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Armsby, Henry Prentiss (1853-1921), agricultural chemist  

Richard A. Hawkins

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....


Babcock, Stephen Moulton (1843-1931), agricultural chemist  

Albert B. Costa

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....


Bennett, John Cook (1804-1867), physician, religious leader, and entrepreneur  

Michael Quinn

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....


Bidwell, John (1819-1900), California pioneer, agriculturalist, and politician  

Richard H. Dillon

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....


Bordley, John Beale (1727-1804), agricultural theorist and lawyer  

Simon Baatz

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....


Borlaug, Norman Ernest (25 March 1914–12 September 2009)  

Gregory E. Pence

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....


Brewer, William Henry (14 September 1828–02 November 1910), explorer-scientist and agriculturist  

Nancy G. Slack

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 ...


Bromfield, Louis (1896-1956), novelist, experimental farmer, and newspaper columnist  

David D. Anderson

Bromfield, Louis (27 December 1896–18 March 1956), novelist, experimental farmer, and newspaper columnist, was born in Mansfield, Ohio, the son of Charles Bromfield, a banker and local Democratic office holder, and Annette Marie Coulter. His father was from an old New England family, and his mother was the daughter of a pioneer family of Richland County, Ohio; both ancestries would influence his later fiction. Bromfield attended Mansfield public schools, spending summers on his mother’s family’s farm. In 1914–1915 he studied agriculture at Cornell University and then briefly attended Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. He then studied journalism at Columbia University until his enlistment in the U.S. Army Ambulance Service in June 1917. He served with Section 577, attached to the French army, from December 1917 to February 1919. He participated in seven major battles during World War I and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. He was discharged in June 1919 while still in France....


Cover Bromfield, Louis (1896-1956)

Bromfield, Louis (1896-1956)  

Maker: Carl Van Vechten


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


Buel, Jesse (1778-1839), agriculturist  

Sally McMurry

Buel, Jesse (04 January 1778–06 October 1839), agriculturist, was born in Coventry, Connecticut, the son of Elias Buel and Sarah (maiden name unknown), farmers. In 1790 the family moved to Rutland, Vermont. The youngest of fourteen children, Jesse Buel had little formal education. In 1792 he was apprenticed to a local printer and learned his trade quickly; by the age of eighteen he had finished his apprenticeship and moved to New York City as a journeyman printer. During the next few years he worked there and in the Albany-Troy region, first as a journeyman and later as a master printer. After marrying Susan Pierce of Troy in 1801, he moved to Poughkeepsie where an attempt to establish a weekly paper ended in bankruptcy. The couple would have four children....


Callaway, Cason Jewell (1894-1961), business executive, agriculturist, and developer  

Gene Murkison

Callaway, Cason Jewell (06 November 1894–12 April 1961), business executive, agriculturist, and developer, was born in LaGrange, Georgia, the son of Fuller Earle Callaway and Ida Jane Cason. His father was the founder of Callaway Mills, Inc., a highly successful cotton processing firm. He attended Bingham Military School in Asheville, North Carolina, followed by one year at the University of Virginia. He enjoyed a successful year at Charlottesville, but his father decided that he needed skills training. Therefore, he enrolled at Eastman School of Business in Poughkeepsie, New York. Young Callaway was given responsibility for Valley Waste Mills, a division of his father’s Callaway Mills. At age twenty he organized Valley Waste Mills into a great commercial success as a pioneering recycling operation. His achievements gained his father’s attention as well as that of other top managers in the firm, since the waste division netted more than $1 million in profits during the three-year period just before U.S. entry into World War I....


Calvert, Charles Benedict (1808-1864), politician and agricultural reformer  

Jean Harvey Baker

Calvert, Charles Benedict (23 August 1808–12 May 1864), politician and agricultural reformer, was born at the family plantation, “Riversdale,” in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the son of the Belgian-born heiress Rosalie Eugenia Stier and George Calvert, a lineal descendant of Maryland proprietors. Calvert’s grandfather Benedict was an illegitimate, although acknowledged, son of ...


Carver, George Washington (1864-1943), African-American scientist and educator  

Linda O. McMurry

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....


Cover Carver, George Washington (1864-1943)
George Washington Carver Photograph by Arthur Rothstein, 1942. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USW3- 000165-D).


Chamberlain, William Isaac (1837-1920), agriculturalist and editor  

Raymond M. Hyser

Chamberlain, William Isaac (11 February 1837–30 June 1920), agriculturalist and editor, was born in Sharon, Connecticut, the son of Jacob Chamberlain and Anna Nutting, farmers. When Chamberlain was only fifteen months old, his parents moved from Connecticut to Hudson, Ohio, where they purchased and maintained a 147-acre farm. He received an A.B. from Western Reserve College (located in Hudson) in 1859 and an A.M. from the same school two years later. For three years he taught Greek and Latin at Shaw Academy in East Cleveland, Ohio, then became a member of the Western Reserve College faculty teaching the same languages. In 1863 he became superintendent of the Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, schools, a position he held for two years, but with a decline in his health and his elderly parents needing more care Chamberlain resigned that position to teach languages at Western Reserve College and to maintain the family farm, which he had purchased in 1863. Also in 1863 he married Lucy Jones Marshall, daughter of publisher David Marshall, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They had five children....


Cobb, Cully Alton (1884-1975), agricultural educator, editor, and publisher  

Sandra S. Vance

Cobb, Cully Alton (25 February 1884–07 May 1975), agricultural educator, editor, and publisher, was born in a log cabin on the farm of his paternal grandfather near Prospect, Tennessee, the son of Napoleon Bonaparte Cobb, a farmer and rural minister, and Mary Agnes Woodward. Cobb attended public school in Giles County, Tennessee, and Decatur, Alabama. He entered Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Mississippi State University) in 1904 and graduated in 1908 with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture. From 1908 to 1910 he served as principal of Chickasaw County Agricultural High School at Buena Vista, Mississippi. The first of fifty such institutions established in the state between 1908 and 1920, the school afforded rural youths a college-preparatory education as well as practical training in farming. In 1910 he married Ora May “Byrdie” Ball, with whom he had two children....


Coker, David Robert (1870-1938), pioneering southern agribusinessman and rural reformer  

Peter A. Coclanis

Coker, David Robert (20 November 1870–28 November 1938), pioneering southern agribusinessman and rural reformer, was born in what later became the town of Hartsville in the so-called Pee Dee area of northeastern South Carolina. He was the third son born to James Lide Coker...


Colman, Norman Jay (1827-1911), agricultural journalist and first secretary of agriculture  

Bruce E. Seely

Colman, Norman Jay (16 May 1827–03 November 1911), agricultural journalist and first secretary of agriculture, was born near Richfield Springs, New York, the son of Hamilton Colman and Nancy Sprague, farmers. He attended local academies and soon was teaching school himself. In 1847 Colman left home for Kentucky, where plans to open a school in Owensboro were ended by an illness. He recovered and directed a public school in Brandenburg before enrolling at the University of Louisville Law School, earning a degree in 1849. He opened a successful law office in New Albany, Indiana, married Clara Porter in 1851, and in 1852 was elected district attorney. A year later they moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and purchased a farm, although Colman continued to practice law and was elected an alderman within two years. The couple had two children before Clara Colman died in 1863....


Dabney, Charles William (1855-1945), educator, college president, and agrichemist  

Kevin Grace

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 ...


Davenport, Eugene (1856-1941), agricultural educator  

Winton U. Solberg

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....