C.B. Tanner (deceased), Dep. of Soil Science, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706; and R.W. Simonson, 4613 Beechwood Rd., College Park, MD 20740. Contribution sponsored by the Council on History, Soil Science Society of America. Received 22 Jan. 1992. *Corresponding author.
Reprinted with permission from the Soil Science Society of America
Volume 57, no. 1, January-February 1993
Any use beyond "fair use" under provisions of the U.S. Copyright Law of 1976 requires separate permission of the publisher, Soil Science Society of America, Inc., 677 S. Segoe Road, Madison, WI 53711.
Converted to HTML format by Phillip Barak, UW-Madison, Jan 1999.
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.
THE PIONEERING ACTIVITIES of F.H. King were not restricted to soil science, although the impact of his career was greatest in that field. He has been called the father of soil physics in the USA (Baver, 1948, p. 7). At the same time, his interests were broad enough for him to make contributions to other fields of knowledge as well. Given his combination of interests and his ability to follow them, King built a distinguished career. How he proceeded and what he accomplished are reported here. His personal history illustrates what goes into the making of a scientist.
King was born on a farm at La Grange, near Whitewater, WI, on 8 June 1848, where he also spent his early years and attended country schools.
After completing elementary school, King entered Whitewater State Normal School at Whitewater, WI, from which he graduated in 1872. His strong interests as a naturalist were already evident. He remained at the normal school an extra year to continue his studies under the direction of Thomas C. Chamberlin, who later became an eminent geologist as well as president of the University of Wisconsin. King continued his education on two later occasions but it was postponed for a time in favor of a job.
As his first job, King taught science courses at the high school in Berlin, WI, where he stayed for 3 yr. During the summers he carried on additional projects. In 1874 and 1875 he developed and published "a scheme for plant analysis," later incorporated into the Ward botanical textbook series. During the summer of 1876 he worked in northern Wisconsin for the U.S. Geological Survey, most likely in studies of glacial deposits.
Leaving Berlin in the fall of 1876, King went to Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, and studied physics, chemistry, geology, and biology for the next 2 yr. The subjects studied reflect his broad range of interests, also expressed in other activities. King worked as an assistant to an ornithologist at Cornell University, who was then studying the diets of birds. King analyzed the contents of the stomachs of >2000 birds to determine what they were eating. This interest in birds was to reappear later.
King left Cornell University in the fall of 1878 to become professor of natural science at River Falls State Normal School in River Falls, WI. He held that job for 10 yr, leaving eventually for the one at the University of Wisconsin from which he became well known. At River Falls, King continued ornithological studies. His published results were later considered pioneering investigations in economic ornithology (Schorger, 1945). In 1880 King was married to Carrie Baker of Berlin, WI. Later in life he credited much of his scientific success to the interest and help of his wife. During the summer of 1880, King studied briefly at the seaside laboratory of Johns Hopkins University in North Carolina. His interest in geology also persisted; King worked for the U.S. Geological Survey again during the summer of 1884, this time in the study of terminal moraines in North Dakota. While at River Falls, King and his wife devised a method for making maps and relief models mechanically. Such models were prepared of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Yellowstone Park, and the world according to the Mercator projection. Copies were sold to a number of schools, including Harvard University, for use in teaching meteorology and physiography. Given their subsequent history, the Kings were doubtless engaged in additional activities. Records are not available, however, because those of the normal school were lost in a fire in 1897.
King was appointed professor of agricultural physics at the University of Wisconsin in 1888. At that time Thomas C. Chamberlin, the geologist with whom King had spent a year of study at Whitewater, was president of the University. W.A. Henry was Dean of the College of Agriculture, the first person to hold that post. The professorship to which King was appointed was the first of its kind in the USA. Other firsts were to follow from the program carried out by the new professor of agricultural physics. A Department of Farm Engineering was established in 1904, later renamed the Department of Agricultural Engineering. The Department of Soil Science was formally set up in 1905, the first in the country (Russell, 1941), although the teaching of soil physics began in 1889. The state soil survey was established in 1909 (Russell, 1941; Beatty, 1991, p. 8).
