By Jordan Overturf | The Eagle
Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Science is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its biological and agricultural engineering department with the publishing of a historical book by Texas A&M historian Henry Dethloff.
Dethloff said the book, titled Engineering Agriculture at Texas A&M: The First 100 Years, focuses on how the field of agriculture developed in the last century and how the Aggies have helped engineer new concepts in the field.
The book will be available on April 30 from Texas A&M University Press. Engineering Agriculture was co-authored by Dethloff, a noted historian and former A&M professor, and Stephen W. Searcy, current head of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.
Aside from being a reference to milestones in the agriculture department’s history, the author said the book also encapsulates the evolution of our modern world built on a growing economy and advances in technology and machinery.
“This book was a perfect device for explaining the tranformation of agriculture, life and the economy,” said Dethloff, who has written about 30 historical texts on everything from forestry to the NASA space program in Houston.
In 1915, about half of Americans lived and worked on farms, according to Dethloff. Enrollment at Texas A&M was about 915 and the city of College Station had not been incorporated, yet.
Founded 40 years earlier, Texas A&M was created as the state’s first public institution of higher learning, with the goal of educating students in the fields of agriculture and mechanics.
Today, about 2 percent of the U.S. population lives on farms. Texas A&M’s enrollment is nearing 60,000 with focuses in agriculture, animal studies, engineering, business, health, science, technology and all other aspects of the modern age.
Engineering Agriculture picks up at the start of Texas A&M and breezes through a century of cutting-edge advancements in 190 pages.
“It’s a capsule example of what happened in agriculture in Texas,” Dethloff said. “We developed from a non-mechanized world to a society that is mechanized, electrified and highly technologically dependent. Texas A&M, and this department, played a big part in improving the quality of life and planting the roots of our modern world.”
Dethloff said one of the aspects of the department, whose faculty and staff members played a crucial role in research for the book, was the global reach of its students and educators.
The authors highlight work started by Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug and continued by researchers working to improve the world’s food supply by engineering plants to grow in harsh climates.
An afterword in the book looks into the next century and the possibilities that await the department and prospective students.
“I think the people in the department shared, in a way, my passion for agriculture. It’s a very fine and very industrious environment,” Dethloff said.