Roy Simonson (inducted 1989)

Roy Simonson was elected by MAPSS in 1989 as its first honorary member. Roy is also an honorary member of state associations of professional soil scientists in North Dakota and Ohio.

Roy was born September 7, 1908 in Agate, North Dakota.  His pre-college education was in public schools in North Dakota.  Roy obtained his B.S. from North Dakota State University in 1934, where he took soils courses from and was advised by Charles E. Kellogg, who later became Chief of the U.S. Soil Survey.  Roy earned his Ph.D. in soil science from the University of Wisconsin, where his major advisor was Emil Truog, in 1938.  He also has an honorary doctor’s degree from a school (Landbrukshogsksole) in Aas, Norway, awarded in 1984.

Roy served as Assistant Professor of Soils at Iowa State College, 1938-42.  His subsequent employment was in the USDA federal soil survey programs, first with the Bureau of Chemistry and Soils and then with the Soil Conservation Service.  He served as Principal Soil Correlator for the Southern United States, 1943-1946; Chief Soil Scientist for Pacific Surveys, 1947-48; Assistant Chief of Soil Surveys, 1949-52; and Director for Soil Classification and Correlation, 1953-1971.

While Roy was Director for Soil Classification and Correlation his office was for a time in the Federal Center Building in Hyattsville, MD.  During this time Roy and his wife Susan (and until they went off to college etc., his sons Walter and Bruce) resided in College Park, MD.  Roy and Susan continued to live in College Park until they moved to a retirement village in Oberlin, OH, in 1993, to be near their son Bruce and his family.  Bruce is a geology professor at Oberlin.  Roy’s presence in College Park was a blessing for Del Fanning and other soil professors at the University of Maryland who recruited him to help on a volunteer basis with their teaching and research programs.  Roy gave numerous invited lectures on soil science topics to classes and seminars at the university.  For many years Roy presented his annual two hour “soils of the world” lecture, on soils of the (then) 10 orders of Soil Taxonomy, to the annually taught soil morphology, genesis and classification class (AGRO 414, now NRSC 414).  For these lectures he utilized his vast collection of 35mm slides of soil profiles and landscapes -- taken during his professional travels around the world.  His outstanding ability to photograph soil profiles was also utilized at the university when he taught a segment, on photographing soils, in a graduate level agronomic photography class.  He also on three occasions in the 1970’s and 80’s taught a graduate level class at the university on “Theories of Soil Genesis”. 

Roy developed and published in 1959 a generalized theory of soil genesis.  This theory of soil development by additions, losses, transfers and transformations appears in many soil science textbooks including those of Fanning and Fanning (1989) and Brady and Weil (2002).  Roy also authored many other outstanding publications.  A list of some of them is given at the end of this sketch.  The one on “concept of soil” has been especially instrumental in getting the concept of soil as an organized natural body recognized and used throughout the world.

In 1962 Roy became a member of the editorial board of Geoderma, then a new international soil science journal.  Five years later, Roy became editor-in-chief of that journal.  He was very active in this position, with secretarial help from his wife Susan, for many years to help this journal become a respected international soil science journal.

Roy is known for his many writings and presentations pertaining to soil science/pedology history.  Roy started writing soil science history articles in the 1950’s with articles in Soil Science on “Lessons from the first half-century of soil survey”.  One of Roy’s history papers on “Soil classification in the past – roots and philosophies”, first published in an annual report of the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (Netherlands) was selected as a history chapter for the Fanning and Fanning (1989) textbook.  Other chapters of that book on the gross processes of soil formation and change were inspired by Roy’s lectures to his Theories of Soil Genesis classes at the University of Maryland.

Roy continued in the new millennium to publish his writings.  In 2003 he wrote a little book published in 2004 on his experiences doing soil survey work in Montana in 1935, entitled “Six months along the Missouri”.

Roy met Susan at Iowa State in Ames in 1938 and they were married in 1942 in Albia, Iowa.  Susan unfortunately passed Dec. 31, 1996. Twelve years later, on Nov. 2, 2008, at age 100 years, Roy followed.   –Compiled by Del Fanning, in part from information supplied in an exchange of letters with Roy.

Select Publications List for Dr. Simonson here.

John Foss (inducted 2004)

JOHN E. Foss was born on 30 May 1932 in Whitehall, WI. He received his B.S. degree in agricultural education from the Univ. of Wisconsin-River Falls in 1957. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Univ. of Minnesota in 1959 and 1965.