As a faculty member of a land grant institution, King taught several courses and conducted research on various problems relating to agriculture. He offered one of the first courses in agricultural meteorology in the USA. Furthermore, he initially taught all other courses involving physics in agriculture, such as farm engineering and soil physics. The teaching of these courses passed to others when King resigned from the university in 1901 to join the staff of the Bureau of Soils in Washington, DC. For example, J.A. Jeffries joined the university staff in 1902 to teach agricultural meteorology.
Much the largest share of King's research was focused on soil and crop management, with a large part of it in soil physics. That research will be considered below, but investigations in fields other than soils will be mentioned first. As one example, the rapid adoption of the cylindrical silo was due largely to research by King that demonstrated such structures were not only stronger than other forms but also reduced spoilage. He invented a ventilation system for farm and rural school buildings that was used into the 1930s. He studied the efficiency of farm machinery and the draft of farm implements. He investigated soil mechanics and the construction of rural roads. King conducted the first year-long study of the power generated by farm windmills. He experimented with both heaters and irrigation in efforts to reduce frost damage to orchards. He also measured the effects of slope gradient and aspect on the temperatures of fruit tree trunks.
Despite the wide range of his research, King spent most of his time and energy in the study of soils. The preponderance of soil studies is evident in Table 1, which also shows King's continuing attention to other subjects as those were recorded in the annual reports of the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station from 1889 to 1901. The range of subject matter studied demonstrates that Professor King was the complete agricultural physicist.
King changed emphasis in his research program as the years passed. At first, most of the studies were focused on soil water, followed by tillage and seedbed preparation. Later, more attention was given to soil fertility. Thus, King recruited A.R. Whitson in 1899 to help with studies of soil fertility.
The nature of research in progress is given in the annual reports of the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station in Table 1. As shown in the table, much of the research was on water requirements (water use efficiency) of crops, on the capacities of soils to supply water to plants, and on irrigation. Combining lysimeters in the field and greenhouse with soil sampling, King measured evapotranspiration for several crops to determine water consumption per unit of yield. His findings on the effects of soil fertility and drought on evapotranspiration were substantially correct. During those studies, King invented a sampling tube, known for some time as the King tube. Modified slightly, it is now known as the Veihmeyer tube.
King found that substantial increases in yield followed irrigation, especially on the sandy soils in central Wisconsin. Consequently, he became an early advocate of supplemental irrigation in humid regions. Because of his interests in irrigation, King went to Europe in the summer of 1895 and traveled in the western USA in the summer of 1896 to study irrigation practices. Both trips were made at his own expense (Anonymous, 1901). The demonstrated interest in irrigation and the results of his investigations prompted the USDA to grant King $1200 to support further studies for a period of 2 yr. One-half of the grant went to increasing his salary by $300 per year. King made a special effort to identify critical periods in crop growth and to determine the optimum timing and amounts of irrigation.
Studying water losses from soils, King found that shading of the soil by early foliage development was beneficial. It reduced water loss from the soil surface He also tried mulching and fallowing to conserve water. King overestimated the effects of "earth mulching" because most of his experiments were conducted on soils with shallow water tables. On the other hand, his estimate that about one-fifth of the water used by well-managed crops, and even more under poorly managed crops, was lost from the soil surface has stood the test of time in the humid region.
King examined the root systems of many plants because of his interest in water use and the nutrition of crops. For that purpose he developed methods for excavating whole root systems and then washing them free of soil materials. Among other things, he devised a frame to hold the roots in place during the washing.
