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24 Heroes: Raphael Zon Class of 1901

He was born one week before Ezra died and yet the connection between these two pioneers is notable, for Raphael Zon embodied the idealistic aspirations of Ezra’s university, and in fact, epitomized the ambition of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862.

‘Born in Simbirsk, Russia in 1874, Raphael Zon fled Russia in 1896 while on bail following his arrest for organizing a trade union. Zon and his companion Anna Puziriskaya, whom he would later marry, fled to Belgium where he studied in LiĆ©ge. He spent nine months in London before emigrating to the United States in 1898. Zon studied forestry at the New York State College of Forestry at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, earning a professional degree of Forest Engineer (F.E.) in the college's first graduating class in 1901. Upon graduation, he went to work for the U.S. Forest Service, where his career spanned 43 years as a forest researcher. A large stone memorial with plaque commemorating Zon stands at the USDA Cutfoot Sioux Experimental Forest, in Minnesota, near where his ashes were scattered [229 miles from Cornell, Wisconsin].’ Wikipedia and other unverified web sources.

Zon made the first attempt of a systematic inventory of the earth's forests; the first complete map of native vegetation of United States. He served as technical director of the Prairie States Forestry Project and pioneered studies of the relation of forests to streams and flooding.

As the first director of the USDA Forest Service Lake States Forest Experiment Station, Raphael Zon directed a vital program of research that helped restore vast cutover old growth forests to the production of wood promotion of forestry among political and social leaders helped to create a climate that permitted the eventual purchase of National Forest lands and made possible state activities in forestry.

His professional colleagues bestowed a bevy of awards on him. He also received popular recognition at the 1939 New York World's Fair as one of 600 "foreign-born citizens judged to have made the most notable contributions to American democracy in the past 100 years." He was a fellow of the Society of American Foresters. In 1952 he received the Gifford Pinchot Medal from the Society of American Foresters. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Forestry Hall of Fame on February 24, 1988.

Finally in 2005, the US Forest Service Centennial Congress Science Leadership Award was presented posthumously to Zon. In his lifetime he authored or co-authored roughly 200 articles in professional journals, business and development publications or popular magazines.

With 15 cents in his pocket Zon arrived in New York City. He quit his drugstore job to travel to Ithaca where Ezra's 40 year old university anticipated his arrival. Cornell changed him and he changed his world.

I'm glad to know him.

Thanks to blog follower Stanley Scharf for introducing me to Raphael Zon.

Trivia, I Love Ya: What genus of bacteria was named for the Cornellian who received the first doctor of veterinary medicine ever granted in the U.S.? Hint: Daniel Elmer Salmon 1872 DVM 1876.


Stanley Scharf said...

October fun.....
The October 20,2010 issue of the New York Times carried a most improbable story: The winner of this year's Giant Pumpkin weigh-off is a farmer from New Richmond,Wisconsin, about 60 miles due west of Cornell,Wisc., and it is being trucked to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. State highway 64 passes through both Cornell and New Richmond, the latter being located at the junction of 64 and 65.

This is the first time the winner has been outside of New England. See recent book: Backyard Giants, by Susan Warren.

What is special here is that the grower, Chris Stevens, is giving credit to Mycorrhiza fungi, more usually associated with trees such as white pine, for his success in growing a giant pumpkin. The commercial fungal product he used is Pumpkin Pro fungus prepared in California by RTI(Reforest Technologies International)but sold from Poughkeepsie,NY

"Mycorrhiza is an international journal devoted to research into mycorrhizas-the widest-symbiosis in nature-involving plant and a range of soil fungi world-wide."

Timothy J. Fahey, the Liberty Hyde Bailey professor of Natural Resources at Cornell, has a 1992 article, entitled "Mycorrhizae and forest ecosystems" in the journal, Mycorrhiza. The article reports on research carried out at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, in W. Thornton,New Hampshire where I spent the summer of 1961 working for the US Forest Service, among other things, building stream weirs. I was the first Cornellian to be associated with Hubbard Brook Exp. Forest. A few years later(late 1960s) the scourge of "Acid Rain" was discovered there by Gene Likens of Cornell and a colleague from Dartmouth,Borman I believe..

In the dark hours of October 7 or 8, 1997 someone with mountaineering expertise managed to place a hollowed-out pumpkin atop the McGraw Tower Spire on the Cornell Ithaca campus:

Stan Scharf said...

A pun it be:
I got a hint something was wrong when on the New York Botanical Garden's website celebrating the arrival of, not one, but three Giant Pumpkins(Oct.22-31, 2010) when I saw the comment that the pale salmon hue of the winning Giant Pumpkins contain a tinge of blue that "highlights" the genetic heritage of the.....yes,yes....Blue Hubbard squash..

After doing some reading, it turns out that the Giant Pumpkin is not a pumpkin( Cucurbita pepo) at all but a humble Hubbard squash (Cucurbita maxima). The modern giants all seem to be descendents of the patented(now expired) Dill's Atlantic Giant...

There is a lovely children's ditty ,"Raising Hubbard Squash in Vermont", in "Rhymes of Vermont rural life" by Daniel Leavens Cady.

It begins:
If we could only spin a top
And make a wish and get a crop
The things that I'm about to say
Would then be told another way;
For crops there be so hard to cinch
You couldn't raise 'em with a winch
It's all I want to do,By Gosh!
To raise a head of Hubbard Squash

Stanley Scharf said...

Among other things Raphael Zon was responsible for the establishment of Forest Experiment Stations within the USFS; and for the establishment of the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison,Wisconsin.

In this context Zon was the instrumentalist who brought forth the Bernhard Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia and the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Hubbard Brook began life as an experimental forest to study the relationship between forest cover and stream flow in 1955. In 1961 Robert(Bob)Pierce was its director. Ray Leonard was USFS forest ecologist..Some years later Leonard was posted by the USFS to SUNY ESF to complete his doctorate.

In 1991, USFS ecologist Ray Leonard, by then retired,was the Captain(skipper) of the ill fated sailboat "Satori" made famous by the 2000 movie "The Perfect Storm" from a book by the same name by Sebastian Junger