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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 57 No. 1, p. 286-292
    Received: Jan 22, 1992

    * Corresponding author(s):
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Franklin Hiram King — Pioneer Scientist

  1. C. B. Tanner and
  2. R. W. Simonson 
  1. Dep. of Soil Science, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706
    4613 Beechwood Rd., College Park, MD 20740



Born in 1848 on a farm near Whitewater, WI, F.H. King received his professional training first at Whitewater State Normal School and later at Cornell University. His scientific contributions were largely made within his native state as professor of natural science at River Falls State Normal School (1878–1888) and professor of agricultural physics at the University of Wisconsin (1888–1902). Interested in a wide range of subject matter throughout his career, King made his major contributions during his years in Madison in research and teaching that dealt with any and all applications of physics to agriculture. Most attention was given to soil physics, e.g., he studied water-holding capacities, moisture requirements of plants, aeration, movement of water in soils, movement of groundwater, and the drafts of plows. During his last years in Madison he also began studies of soil fertility. An unpleasant part of his career followed when King left Wisconsin to become chief of the Division of Soil Management in the USDA Bureau of Soils in Washington, DC (January 1902). His findings in the next 2 yr began to undermine beliefs held strongly by Milton Whitney, chief of the bureau, about the relations of soil chemistry to plant growth. At the insistence of Whitney, King resigned and returned to Madison, where he devoted the last 7 yr of his life to summarizing earlier findings and conducting further research in agricultural physics, e.g., the ventilation of farm buildings. Three of his seven books were written during that period, the best known of which is Farmers of Forty Centuries.

Contribution sponsored by the Council on History, Soil Science Society of America.

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