Franklin Hiram King

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Franklin Hiram King
Franklin Hiram King.jpg
Franklin Hiram King, from the frontispiece of Farmers of Forty Centuries (1911).
Born (1848-06-08)June 8, 1848
La Grange,
near Whitewater, Wisconsin, United States
Died 4 August 1911 (1911-08-05) (aged 63)
United States
Nationality American
Alma mater Whitewater State Normal School
Known for Soil science
Cylindrical storage silo
Carrie Baker (m. 1880)
Children Anna
Awards Doctor of Science, University of Wisconsin (1910)
Scientific career
Fields agricultural scientist
Institutions River Falls State Normal School (1878–1888), University of Wisconsin–Madison (1888–1901)
US Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Soils (1901–1904)
Influences Thomas C. Chamberlin
Influenced A.R. Whitson
Charles E. Slichter

Franklin Hiram King (8 June 1848–4 August 1911) was an American agricultural scientist who was born on a farm near Whitewater, Wisconsin, attended country schools, and received his professional training first at Whitewater State Normal School, graduating in 1872, and then at Cornell University.[1] King is now best remembered for his first-hand account of traditional agricultural practices in Asia, now regarded as an organic farming classic text.[2]

King served as a professor of agricultural physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison from 1888 until 1902. Interested in a wide range of subjects throughout his career, King made major contributions during these years in research and teaching that dealt with applications of physics to agriculture. Most attention was given to soil physics, for example, water-holding capacities of soils, moisture requirements of plants, aeration, movement of water in soils, movement of groundwater, the drafts of plows, and the lifting power of windmills; he also began studies of soil fertility. The impact of his career was greatest in the field of soil science. He has been called the father of soil physics in the United States.[3]

King left Wisconsin to become chief of the Division of Soil Management in the USDA Bureau of Soils in Washington, D.C. in January 1902. His findings in the next two years, that the concentration of nutrients in soil solution was correlated with crop yields, began to undermine beliefs held strongly by the chief of the bureau, Milton Whitney, about the relations of soil chemistry to plant growth and soil fertility. King was forced to resign but privately published several additional papers from his research during this period.[4]

King returned to Madison, where he devoted the last seven years of his life to summarizing earlier findings and conducting further research in agricultural physics, including 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, or Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea, and Japan, which recounted his investigations into what would now be called organic farming or sustainable agriculture during a nine-month tour of Asia in 1909.[2] The last chapter was completed after his death, in 1911, by Carrie Baker King, his wife, who then published the book that same year. It has been described by Lord Northbourne—the founder of organic agriculture—as a "classic" which "no student of farming or social science can afford to ignore".[5]

He is most popularly known for designing the cylindrical storage silo, which reduces the occurrence of spoilage in the silage.[6][7] Some[who?] have speculated that Frank Lloyd Wright's design of the Guggenheim Museum was influenced by King's designs. King is commemorated at the University of Wisconsin–Madison by King Hall, so renamed in 1934, which is the same Agricultural Physics Hall in which he worked during his tenure there and which now houses part of the Department of Soil Science (formed by the 1904 reorganization of King's original department into the 'Soils Department' and the 'Agricultural Engineering Department'), and by the F. H. King Students for Sustainable Agriculture, a student organization that grows various crops that are given away to community residents to raise awareness of sustainable farming and gardening.


In the Bulletin (University of Wisconsin. Agricultural Experiment Station)[edit]

In government publications[edit]

Encyclopedia Articles[edit]

  • King, Franklin Hiram (1907). "The Treatment of the Soil With Reference to Moisture". Tillage: Its Philosophy and Practice. Cyclopedia of American Agriculture. 11. pp. 378–387. 
  • King, Franklin Hiram (1907). "The Treatment of the Soil With Reference to Moisture". The Necessity and Practice of Drainage. Cyclopedia of American Agriculture. 1. pp. 412–419. 
  • King, Franklin Hiram (1908). "Drainage". The Standard Cyclopedia of Modern Agriculture (British). 4. pp. 182–215. 
  • King, Franklin Hiram (1908). "Irrigation". The Standard Cyclopedia of Modern Agriculture (British). 7. pp. 170–181. 


Other publications[edit]


  • King, Franklin Hiram (1901). Observations on crop and soil management methods and practices in China, Manchuria, Korea and Japan: made between Feb. 19 and July 21, 1901.  Illustrations are mounted photos. Includes indexes. Typed from notes taken in the field for the author's book, Farmers of forty centuries. Typescript note from author's wife mounted in both vols. Univ. California, Davis copy has spine title: Observations on China, Korea and Japan; title at head of note in v. 2: Observations in China, Korea and Japan. 2 volumes (591 leaves) : illustrations


  1. ^ Taylor, Mrs. H. J. (June 1933). "Franklin Hiram King" (PDF). The Wilson Bulletin. 57 (1): 66–69. Retrieved 2017-12-02.  Author: Rose Schuster Taylor, as Mrs. H. J. Taylor.
  2. ^ a b Paull, John (2011). "The making of an agricultural classic: Farmers of Forty Centuries or Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea and Japan, 1911–2011". Agricultural Sciences. University of Wisconsin. 2 (3): 175–180. 
  3. ^ Baver, L. D. (1948). Soil physics (2 ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons. 
  4. ^ Tanner, C.B.; Simonson, R.W. (January 1993). "Franklin Hiram King—Pioneer Scientist". Soil Science Society of America Journal. 57 (1): 286–292. Bibcode:1993SSASJ..57..286T. doi:10.2136/sssaj1993.03615995005700010049x.  (Reprinted at University of Wisconsin)
  5. ^ Northbourne, L., 1940, Look to the land, J. M. Dent, London, p. 17, p. 55, apud Paull, John, "Permanent Agriculture: Precursor to Organic Farming", Elementals: Journal of Bio-Dynamics Tasmania, no.83, pp. 19–21, 2006.
  6. ^ King, Franklin Hiram (1891). "The Construction of Silos". Bulletin (University of Wisconsin. Agricultural Experiment Station). University of Wisconsin (28): 15. 
  7. ^ King, Franklin Hiram (1900). "Silage, and the construction of modern silos". Bulletin (University of Wisconsin. Agricultural Experiment Station). University of Wisconsin (83).  The author explains that the crux issue is to eliminate access of air to the silage: the cylindrical container, because it is more resistant to spreading than a rectangular, accomplishes this despite the very large pressures experienced while loading.

External links[edit]