Wednesday, December 30, 2009

30 December 1842 - Of Chemistry, Agriculture, and "Healthfulness"

On this day in 1842, future prominent University of Georgia chemistry professor Henry Clay White was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He came to the University of Georgia in August, 1872, where he was initially hired as the "Professor of Natural Science, and Terrell Professor of Agriculture, and of General and Analytical Chemistry with its application to the Arts." The William Terrell endowed chair at the University, established in 1854, is now called the "William Terrell Distinguished Professor of Crop and Soil Sciences," and was created for the study and exploration of (among other things) "Agriculture as a Science."

During his 55 years in Athens, Professor White was State Chemist, Chief Chemist of the Georgia Experiment Station, the first head of a UGA chemistry department, and President of the State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. He also came within one vote of becoming University of Georgia Chancellor in 1888, losing only because of "stories circulated by the opposition concerning the serving of cocktails at dinner parties given at his home."

Professor White was also known in the community for his "home testimony" often found in newspaper ads for products as Bludwine (a soda drink) and Horsford's Self-Raising Bread Preparation (a baking powder), where he confirmed that the products contained the ingredients they claimed and possessed "healthfulness." Such local endorsements, typically from local physicians, were common features in advertisements for food and medical products during the late 19th and early 20th century.

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