Contributions to Soil Science by Merritt F. Miller.
Stephen H. Anderson, Clark J. Gantzer, and Randall J. Miles. University of Missouri, 302 ABNR Building, Department of Soil, Environmental & Atmospheric Sciences, Columbia, MO 65211
Soil science benefited greatly from both the scientific and administrative efforts of Professor Merritt F. Miller while he served at the University of Missouri. Professor Merritt Finley Miller (1875 to 1965) was the first appointed Professor and Department Chair in 1904 of the newly formed Department of Agronomy. Professor Miller’s early work focused on evaluating cropping systems for improved crop productivity. The most significant work of Professor Miller was the development of methods for evaluating soil erosion and new cropping systems for soil conservation. In 1915, R.W. McClure, a student, and Professor Miller measured rainfall and runoff over a two-month period in the first soil erosion experiment in the U.S. This initial work, also supported by F.L. Duley, led to the development of soil erosion plots for investigating soil loss related to cropping practices. In 1928, Hugh Hammond Bennett used these Missouri data to support his request to the U.S. Congress to obtain funds for the first 10 soil erosion experiment stations from whose data the Universal Soil Loss Equation was developed. This equation has been used to predict soil erosion and design soil conservation methods throughout the world. Professor Miller served as the Chair of the Department of Agronomy from 1904 to 1914, the Chair of the Department of Soils from 1914 to 1938, and the Dean of the College of Agriculture from 1938 to 1945. He served as President of the American Society of Agronomy in 1924. While serving as Chair of the Department of Soils, he attracted several significant soil scientists who began their careers in Missouri (with dates of service at University of Missouri): William A. Albrecht (1916-59), Richard Bradfield (1920-30), Hans Jenny (1927-36), Leonard D. Baver (1930-37), and C. Edmund Marshall (1936-76).