As part of his investigations of water relations, King studied percolation; drainage; and the redistribution, retention, and capillary rise of water in soils in the field and in laboratory specimens. In his field experiments, he found that capillary flow upward into the root zone during the growing season could provide at least 4 cm of water to a crop. In laboratory studies, he used monoliths 30 cm long and 150 cm in diameter or columns of packed soil material in glass tubes, some as long as 3 m. Some of the experiments in the laboratory were continued for 2 yr. King was puzzled to learn that drainage from long columns would stop for a while and then start again later. He found upward redistribution during some intervals but could not decide whether that was due to "internal evaporation" or liquid flow.
King noticed, in his laboratory experiments, that the particle-size distribution of the soil materials in the glass columns affected the rate of water flow. That finding prompted interest on the part of Charles E. Slichter in hydrology (Ingraham, 1972, p. 52), which, in turn, led to a landmark article on the theory of groundwater movement (Slichter, 1898), published with a companion article by King (1898). Because of the two articles, the U.S. Geological Survey made grants of $500 to each man to continue the investigations (Anonymous, 1901).
As part of his efforts to understand the storage and movement of water in soil, King studied water table contours in relation to topography, cropping history, transpiration, tile or ditch drainage systems, and wells. He even had a well with recording equipment in the basement of his home. A study of the water table at Whitewater, WI, funded by a grant of $500 from the Weather Bureau, is recorded in the ninth annual report of the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station. As a result of his own investigations and his collaboration with Slichter, King believed that the movement of groundwater over short distances was amenable to calculation. On the other hand, movement over long distances could not be calculated because of the dependence of flow on fissures and other channels. That pessimism was justified; estimating the water flow through macropores remains a major problem.
King also studied the permeability of soil to air, related as it was to both the porosity of soils and the storage and movement of water. While conceding that the exchange of air between soil and atmosphere by the slow process of molecular diffusion must be considerable because it was continuous, King thought that convection induced by pressure and temperature changes was more important because of the ready flow of air through shrinkage cracks, former root channels, animal burrows, and large pores. Evidence for this belief consisted of (i) changes in discharges in wells, field drains, and springs that would follow pressure changes in < 20 min, and (ii) the "breathing" of wells and drains. King further believed that horizontal pressure differences at the soil surface due to wind flowing around obstacles could be more important to air exchange than any other factor and that the penetration and withdrawal of air because of fluctuating pressures due to gusty winds were second in importance (King, 1901).
Table 1 shows that King investigated the effects of various kinds of tillage on seedbed preparation and on crop yields. He also conducted experiments in subsoiling to see whether that would increase yields.
In his studies of sandy soils, King noted their susceptibility to wind erosion. For control of such erosion, he recommended stripcropping and windbreaks. These recommendations applied especially to the sandy plain in the central part of the state.
In 1895 to 1896, King learned from some fertilizer trials that K carriers increased yields appreciably on muck soils, whereas N and P carriers had little effect. Those results sparked King's interest in soil fertility. He consequently undertook studies of the relationships between levels of water-soluble nutrients in mineral soils and crop yields. Such studies were made on soils that had received additions of mineral fertilizers or animal manures and on soils that had not been treated in any way. Those investigations had been completed for few soils before King resigned from the university to take a job with the USDA Bureau of Soils in Washington, DC.
King began working for the Bureau of Soils in January 1902, but his career with the organization was shortlived (Gardner, 1977). Because of a professional disagreement, King was asked by Milton Whitney, chief of the bureau, to resign in January 1904. Consequently, King was once more in Madison, WI, in July 1904. The disagreement followed from the results obtained by King in studies of soil fertility.
King was hired to take charge of investigations of soil climatology already in progress (Whitney, 1901). Those investigations were to be part of the responsibility of a newly formed Division of Soil Management (Whitney, 1902), with King in charge. In his normal fashion, King undertook to investigate several questions.
He was able to give more attention to soil aeration than he had in the past. To permit more research than he could perform himself, he recruited E. Buckingham, who was an instructor in physics at the University of Wisconsin from September 1901 to May 1902, at which time he resigned to work for the Bureau of Soils. We have found no evidence that King and Buckingham were acquainted while both were on the campus in Madison the latter part of 1901. Chances are that they were, however because King hired Buckingham within a few months after reporting for work himself.
