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50 & 100 years ago


50 Years Ago

Advances in Agronomy — What is agronomy? Certainly, like 'billion' and 'suspender', it suffers a potentially embarrassing change of meaning in crossing the Atlantic. In England, little would be left for agronomy when the claims of chemistry, entomology, plant pathology and so on had been stated — perhaps the study of green manuring, seed-rates and sowing dates. In the United States apparently the subject of agronomy comprises pretty well all agricultural science. Subjects covered by the present volumes range from liming to castor-beans and from wheat stem rust to water and its relation to soils and crops. “Advances in Agronomy” is written mainly by Americans about conditions in the United States ... The articles in these two volumes, with a few exceptions, read like a disjointed collection of condensed text-books, or chapters from text-books. The range of subjects covered is far too wide to justify the implied suggestion that they are all branches of one science. These volumes do not establish 'agronomy' as a science.

From Nature 25 June 1960.

100 Years Ago

Let me tell you of life-saving “eels” in vinegar. I was examining the creatures with a microscope when one of them became stranded, owing to its having strayed into the shallower portion of the vinegar-drop, and there it wriggled while the fluid grew shallower still. Just as it seemed on the point of giving its last expiring wriggle, what was my amazement to see three or four other “eels” make a dash from the deeper vinegar, and force themselves across the shallow to where lay their stranded comrade ... These tiny life-savers rushed with all the energy of desperation at their now quiescent comrade, and worked it slowly towards the deeper part of the fluid, and they reached it, too, in time to save their own and the other's life.

From Nature 23 June 1910.

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50 & 100 years ago. Nature 466, 39 (2010).

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