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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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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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George Washington Carver Photograph by Arthur Rothstein, 1942. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USW3- 000165-D).

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Carver, George Washington (1864–05 January 1943), African-American scientist and educator, was born in Diamond (formerly Diamond Grove), Missouri, the son of Mary Carver, who was the slave of Moses and Susan Carver. His father was said to have been a slave on a neighboring farm who was accidently killed before Carver’s birth. His mother was apparently kidnapped by slave raiders while he was very young, and he and his older brother were raised by the Carvers on their small farm....

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Dabney, Charles William (19 June 1855–15 June 1945), educator, college president, and agrichemist, was born in Hampden-Sydney, Virginia, the son of Robert Louis Dabney, a Presbyterian theologian, and Margaretta Lavinia Morrison. His mother and father were both from prominent southern families, and his father served as chaplain to ...

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Davenport, Eugene (20 June 1856–31 March 1941), agricultural educator, was born near Woodland, Michigan, the son of George Martin Davenport and Esther Sutton, farmers. His parents were Universalists. He attended local schools, taught school briefly, and graduated from Michigan Agricultural College (later Michigan State University) with a B.S. in 1878. For ten years he helped his father operate the family farm. In 1881 he married Emma Jane Coats; they had one child who survived infancy....

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Gouverneur Emerson. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B06655).

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Emerson, Gouverneur (04 August 1795–02 July 1874), physician, statistician, and agriculturalist, was born near Dover, Delaware, the son of Jonathan Emerson and Ann Bell, well-to-do farmers. After education at the Quaker Westtown School in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and the classical school of the Reverend Stephen Sykes in Dover, Emerson began the study of medicine in 1811 with Sykes’s physician brother James, also of Dover, and then entered the School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania in 1813. He was graduated in 1816, offering a dissertation on hereditary diseases. For two years Emerson practiced in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania; then in 1818 he went to Canton, China, as surgeon on a merchant vessel. He opened his practice in Philadelphia on 4 August 1820....

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Fitch, Asa (24 February 1809–08 April 1879), entomologist, agriculturist, and historian, was born in Salem (Washington County), New York, the son of Asa Fitch, a physician and judge, and Abigail Martin. Fitch spent his childhood on the family farm, where he developed a fascination with natural history and a deep sense of religious conviction. He received a liberal education at academies in Salem, New York, and Bennington, Vermont, from 1822 to 1824, and in 1826 he entered the Rensselaer School (now Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), a new school for scientific education in Troy, New York. There he learned the importance of experimenting and learning by doing, and he became convinced that economic and social enrichment would result from the application of science to the common purposes of life. In 1826 he accompanied students and faculty on a scientific tour of the recently opened Erie Canal. Under the instruction of ...

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Hilgard, Eugene Woldemar (05 January 1833–08 January 1916), geologist and pedologist, was born in Zweibrücken in the Rhine-Palatinate (then under Bavarian control), the son of Theodor Erasmus Hilgard, chief justice of the provincial court of appeals, and Margarethe Pauli. His family emigrated in 1836 to a farm near Belleville, Illinois, settling amongst a number of cultured German families. Hilgard and his siblings were educated mostly by their father. At an early age he acquired a strong interest in both the sciences and humanities, including, specifically, soils and their chemistry. At age sixteen he was sent to Washington, D.C., for treatment of failing eyesight and chronic malaria. There his brother Theodore introduced him to the scientific community, including ...

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Ladd, Carl Edwin (25 February 1888–23 July 1943), agriculturist and educator, was born in McLean, New York, the son of Arnold Daniel Ladd and Mary Ellen Mineah, dairy farmers. In 1907 he graduated from the Cortland (N.Y.) Normal and Training School and went on to the New York State School of Agriculture at Cornell University from which he received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science in 1912. He then accepted a post at Cornell as instructor in farm management while working for his doctorate, specializing in farm cost accounting, which he received in 1915....

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Walter Clay Lowdermilk. Courtesy of the National Archives (114G-90723).

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Lowdermilk, Walter Clay (01 July 1888–06 May 1974), soil scientist, geologist, soil conservation leader, and author, was born Walter Clay Lowdermilk in Liberty, North Carolina, the son of Henry Clay Lowdermilk, a businessman, lumberman, and rancher, and Helen Vashti Lawrence Lowdermilk. The family moved westward to Missouri, to Oklahoma, and finally to Arizona. Walter Lowdermilk graduated from the Park College Academy in Parkville, Missouri, in 1906 and then attended Park College (1908–1910). In 1910 he enrolled at the University of Arizona; after two years there he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he earned a B.S. degree in forestry (1914); a B.A. degree in geology (1915); and an M.A. degree, granted in abstentia (1922). While at Oxford he had an opportunity to study forestry in Germany. He also served on ...

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Mangelsdorf, Paul Christoph (20 July 1899–22 July 1989), botanist, geneticist, and agronomist, was born in Atchison, Kansas, the son of August Mangelsdorf, a commercial seed merchant, and Marie Brune. Mangelsdorf later recalled that he had developed an intense curiosity about corn ( Zea mays...

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James J. Mapes. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109830).

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Mapes, James Jay (29 May 1806–10 January 1866), chemist and writer, was born in Maspeth, New York, the son of Jonas Mapes, a merchant and importer, and Elizabeth Tylee. While at a boarding school on Long Island, Mapes lived for a time with the English reformer William Cobbett. As a scientist, however, he was largely self-taught....

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Marbut, Curtis Fletcher (19 July 1863–25 August 1935), pedologist and geologist, was born near Verona, Lawrence County, Missouri, the son of Nathan T. Marbut and Jane Browning, farmers. He was educated in rural schools and the Cassville (Missouri) Academy. After teaching school in McDowell, Missouri, he entered the University of Missouri in 1885, completing his B.S. in 1889. He taught at the high school at Bethany, Missouri, for a year and worked for the Missouri Geological Survey from 1890 to 1893. He then entered Harvard to complete an A.M. in 1894. Continuing for another year, he wrote his doctoral thesis on the physiography of the Ozarks under ...

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McBryde, John McLaren (01 January 1841–20 March 1923), agriculturist, educator, and college president, was born in Abbeville, South Carolina, the son of John McBryde, a successful cotton factor, and Susan McLaren. His parents immigrated to the United States from Scotland around 1820. After receiving a classical education at local schools, McBryde entered South Carolina college in Columbia, where he received lectures from ...

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Miles, Manly (20 July 1826–15 February 1898), physician, biologist, and professor of agriculture, was born in Homer, New York, the son of Manly Miles and Mary Cushman, farmers. When he was eleven, his family moved to a farm in eastern Michigan, near Flint. Trained in farm labor and deeply interested in science, especially chemistry and biology, in which he was ambitiously self-educated, he earned an M.D. from Chicago’s Rush Medical College in 1850. He married Mary E. Dodge in 1851. After practicing medicine in Flint for nine years, he became zoologist for Michigan’s new state geological survey. As its physician and zoologist he gathered collections of mollusca, birds, reptiles, and other animals, some of which he shared with scholars, including ...

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Peters, Richard (10 November 1810–06 February 1889), civil engineer and scientific agriculturist, was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, the son of Ralph Peters and Catherine Conyngham, farmers. His grandfather, Judge Richard Peters, was a revolutionary war leader, scientific agriculturist, and intimate of George Washington...