October 19, 2010

Liberty Hyde Bailey Founded the 4-H Movement and The College of Agriculture

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“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.”

Liberty Hyde Bailey is considered today, “the Father of Modern Horticulture.” He was born to a modest farmer family in South Haven, Michigan, in 1858, where he learned farming skills.

Bailey attended the Michigan Agricultural College (today Michigan State University). He graduated in 1882. By 1883, he was working at Harvard University for Asa Gray, the leading botanist in America. Bailey increased his knowledge about systematic and structural botany.

Throughout his work, Bailey saw the importance of relating the sciences of botany and horticulture, once writing, “…the botanist shall climb the garden fence and include within the realm of his science all the plants which we till.”

In 1888, Bailey and others created a team for teaching and researching agriculture. In 1896, the Department of Agriculture became the College of Agriculture, but it needed state funding for buildings. By 1904, due to Bailey’s lobbying skills, the state legislature funded the construction of a new building and founded the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell University, which eventually became the current College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He served as its first dean.

After his retirement from Cornell, Bailey devoted himself to traveling with research purposes, observing and collecting plants for his collection.

Bailey collected various specimens and books. His collection included preserved specimens of cultivated plants, numbering about two hundred-thousand samples. When he donated them to the school, they also included notes and photos.

When he donated his herbarium to the University, he requested that it be called, The Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium, where the scientific study of cultivated plants could take place. His herbarium now resides on the top floor of Mann Library.

Although Bailey Hall was named after Liberty Hyde Bailey, there is no doubt that Bailey’s accomplishments reach far beyond the world of science.  He was a man with a vision, making possible the current College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Original Author: Yusnier Sonora Lopez