The results of a study of aeration were reported in a bulletin published by the Bureau of Soils soon after King resigned (Buckingham, 1904). Some of the conclusions drawn in the bulletin were later challenged by King (1905a). Although King underrated the importance of diffusion in gas exchange between the atmosphere and soil, Buckingham underrated convection except in very deep soils. He completely overlooked the effects of winds. The "transpiration" of air believed by King to be the most important mechanism is still recognized as a major factor, along with forces of buoyancy, for mulches with large pores and may account for as much as one-fifth of the gas exchange at the surface of a coarse soil. Gas exchange due to wind-induced lateral pressure changes has not yet been investigated adequately.
King initiated studies of levels of plant nutrients in soil solutions and their relationships to the composition of plants and to crop yields during his first year on the bureau staff. He was able to extend those to a larger universe than a single state. King made chemical analyses of both soils and plants as part of his research. These included total analyses of soil samples plus analyses of soil solutions, plant sap, and entire plants. Moreover, these analyses were made of specimens from plots on good soils, plots on poor soils, plots that had received mineral fertilizers, plots that had received animal manures, and plots without any treatment. Before coming to work for the Bureau of Soils, King had learned that the amounts of nutrients in solutions drawn from soils were much smaller than suggested by total chemical analysis of soil samples. At the same time, the concentrations of nutrient elements in solution were correlated with crop yields. These relations prevailed in the data King collected for the bureau.
The results of the investigations by King during the first 2 yr (1902 and 1903) were summarized in six manuscripts submitted for publication as bulletins of the Bureau of Soils. As chief of the bureau, Whitney approved publication of three manuscripts without his endorsement and rejected the other three (Gardner, 1977; King, 1905b). The data and conclusions in those three manuscripts raised serious questions about ideas strongly held by Whitney about soil properties and their productivity.
The conclusions in King's manuscripts were also in conflict with those expressed in a previously published bulletin by Whitney and Cameron (1903). Although not the first time the ideas had been offered, the 1903 bulletin provided a more complete and elaborate statement than any earlier publication. The prime argument in the bulletin was that the chemistry of soils is of little or no importance to crop production. Major views expressed in the bulletin can be summarized as follows: (i) the concentration of plant nutrients in the soil solution is the same in productive and unproductive soils, (ii) that concentration is maintained by natural processes, (iii) all soils suitable for crop production contain enough nutrients for satisfactory plant growth, and (iv) the supply will last indefinitely. Jenny (1961) reported that King had been included as an author of the bulletin at some stage but had had his name withdrawn. Many of the data on which the bulletin was based had been collected by King, but his interpretations of their meaning differed sharply from the ones drawn by Whitney and Cameron (1903).
Whitney had developed his ideas about the relative importance of chemical and physical properties of soils while working for the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station, where he gave nearly all of his attention to the soils between Chesapeake Bay and the Appalachian Mountains (Whitney, 1893). The gross chemical composition of surface layers of the soils was much the same, as determined by the methods of that day. Yet there were appreciable differences in suitabilities of the soils for crops and in yields. Whitney thus concluded that differences in properties other than chemical composition governed productivity. Looking for other factors, he concluded that moisture and temperature were the controls. He also decided that the best available index to conditions of moisture and temperature was texture. Thus the conclusions reached by Whitney 10 yr earlier were repeated with little change in 1903.
Strong objections were elicited immediately to the ideas offered by Whitney and Cameron (1903). Examples are the papers by Hilgard (1904a) and Hopkins (1904) presented at the annual meetings of the Association of Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations in 1903. Ideas expressed in the bulletin were also ridiculed in a paper by Russell (1905) published in England after he had visited the USA. Six pages of Russell's paper are given to a review of the bulletin, with the conclusion that it offers a strange doctrine indeed in the face of existing evidence.
