Brown Bag Lecture: “Population Boom: Warfare, Fertilizers, and the Chemicalization of American Agriculture”

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Date: November 11, 2014
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Timothy Johnson

In the early 1950s the National Fertilizer Association published a comic book to illustrate the many ways that the fertilizer industry had made the world a better place. And yet, even though the comic emphasized how the industry itself had harnessed the power of chemistry to feed the world, it failed to show the countless ways that the federal government had helped its cause. This Brown Bag Lecture digs deep to help answer why American farmers abandoned the dung heap and adopted chemical-intensive agriculture during the 20th century. The findings suggest that the chemicalization of agriculture was largely the result of wartime imperatives of the American state. The discussion will explore how major expansions in federal scientific and agricultural research served the fertilizer industry’s interests as the government pursued wartime policies related to arms and farms alike.

Timothy Johnson is an Allington Dissertation Fellow at CHF and a PhD candidate at the University of Georgia. His current project is entitled “Growth Industry: Unearthing the Origins of Fertilizer-Fueled Agriculture in America, 1865–1950.”

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

For more information, please call 215.873.8289 or e-mail

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