil surveys, which would in time be regarded as important American contributions to soil science. Bennett accepted a job in the bureau headquarters’ laboratory in Washington, D.C., but agreed first to assist on the soil survey of Davidson County, Tennessee, beginning 1 July 1903. The acceptance of that task, in Bennett’s words, “fixed my life’s work in soils.”...

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Bennett, John Cook (03 August 1804–05 August 1867), physician, religious leader, and entrepreneur, was born in Fair Haven, Bristol County, Massachusetts, the son of John Bennett, a shipowner, and Abigail Cook. At his father’s death in 1817, he moved with his mother to Ohio to stay with relatives. In 1825, after a three-year apprenticeship with a physician and an oral examination by an Ohio medical society, Bennett received his M.D. and a license to practice. That year he married Mary Barker; they had three children. There is no evidence supporting his claim to have attended Ohio University or McGill College in Montreal; he did, however, become a Freemason in 1826....

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Bidwell, John (05 August 1819–04 April 1900), California pioneer, agriculturalist, and politician, was born on a farm in Chautauqua County, New York, the son of Abram Bidwell and Clarissa Griggs, farmers. The family moved to Pennsylvania and then Ohio. John was bookish, although he had only three winter months of schooling each year, at best. But he walked 300 miles to attend Kingsville Academy in 1836 and, after a year, was elected its principal. He returned home to teach, then went to Missouri to farm. There, a western trader told him of fertile California, a land of perpetual spring. So he helped organize a western emigration society....

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Bordley, John Beale (11 February 1727–26 January 1804), agricultural theorist and lawyer, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of Thomas Bordley, a lawyer, and Ariana Vanderheyden Frisby. At the age of twenty-one, Bordley inherited land from his father. In 1751, after his marriage in that year to Margaret Chew, this property was combined with the private fortune of his wife, and he devoted considerable effort to tending his estate near Joppa close to Baltimore. The couple had four children. Bordley also studied law in the office of his brother Stephen, and in 1753 he was appointed prothonotary (chief clerk) of Baltimore County; he simultaneously established a law practice that encompassed Cecil County, Harford County, and Baltimore County. In 1765 Bordley resigned his clerkship in protest of the Stamp Act and moved his law practice to Baltimore, where he soon attracted such renown that in 1766 he was appointed judge of the Provincial Court of Maryland and in 1768 a member of the commission to determine the line between Maryland and Delaware....

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Borlaug, Norman Ernest (25 March 1914–12 September 2009), biologist, agronomist, and humanitarian, was born in Saude, Iowa, to grandchildren of Norwegian immigrants. He grew up on his family’s working farm, where he learned to fish, hunt, raise corn and oats, and tend livestock. His grandfather encouraged him to pursue education, so Norman left the family farm in 1933 to enroll in the University of Minnesota. His college years coincided with the depths of the Great Depression. To earn money, Borlaug left school in 1935 and found employment with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). In the CCC he saw the effect of starvation first hand, and this experience affected him deeply. Long before “food security” became a common phrase, Borlaug knew its significance. In 1937 he graduated with a B.S. in forestry from the College of Agriculture and secured a job with the United States Forest Service. In 1938 he married former classmate Margaret Gibson. The couple had three children....

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Brewer, William Henry (14 September 1828–02 November 1910), explorer-scientist and agriculturist, was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, the son of Henry Brewer and Rebecca DuBois, farmers. Brewer grew up on a farm in Enfield, New York. From 1848 to 1850 he studied scientific agriculture at the School of Applied Chemistry at Yale under ...

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Louis Bromfield Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1933. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103721).