The vigorous objections of Hilgard, Hopkins, and others to Whitney and Cameron (1903) made little or no impression on Whitney. Because of his disagreement with King, Whitney asked him to resign. King left the Bureau in January 1904, only 2 yr after having joined the staff.
King brought with him to Wisconsin the three manuscripts rejected by Whitney. He soon had the manuscripts ready and published them privately after obtaining the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture (King, 1904).
Back in Madison, King did not publicly continue his controversy with Whitney except for a pair of items. One consisted of comments (King, 1905a) on the report about aeration by Buckingham (1904). One paragraph in those comments is centered on the disagreement with Whitney. A second public item consisted of a letter about plant nutrients in soils (King, 1905c).
Whitney somewhat revised the ideas expressed in Whitney and Cameron (1903), proposing that animal and green manures and mineral fertilizers were beneficial because they offset toxic substances excreted by plant roots in the soil (Whitney, 1906). To those ideas, King published a rebuttal (King, 1908a).
After publishing the three manuscripts brought with him from Washington, King turned to other activities. A major project between 1904 and 1908 was writing his book on soil management (King, 1914), but he did not live to see it published. His wife, Carrie Baker King, arranged for publication of the book after his death in 1911. [Mrs. King outlived her husband 46 yr, reaching the age of 100 before she died in 1957. The Kings had six children: Anna, Max, Clarence, Hugh, Ralph, and Howard. Hugh died in infancy and Max in 1955. Howard, youngest of the children, furnished information about his father's career, and the help was greatly appreciated.]
A second major project during those 4 yr was the preparation and publication of a book on ventilation of farm buildings and rural schools (King, 1908b). The studies on which the book was based were started after 1901 and largely completed by 1905.
Additional activities consisted of writing articles for farm magazines and newspapers, some consulting on agricultural problems, and some travel. These filled the chinks of time between major projects.
Using cash obtained from his life insurance policies (Howard King, 1986, personal communication), King traveled in Japan, Korea and China for about 9 mo in 1909. His purpose was to learn how agriculture had been maintained successfully in those countries for several thousand years. Following his return, King prepared an account of his observations in his best-known book, Farmers of Forty Centuries (King, 1911 a). On the day of his death, 4 Aug. 1911, he made the final arrangements for publication of his book even though it still lacked the final chapter. Mrs. King assembled materials for that chapter and saw the manuscript through publication, as she also did the book on soil management (King, 1914). Many years later, Albert Ravenholt of the American Universities Field Staff wrote that study of the book by King "remains the best preparation for understanding the economic foundations of the civilizations of Japan, Korea, and China" (Ravenholt, 1978).
Early in 1911, Thomas C. Chamberlin, then a prominent geologist at the University of Chicago, published a paper on soil productivity that he had first presented to the Geological Club at the University (Chamberlin, 1911). Chamberlin relied heavily on the information in Whitney and Cameron (1903), joining them in arguing that there were "efficient natural processes for the maintenance of soils." Barring erosion, soils would be productive indefinitely. Moreover, productivity could be enhanced if manures, including human wastes, were added to soils. Chamberlin also argued that the thin water films around soil particles served to dissolve nutrient elements because of their great areas of contact. Furthermore, upward capillary movement of water carried far more K and P than was lost in leaching. Finally, adequate supplies of N could be provided by the growing of legumes. In support of those statements, Chamberlin cited areas in western China where soil productivity had been maintained for centuries at levels higher than those of virgin soils in the USA. Maintenance was due, in part, to the addition of human wastes to the soil. As further support for his views, Chamberlin pointed out that soil productivity had increased in Europe during the last two decades and in the USA for the last four without the applications of human wastes practiced in China.
