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Dr. William A. Albrecht, Emeritus Professor of Soils and former chairman of the Department of Soils at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, was a member of the Missouri staff starting in 1916. He held four degrees, AB, BS, MS, and PhD, from the University of Illinois. He traveled and studied soils in Great Britain, on the European continent, and in Australia.
Born on a farm in central Illinois, in an area of highly fertile soil typical of the Corn Belt, and educated in his native state, Dr. Albrecht grew up with an intense interest in the soil and all things agricultural. These were approached, however, through the avenues of the basic sciences and liberal arts and not primarily through applied practices and their economics. Some teaching experience after completing the liberal arts course, with some thought of the medical profession, as well as an assistantship in botany, gave an early vision of the interrelationships that enrich the facts acquired in various fields when viewed as parts of a master design. These experiences led him into additional undergraduate and graduate work that was encouraged by scholarships and fellowships until he received his doctor’s degree in 1919. In the meantime, he joined the research and teaching staff at the University of Missouri.
Dr. Albrecht’s studies in soils have dealt with the functional viewpoint or the soil’s service in nourishing microbes, plants, animals and all life. Research in nitrogen fixation developed the technique of using colloidal clay as a nourishing medium for plants, and as a means of bringing plant-soil relations under more careful control and better understanding. This has been the basis for his interpretations of soils in their broader implications as a nourishment source for animals and man. Dr. Albrecht was the author of many scientific and popular articles on soils and soil fertility. With unremitting zeal, his contributions emphasize the fundamental necessity of feeding plants, animals and humankind through ministrations to the soil itself, correcting the deficiencies of diet at their point of origin – in soils that have been assayed and found wanting. Both as a writer and speaker, Dr. Albrecht served tirelessly as an interpreter of scientific truth to inquiring minds in every group and institution that would implement this knowledge in service to mankind.