Ad Astra Kansas Initiative honors former wheat scientist
A former head of the milling department at Kansas State University has been selected as one of the top 150 scientists in Kansas.
Charles O. Swanson, a member of the chemistry staff, was an expert in wheat varieties and worked at the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station from 1906 through 1923. He was then named head of the milling department, a position he held until 1939.
His selection as a Top 150 scientist is part of the "Science in Kansas: 150 Years and Counting" project of the Ad Astra Kansas Initiative, which will help celebrate the Kansas Sesquicentennial. This project highlights scientists of accomplishment with the goal of inspiring young Kansans.
Swanson's work focused on foundational research on the composition and properties of wheat and flour. Swanson began wheat research into the makeup and function of wheat flour that resulted in Kansas wheat quality being recognized as world class.
When he became department head, he was tasked with using the facilities efficiently, to add staff and courses for a lasting reputation.
"Events proved that Dr. Swanson achieved those ends and had a lasting impact on wheat flour and dough research, leading to an international reputation still enjoyed by the current department of Grain Science and Industry," said Ron Madl, director of the Bioprocessing and Industrial Value Added Program at K-State, who nominated Swanson. "He had a strong will, a brilliant and inquisitive mind, great energy, and utmost sincerity and integrity."
Swanson was born in Sweden in 1869 and was raised on a farm in Illinois. He graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., in 1899 and taught mathematics and science for a few years in Minnesota. He received a master's degree in agricultural chemistry at the University of Minnesota and earned a doctorate from Cornell University while on leave from the chemistry staff at the Kansas State College.
He was a member of many scientific and honor societies and chaired several committees of the Association of Operative Millers and American Association of Cereal Chemists. In 1938, he received the Thomas Burr Osbourn Medal, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a scientist by the American Association of Cereal Chemists. He remained active in cereal technology research until about a year before his death in 1948.
The Ad Astra Kansas Initiative is an organization based in Hutchinson, Kan., whose mission is to promote the accomplishments of Kansas in science, space and the cosmos.
More information on the Ad Astra Kansas Initiative's "Science in Kansas: 150 Years and Counting" project, including an educational series of trading cards featuring each scientist selected, is available online at www.adastra-ks.org.