Monday, November 5, 2007 - 9:50 AM

George Nelson Coffey: ASA's Second President.

Eric C. Brevik, Depts of Natural Sciences and Agriculture and Technical Studies, Dickinson State University, 291 Campus Dr., Dickinson, ND 58601

George Nelson Coffey is widely renowned in soil science as an innovative thinker who was ahead of his time. Coffey was also the second president of the American Society of Agronomy, serving in that office in 1909. Coffey was nominated for the ASA presidency by the noted soil fertility expert C.C. Hopkins. Coffey gave presentations at the early ASA meetings that clearly showed the innovated nature of his ideas on soils. Coffey's first documented attempt to introduce aspects of Dokuchaiev's work in soils into American soil science was at the Ithaca meeting in 1908; Hilgard's influence on Coffey's thinking is also noted in this presentation. In his presentation Coffey argued that, among other things, mineralogical composition, topography, and native vegetation must all be considered in soil classification. He also stated that climate influenced soil formation, and that too much emphasis had been put on geology alone. This is three years before the publication of Bulletin 85, the source most commonly associated with Coffey's attempts to introduce Russian ideas to American soil scientists, and more than a decade before Marbut's attempts at the same in the 1920s. In his presidential address to the Omaha meeting in 1909, Coffey focused on the value of studying soils in the field. In this talk, Coffey argued that the properties of the soil needed to be considered when crop yield tests were conducted. Apparently, the standard practice of the time was to largely ignore soils and focus on climate when conducting yield tests. Coffey also argued forcefully against getting too focused on analysis of soils in the lab, stressing that an understanding of soils in their natural state was important; a debate that rages to this day in our field. These early ASA presentations by Coffey will be explored in detail.