Wednesday, July 18, 2012

N.L. Galvez: The Dean of Filipino Soil Scientists

Dr. Nicolas L. Galvez (1903-1991) laid down the groundwork for the different fields of soil science in the Philippines and he trained many Filipino soil scientists as a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (UPCA) for 42 years. He was the head of the Soils Department at UPCA from 1948 to 1961, a difficult but crucial post-war period that had long-term impact on the development of soil science as an academic field in the country. Upon his retirement in 1970, Dr. N.L. Galvez was honored by being appointed as a University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) Emeritus Professor. 

Dr. N.L. Galvez (Source: SAED, UPLB-CA)
Dr. N.L. Galvez was an internationally recognized scientist having published numerous relevant scientific papers on soil chemistry, soil mineralogy, and other aspects of soil science. For his pioneering and great contributions to the development of soil science in the Philippines, Dr. Galvez is widely considered, and deserves to be called, as the “Dean of Filipino Soil Scientists”.

Dr. N.L. Galvez finished his Bachelor of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota, USA, in 1925 and his PhD degree in Soil Science in 1934 from the Institute of Agricultural Chemistry and Soil Science,University of Göttingen, Germany, under the supervision of Prof. E. Blanck (1877-1953), one of the leading soil scientists during the first half of the 20th century who edited the monumental 10-volume Handbuch der Bodenlehre (Handbook of Soil Science) published from 1929 to1932. Dr. Galvez wrote a dissertation entitled “Über Bodenpresssäfte und wurzellösliche Pflanzennärstoffe” (On the pressed soil extract and root-soluble plant nutrients) which was published in the Journal für Landwirtschaft (Journal of Agriculture) Vol. 89, No. 4, pages 257-320 (1934), a prominent peer-reviewed scientific journal at the time.

The University of Göttingen is a world renowned university associated with such scientific giants as Gauss, Wiechert, Correns, Eigen, Fermi, Debye, Nernst, Langmuir, Heisenberg, Born, Teller, Oppenheimer and many more including nearly 50 Nobel Prize winners. Interestingly, when the great theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg in Göttingen won the Nobel Physics Prize in 1932, N.L. Galvez was a student there. It is easy to speculate that he must have brushed shoulders with some of the world’s leading scientists (who were teaching or doing research in that small university town of Göttingen) which could have inspired him to excel in his own field of science.  

In recognition of his outstanding scientific achievements, N.L. Galvez was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for postdoctoral research at the University of Wisconsin from January 1955 to August 1956 where he worked with M.L. Jackson (1914-2002), one of the most influential American soil scientists and author of the world famous textbook “Methods of Soil Analysis”.  This postdoctoral experience in Wisconsin which focused on the colloidal minerals of important agricultural soils of the Philippines, must have enhanced further his international standing as a scientist.

In 2008, a museum (N.L. Galvez Hall) was established in his honor at the Soil and Agro-ecosystem Division of the College of Agriculture at UPLB under the able leadership of its former head, Dr. Pearl B. Sanchez, a professor of soil chemistry. It was funded by the US-based family of Dr. Galvez.

(Note: Many of the facts cited were taken from materials available at the above-mentioned N.L. Galvez Hall.)


Steve, Laguna said...

There is also a school named after him in Bay Laguna. The school is Dr. N.L. Galvez Memorial National High School. So marami syang nagawa para sa bayan.

Victor B. Asio said...

Thanks a lot Steve for that important information about N.L. Galvez.

Anonymous said...

Akala ko si Mr Pendleton ang Father of Soil Science in the Philippines. Mas marami pa palang nagawa si Dr. Galvez kaysa kay Pendleton at tsaka Pinoy si Galvez. Salamat po sir sa article na ito.

Victor B. Asio said...

Many years ago, I also read from an old book that Robert Pendleton should be considered as the "Father of Philippine Soil Science". So I made an extensive literature research on Dr. Pendleton while I was abroad a few years ago. What I found is this: Pendleton was one of the pioneering teachers at UPCA. He did not only teach soil science but he also started soil research in the country (please see "Brief history of soil science in the Philippines" which I posted in this blog). So I believe we can call him the "Father of Philippine Soil Science" and NL Galvez as the "Dean of Filipino Soil Scientists".