After the Chamberlin paper appeared, E.W. Hilgard of California proposed to King that he publish a reply because he had so recently visited China. If King would not reply to Chamberlin, Hilgard would do so, in rather unkind fashion (Howard King, 1986, personal communication). King was reluctant to take issue with Chamberlin because of their long and friendly association. After more urging by Hilgard, however, King published a rebuttal to the views expressed bv Chamberlin (King, 1911b). King showed that upward capillary movement of water would not sustain soil productivity. Moreover, the practices in China cited by Chamberlin actually included more than the addition of human wastes to soil. Farmers also added plant nutrients obtained from outside their own lands. The recent increases in productivity in Europe and the USA coincided with increases in the use of fertilizers combined with improvement in other management practices. The response to Chamberlin was the last publication by King other than the two books published posthumously. His work thus ended on a note that pervaded his entire career, namely, to keep the facts straight and spread them as widely as possible.
King tried at all times to transmit to others what he had learned through his own studies. For that purpose, he followed two approaches. One was his teaching at Berlin High School, River Falls State Normal School, and the University of Wisconsin. The second approach was through publications of various kinds. His teaching career has been described above. The publications will be discussed here.
During his career, King completed seven books, five of which were published during his lifetime and two after his death. The titles of the books are listed below in the sequence in which they were published:
1894. Elementary lessons in physics of agriculture. F.H. King, Madison, WI.
1895. The soil: Its nature, relations and fundamental principles of management. Macmillan, New York.
1898. Irrigation and drainage. Macmillan, New York.
1901. Physics of agriculture. F.H. King, Madison, WI.
1908. Ventilation for dwellings, rural schools and stables. F.H. King, Madison, WI
1911. Farmers of forty centuries. F.H. King, Madison, WI.
1914. Soil management. Orange-Judd, New York.
The books represent major publications but only a part of the total completed by King during his career. His research findings were published in bulletins and scientific journals. Most of the bulletins were issued by the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station, but some were published by the Bureau of Soils and some by King himself. Scientific papers were published in various journals. All told, the individual publications in bulletins and journals total > 100. The purpose of these publications was to transmit research findings to other scientists.
King wished at all times to transmit information about soils to the public at large, especially to farmers. To that end, one effort that continued throughout his professional life was contributing articles to farm magazines and newspapers. All told, King published slightly more than 130 articles in those media. The purpose of all such publishing was to spread available knowledge as widely as possible.
Knowledge accumulated about soils over the years has demonstrated the value of King's contributions. Examples of the validity of his ideas have been offered above. Unfortunately, King did not live long enough to see his ideas on soil--crop relations persist while those of Whitney were being discarded. On the other hand, King was regarded as an eminent scientist during his lifetime. Moreover, his reputation has not faded with the passing of time.
E.W. Hilgard, in his denunciation of Whitney and defense of King, wrote as follows (Hilgard, 1904b):
Both American and European scientists have been accustomed for many years to regard with confidence and respect the work and publications of the man upon whom, by common consent, the mantle of Wollny has fallen since the death of the soil physicist of Germany.
Later, in an obituary for King, C.G. Hopkins of Illinois made the following statement (Hopkins, 1911):
There were Johnson and Kedzie and Babcock and Hilgard, all eminent men who helped to lay the foundation walls of our agricultural chemistry, upon whose superstructure a thousand of us common laborers are now at work; but when the science of soil physics is mentioned, we think first of F.H. King, for he laid that foundation, and for many more years he was also the master workman upon that superstructure; yea, more--he developed methods of work and fashioned tools for the workmen; and he worked not only in agricultural physics, but he knew more of chemistry than most chemists.
Recognition has come in various forms. King was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Wisconsin in 1910. He was the first person to receive an award from the Grant Squires Fund of the National Geographic Society for his studies of oriental agriculture. King was a member of the Society for the Promotion of Agricultural Science; the Washing ton Philosophical Society; and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters. He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. These awards and memberships reflect both interests and distinctions.
Sometime later, a further tribute was paid to King by Chamberlin, despite the disagreement between the two over long-time soil productivity. Chamberlin was asked to give the main address at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first graduating class of Whitewater State Normal School. In that address, Chamberlin made the following statement: "I have a public apology to make regarding my inability to judge human nature. I consider F.H. King to be Whitewater's greatest alumnus yet I once called him into my office on the campus and said, 'King, you're wasting your time; go back and follow the plow'" (Howard King, 1986, personal communication).
