E. John Russell

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Sir Edward John Russell OBE FRS[1] (31 October 1872 – 12 July 1965) was a British soil chemist, agriculture scientist, and director of Rothamsted Experimental Station from 1912 to 1943.[2][3] He was responsible for hiring R.A. Fisher for statistical research at Rothamsted. Driven by concerns over a lack of international information exchange about agriculture, he initiated the Imperial Agricultural Bureaux, which later became the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux.

Russell was born Frampton-on-Severn, Gloucestershire, the eldest son of the Reverend Edward T. Russell who had worked earlier as a schoolmaster. In 1885 he studied at Birmingham where the family moved before moving the next year to London. He was educated at Carmarthen Presbyterian College, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and at the Victoria University of Manchester. He earned his doctorate in chemistry (D.Sc.) from the University of London in July 1902.[4][5]

Russell worked as a demonstrator and lecturer at the chemistry department in Victoria University, Manchester from 1898 and became the head of the department at Agricultural college Wye from 1892 to 1907. From 1907 to 1912 he was appointed soil chemist at Rothamsted through Goldsmith's Company's endowment of £10,000. In 1913 he became a director of the research station, succeeding Alfred Daniel Hall. Russell worked on soil chemistry and plant nutrition. Russell appointed R.A. Fisher at the experimental station in 1919 after hiring him initially on a temporary basis. Russell was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1918 New Year Honours for his efforts during the First World War as Technical Adviser in the Food Production Department.[6] He was knighted in 1922.[5] He served as the President of the Geographical Association in 1923.

Russell was president of the British Association for 1948–1949.[7] He married Elnor Oldham of Manchester in 1903 and they had six children of whom one son, Walter, became a soil-physicist at Rothamsted.[2] He is buried, with his wife, in the churchyard of St Nicholas in Harpenden.



  1. ^ Thornton, H. G. (1966). "Edward John Russell. 1872-1965". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 12: 456–477. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1966.0022.
  2. ^ a b Bear, F. E. (1944). "Sir John Russell". Plant Physiology. 19 (3): i4–393. doi:10.1104/pp.19.3.391. PMC 438169. PMID 16653941.
  3. ^ "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35877. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ "University intelligence". The Times (36829). London. 25 July 1902. p. 5.
  5. ^ a b Bear, FE (July 1944). "Sir John Russell" (PDF). Plant Physiology. 19 (3): 391–393. doi:10.1104/pp.19.3.391. PMC 438169. PMID 16653941.
  6. ^ "No. 30460". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 January 1918. p. 385.
  7. ^ Goldsmith, Maurice (18 Nov 1949). "112th Annual Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science". Science. 110 (2864): 522–525. doi:10.1126/science.110.2864.522. PMID 17747287.

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