Celebrating 20 Years on the Web
TODAY IN SCIENCE HISTORY ®
Find science on or your birthday


Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
more quiz questions >>
Thumbnail of Wilbur Olin Atwater (source)
Wilbur Olin Atwater
(3 May 1844 - 22 Sep 1907)

American agricultural chemist who studied the metabolism of mammals and was the first director of the first state agricultural experimental laboratory


Wilbur Olin Atwater.

Obituary from American Chemical Journal (1907)

Wilbur Olin Atwater
Wilbur Olin Atwater c. 1900 (source)

[p.652] Wilbur Olin Atwater, the son of a Methodist clergyman well known in New England, was born in Johnsburg, N. Y., May 3, 1844, and died at his home in Middletown, Conn., September 22, 1907, after an illness of nearly three years. During much of this period of illness he was able to follow to a considerable degree the progress which was made in the lines in which he was interested, but was unable to take part in work of any kind.

He received his academic training at the University of Vermont and Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn., being graduated from the latter institution in 1865. During a period of post-graduate study at Yale University, which led to the doctor’s degree in 1869, he was associated with Professors Johnson and Brewer and had his attention called to agricultural chemistry and the great opportunities this subject offered to investigators. With an insight which characterized him throughout his career, he recognized the future possibilities of such work, and from 1869 to 1871 he studied agricultural and physiological chemistry in the Universities of Leipsic and Berlin. His career as a college teacher began immediately after his return from Europe at the University of Tennessee and Maine State College, and he was called to [p.653] Wesleyan University in 1873, where he held a professorship of chemistry for over thirty years. The first State Agricultural Experiment Station in the United States was organized, largely through his efforts, in Connecticut in 1875, and he was made its first director. Interest in the experiment station movement spread rapidly, and the passage by Congress, in 1887, of the Hatch Act made possible the establishment of such a station in every State and Territory.

In 1894-5 Congress made special appropriations for nutrition investigations under the auspices of the Office of Experiment Stations, and the extended series of publications which have reported this work shows what a large contribution Professor Atwater and his associates have made to this important subject.

Familiarity with the Pettenkofer-Voit respiration apparatus, gained during his stay at Munich, led Professor Atwater to undertake the construction of a similar device, which should, however, include the determination of income and outgo of energy in addition to the income and outgo of matter, and the respiration calorimeter, which was developed by him and his associates, is unrivaled in its class as an instrument of precision, useful for the study of a very large variety of problems connected with physiology and nutrition of man and animals. The bomb calorimeter and the methods of its use were, also, materially improved under his direction.

Professor Atwater’s aid was often sought in the study of nutrition problems. As instances may be mentioned the extended investigations of dietetic problems undertaken for the New York State Commission in Lunacy, studies of the nutritive values of alcohol carried on for the Committee of Fifty to Investigate the Liquor Problem, and the series of investigations undertaken for the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Professor Atwater was a member of many learned societies and received many honors in the United States and Europe. His influence on the development of agricultural education and research in this country and on the study of human nutrition has been of very great and permanent value.

The establishment of the Office of Experiment Stations in the U. S. Department of Agriculture, as a central agency for promoting the interests of the stations, quite naturally followed and Professor Atwater was made its first director. That this Bureau has in later years followed, with great success, the general policies laid down by Professor Atwater is a proof of his wisdom and foresight.

A long list of articles in scientific and popular journals, in [p.654] publications of the Connecticut Storrs Experiment Station and the United States Department of Agriculture, etc., shows the contribution which Professor Atwater has made to the development of agricultural chemistry and agricultural education.

Parallel with his studies in agricultural chemistry, Professor Atwater began early in his career to carry on investigations in physiological chemistry, with special reference to problems of human nutrition. Among his more important earlier work may be mentioned “Studies of Chemical Composition and Nutritive Value of American Food Fishes and Invertebrates,” undertaken for the U. S. Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, and the work undertaken for the Smithsonian Institution and the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor. In this and later work, experimental methods were evolved and lines of research outlined which have become generally adopted.

In 1882-3 he devoted considerable time at the Universities of Munich and Heidelberg to familiarize himself with German methods of studying nutrition problems, and later made the study of human nutrition an important part of the work of the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, of which he was for many years the director.

A.C. True

Photo (not in original text) added from USDA web page. Text from Obituary by A.C. True in Ira Remsen and Charles August Rouiller (eds.), American Chemical Journal (Nov 1907), 652-654. (source)


See also:
  • Science Quotes by Wilbur Olin Atwater.
  • 3 May - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Atwater's birth.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)


- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.