User:Broadcastinglive2/"Charles Zavitz"

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1920 portrait of Charles Ambrose Zavitz

Charles Zavitz Charles Ambrose Zavitz, b. 1863, d. 1942, was notable as a crop scientist and peace activist. Both of these pursuits can be traced to his Quaker beliefs.

Charles Zavitz was born in Coldstream, Ontario, in 1863. Raised in a Quaker home that valued education, Charles was sent to the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph, Ontario after finishing secondary school.

Upon graduation in 1886, he was kept on staff as a junior chemist by the College. When the College introduced a three-year degree program sponsored by the University of Toronto, Charles was one of five in the first graduating class of 1888. He was then appointed Assistant Superintendent of Experiments. By 1904, Charles was the head of a new department of Field Husbandry.

As early as 1902, his use of Gregor Mendel’s methods paid off as his experiments in cross-fertilization produced seeds that promised multiple benefits for farmers. Implementing Quaker ideals of consensus and collaboration, Zavitz revitalized the Ontario Agricultural and Experimental Union. “By 1924 more than 100,000 farmers were conducting various experiments on their farms. Ontario’s crop yields were increased exponentially by using the Union to distribute his experimental materials throughout the province.” [1]

In 1916, the University of Toronto recognized Zavitz with an honorary Doctor of Science degree for his research and for his peace activism. “Charles was the founder of the Canadian Peace and Arbitration Society, Canada’s first peace group....” [2] Zavitz was the acting President of the College at the beginning of World War I, and refused to let the militia recruit or drill on campus. Local war supporters called for his dismissal. [3]

Similarly, when the local tobacco growers approached the college to conduct experiments for their benefit, Zavitz refused because he could not in good conscience take resources away from food production to waste on an unhealthy pleasure like tobacco use.

Zavitz pioneered the development of soybeans for commercial use in Ontario, and also enhanced yields in potatoes, and alfalfa, sugar beets, peas, grain and field beans. His most notable accomplishment came in barley. He cross-pollinated different barley varieties from 1903 to 1910 and then released OAC #21 barley which accounted for a majority of barley planted in Canada for almost 40 years. The Canadian Brewer’s Association found it was a superb barley for the malting process and wanted to present Zavitz with an award but he would not accept the it in public because of his Quaker position opposing alcohol consumption. [4]

Zavitz retired from the Ontario Agricultural College in 1927, and was instrumental in founding, and became the first chairman of, the Canadian Friends Service Committee in 1931. “In 1932 [Zavitz} published a booklet containing his personal thoughts from over the years. The result was "Spiritual Life." He had 1000 volumes printed and distributed them, free of charge, to his relatives, friends and associates.” [5]

In 1935, the University of Western Ontario awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. He was the first Canadian to be named a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, and was also named as an Honorary Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was inducted posthumously into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1974, into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1984, and received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Guelph in 1999 as they celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Ontario Agricultural College.


  1. ^ Western Fair – Hall of Fame, Charles Zavitz biography written for his induction in 2010
  2. ^ John Bacher, Two Million Trees and Counting: the Legacy of Edmund Zavitz, Dundurn, 2011, p.37
  3. ^ Alexander M. Ross, Terry Crowley, Terence Allan Crowley, The College on the Hill: A New History of the Ontario Agricultural College, 1874-1999, Dundurn, 1999 , pgs 86,87
  4. ^ James R. Zavitz, Recollections of my Grandfather: Charles Ambrose Zavitz , Canadian Quaker History Journal, No. 67, 2002, p.7
  5. ^ James R. Zavitz, Recollections of my Grandfather, Charles Ambrose Zavitz , Canadian Quaker History Journal, No. 67, 2002, p.16

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