King's standing has not diminished over the years. During a visit to the University of Wisconsin in 1935, Sir John Russell, director of the Rothamsted Experimental Station in Great Britain, told E.B. Fred, then dean of the graduate school and later president of the university, that his reason for the visit was to see where "America's greatest and most famous soil physicist carried out much of his work." Sir John was referring to Franklin Hiram King.
Within the last 15 yr, Gardner (1977) has reviewed highlights in the history of soil physics for the preceding 200 yr. He reviewed the work and contributions of King as one of the pioneers and as a proponent of more quantitative methods for characterization of water relations and physical properties of soils.
An apt conclusion to this account of King's career is provided by an anecdote from E.B. Fred, who got the story from E.G. Hastings, professor of bacteriology and a contemporary of King. When the latter was giving a lecture on his travels, someone in the audience asked if King had taken much of his information from papers published in the countries he had visited. King replied, "Yes, I have copied from others and I have milked a thousand cows, but the cheese is all mine!"
Anonymous. 1901. Franklin Hiram King. Wisc. Alumni Mag. November, p. 52-58.
Baver, L.D. 1948. Soil physics. 2nd ed. John Wiley & Sons, New York.
Beatty, M.T. 1991. Soil science at the University of Wisconsin: A history of the department, 1889-1989. Dep. of Soil Sci., Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison.
Buckingham, E. 1904. Contributions to our knowledge of the aeration of soils. USDA Bur. Soils Bull. 25. U.S. Gov. Print. Office, Washington, DC.
Chamberlin, T.C. 1911. Soil productivity. Science (Washington, DC) 33:225-227.
Gardner, W.H. 1977. Historical highlights in American soil physics, 1776-1976. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 41:221-229.
Hilgard, E.W. 1904a. Chemistry of soils as related to crop production-Bureau of Soils Bull. 22. p. 117-121. In USDA Office Exp. Stn. Bull. 142. U-S. Gov- Print. Office, Washington, DC.
Hilgard, E.W. 1904b. Soil management. Science (Washington, DC) 20:605-608.
Hopkins, C.G. 1904. The present status of soil investigation. p. 95-104. In USDA Office Exp. Sm. Bull- 142. U.S. Gov. Print. Office, Washington, DC.
Hopkins, C. G. 1911. Necrology. F.H. King. Wisc. Country Mag. 5:307.
Ingraham, M.H. 1972. Charles Sumner Slichter: The golden vector. Univ. of Wisc. Press, Madison.
Jenny, H. 1961. E.W. Hilgard and the birth of modern soil science. Collana Della Rivista "Agrochimica," Pisa, Italy. p. 100-101.
King, F.H. 1898. Principles and conditions of the movement of ground water. p. 59-294. In U.S. Geol. Surv. Annu. Rep. Part 2. U.S- Gov. Print. Office, Washington, DC.
King, F.H. 1901. Physics of agriculture. F.H. King, Madison, Wi.
King, F.H. 1904. Investigations in soil management: E. Influence of farmyard manure upon yield and upon water-soluble salt of soils (p. 1-61); F. Movements of water-soluble salts in soils (p. 62-113); G. Absorption of water-soluble salts by different soil types (p. 114-168). F.H. King, Madison, WI.
King, F.H. 1905a. Contributions to our knowledge of the aeration of soils. Science (Washington, DC) 22:495-499
King, F.H.. 1905b. Investigations in soil management: 1. Amount of plant food readily recoverable from soils (p. 1-78); 11. Relation of crop yields to the amount of water-soluble plant food materials recovered from soils (p. 79-124); 111. Relations of differences in climatological environments to crop yields (p. 125-205). USDA Bur. Soils Bull. 26. U.S. Gov. Print. Office, Washington, DC.
