The three favourite soil science books of:

Stephen Nortcliff (UK)

When asked if I would write about my three favourite books I found the task a daunting one, I was not sure that I could choose just three books. By way of a compromise I have gone back to my early formative years as a soil scientist and picked three books which helped persuade me to pursue graduate training in Soil Science (at the time there was no undergraduate degree in Soil Science).

My first choice is an autobiography first published in 1956: The Land Called Me by Sir E. John Russell which I first picked up and read in my local public library many years ago. This book charts the life of Sir John who became one the leaders in early 20th century soil science as applied to agriculture, although his background was not agricultural. The book makes fascinating reading about the style of life in 19th Century England and charts Sir John s education initially as a chemist and then his shift to agricultural chemist and soil scientist. He was appointed Director of Rothamsted in 1912, and the book charts his search for information about how soils and the agriculture they supported functioned, with studies across the globe. The book provides fascinating historical social context but also because an insight in to the early developments of our subject.

My second choice is another book I found on the shelves of the Sheffield Public Library, which even when I first read it was rather old. This book is SOILS Their Origin, Constitution and Classification by G.W. Robinson published in 1932. In many ways the book is important to me because it was the first time I was introduced to the complex medium we know as soil and also to the diversity of soils that are found even within a small country such as the United Kingdom. Robinson s book is written with a clarity which as a novice in the field I found easy to understand and follow, it convinced me that soils were a fascinating material to study and it encouraged me to look further.

My third choice of book is Hans Jenny s Factors of Soil Formation published in 1941. As an undergraduate student I chose as my dissertation topic a field study of the soils and soil patterns in Derbyshire. My dissertation adviser, Len Curtis, by way of guidance suggested I might read Jenny s book. This I did, and although a relatively short text, I found within it a way of looking at soils that was to influence much of my future career during which I have visit many parts of the world, seeking to understand the patterns and variability of soils in the landscape.


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Page created: 22.02.2015 | Page updated: 22.02.2015

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