King, F.H. 1905c. Relation of yield to the amount of water-soluble plant food materials in soils. Wallace's Farmer 30:112113.
King, F.H. 1908a. Toxicity as a factor in the productive capacity of soils. Science (Washington, DC) 27:635-636.
King, F.H. 1908b. Ventilation for dwellings, rural schools and stables. F.H. King, Madison, WI.
King, F.H. 1911a. Farmers of forty centuries. F.H. King, Madison, WI.
King, F.H. 1911b. Productivity of soils. Science (Washington, DC) 33:614-619.
King, F.H. 1914. Soil management. Orange-Judd Co., New York.
Ravenholt, A. 1978. Whose good earth? Health, diet, and food production in the People's Republic of China. Am. Univ. Field Staff Rep. no. 34. Am. Univ. Field Serv., Hanover, NH.
Russell, E.J. 1905. The recent work of the American Soil Bureau. J. Agric. Sci. (Cambridge) 1:327-346.
Russell, H.L. 1941. Thomas C. Chamberlin. Wisc. Alumnus 42:215-227, 285.
Schorger, A.W. 1945. Franklin Hiram King. Passenger Pigeon 7:117-121.
Slichter, C.S. 1898. Theoretical investigation of the motion of ground waters. p. 295-384. In U.S. Geol. Surv. Annu. Rep. Part 2. U.S. Gov. Print. Office, Washington, DC.
Whitney M. 1893. The soils of Maryland. Maryland Agric. Exp. Stn. Bull. 21.
Whitney, M. 1901. Report of Chief, Division of Soils. p. 113140. In 1901 Annu. Rep. USDA, Washington, DC.
Whitney, M. 1902. Report of Chief, Bureau of Soils. p. 155188. In 1902 Annu. Rep. USDA, Washington, DC.
Whitney, M. 1906. Soil fertility. USDA Farmers' Bull. 257. U.S. Gov. Print. Office, Washington, DC.
Whitney, M_ and F.K. Cameron. 1903. The chemistry of the soil as related to crop production. USDA Bur. Soils Bull. 22. U.S. Gov. Print- Office, Washington, DC.
Anonymous. 1904. Professor F.H. King. The North American Farmer. 1 Aug. vol. 3, no. 8.
Beal, W.H. 1911. Prof. Franklin Hiram King. Proc. Soc. Promotion Agric. Sci. 32:82-84.
Gurti, M., and V. Carstensen, 1949. The University of Wisconsin: A history, 1848-1925. Vol. I and 2. Univ. of Wisconsin Press, Madison.
Malone, D. (ed.) 1933. Dictionary of American biography. Vol. 10. p. 388-389. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.
Reprinted with permission from the Soil Science Society of America
Volume 57, no. 1, January-February 1993
Any use beyond "fair use" under provisions of the U.S. Copyright Law of 1976 requires separate permission of the publisher, Soil Science Society of America, Inc., 677 S. Segoe Road, Madison, WI 53711.
Converted to HTML format by Phillip Barak, UW-Madison, Jan 1999.
The Agricultural Physics Department occupied this newly-built building in 1896, which they shared with the Dept. of Horticulture. After the 1914 addition (attached to the right side of the building in the photo), the Soils Dept. (so renamed in 1905) moved to the addition, commonly known as the Soils Building. In 1934, the building was renamed "King Hall" in honor of F.H. King, although no plaque or marker so designating it appears on the building itself. The Dept. of Soil Science reoccupied King Hall in part in 1965 and in its entirety following a complete remodel begun in 1983 and finished in 1987. King Hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. (Photo and info from Beatty, 1991, with supplemental information from "Buildings of the University of Wisconsin" by Jim Feldman, 1997.)
Page from F.H. King's lab book entitled "Capillary movement of water through soil influenced by salts", April 1892. (Lab book recovered by C.B. Tanner and part of the permanent collection of the Dept. of Soil Science, UW-Madison.
(Click for full image.)
Click here for more on F.H. King's East Asian experiences.