 He served on the faculty at the Univ. of Wisconsin-River Falls for a few years in the early 1960's teaching soils and geology. In 1966 he joined the faculty at the Univ. of Marylandin the Dep. of Agronomy, where he served for the next 15 years.  While at UMD, he taught courses in introductory soil science and soil and water conservation and conducted research in soil genesis, during which time he taught soil science to a great many of our MAPSS members, and he helped mentor a number of disreputable graduate students (Carl Robinette, Dan Wagner, Mary Wagner, Cliff Stein, Bill McMahon, George Demas, Phil Snow, Marty Rabenhorst). Also during his time at Maryland, he was very active in the National Cooperative Soil Survey Program and contributed significantly toward the soil survey effort in Maryland. It was also while he was at UMD, that Dr. Foss initiated a research program in soil archaeology collaborating with colleagues in departments of Archeology and Geology at Catholic University and UMD.  Ever since those days, he has been involved in countless archeological efforts around this country as well as in Central America, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. John Foss basically pioneered and helped forge the collaborative efforts between the soil science and archeology communities, and has continued to make significant contributions in this arena.

In 1981, Dr. Foss left UMD to become the head of the Dept. of Soil Science at North Dakota State Univ. and then in 1985 he became department head at the University of Tenn. at Knoxville.  Although he carried weighty administrative responsibilities, he continued his research activities in soil archaeology .

Dr. Foss has published a great many scientific papers. He has served the larger soil science community as the chair of division S-5 (Pedology) of SSSA, he has served on the editorial board of the journal Soil Science, and was the president of the American Society of Agronomy. I think one of his greatest honors, however, must be that he was a charter member of MAPSS, and has retained active membership throughout the history of MAPSS to the present day.  In summary, John Foss has made outstanding contributions to soil science in Maryland, as well as to the larger profession of soil science.

Delvin Fanning (inducted1999)

Delvin S. Fanning was born on July 13, 1931 on a dairy farm near Copenhagen, NY in the days of farming with horse power, where he most enjoyed helping his Dad with the trapping of wild animals. After high school he began trapping professionally, but after one year, low fur prices and girls caused a change of mind to pursue college.  He received his BS and MS degrees from Cornell University (advisor Nyle C. Brady) and then studied under Marion (M. L.) Jackson at the Univ. of Wisconsin for his PhD, which he received in 1964. During and between his school years he did five field seasons mapping soils with USDA SCS in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In March of 1964 he moved his family to College Park, MD where he joined the faculty at the University of Maryland. While at UMD, Del taught courses in Soil Morphology, Genesis and Classification and in Soil Mineralogy.  In 1989, with his late first wife, M.C.B. Fanning, he published a textbook entitled Soil: Morphology, Genesis, and Classification that has been used in teaching this subject matter area at a number of universities in the U.S. and abroad.  He also coached the Maryland soil judging team during 12 or more seasons, taking students to regional contests throughout the NE region, as well as to a number of national contests around the country. He also organized or served as chief judge for four or five regional Soil Judging contests held in Maryland and for the two national contests held in 1973 and 1994.

Del has made many research contributions, but two areas are particularly noteworthy. Del is known as one of the leading experts in the world in the area of Acid Sulfate Soils. He pioneered work in recognizing the significance of acid sulfate soils in a variety of geomorphological settings and he has been on a crusade to help people become aware of the potential environmental hazards associated with exposing sulfidic (potentially acid) materials. His collaboration with Dr. John E. Witty of SCS resulted in significant revisions of Soil Taxonomy for acid sulfate soils in the 1992 and subsequent editions of Keys to Soil Taxonomy. Del is also recognized for his work on disturbed or highly man influenced soils. His work in this area resulted in part from his involvement in a number of urban soil survey projects with USDA SCS/NRCS including Washington DC, Baltimore City, and, in an advisory capacity, New York City. These two areas of research (acid sulfate weathering and disturbed soils) were interestingly combined in his work on classification of soils formed in coal mine spoil in the Appalachian province and again in his work on soils formed from materials dredged from estuarine harbors along the Atlantic Coast. In both cases these were very youthful soils with unique properties affected by acid sulfate problems (leading to serious environmental difficulties). Many practitioners and managers of various groups have become aware of the problems and hazards of these soils due to Del’s efforts. As a result of his many contributions, Del was recognized as a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and of the Soil Science Society of America.

Del continued as Professor in the Departments of Agronomy and Natural Resource Sciences and Landscape Architecture at UMD until his retirement from the University in July 1999, at which point he was made Professor Emeritus. Following his retirement from the University, Del has continued to be extremely active both in the larger profession and in MAPSS. He has led field tours, organized symposia, written and presented papers at professional conferences, and is also currently the editor of Pedologue the MAPSS newsletter. Del was a charter member of MAPSS in 1986 and served as Vice President in 1990-91.

George Demas (inducted 2004)

George Demas graduated from Arundel High School near Annapolis, MD in 1976 and enrolled at the University of Maryland in College Park where he received his B.S. in Soil Science in 1980.  He then continued his work at the University of Maryland and completed his M.S. degree in soil genesis in 1982. During the 1980's and 1990's, George began employment with the USDA-SCS as a soil scientist and worked on a number of soil survey projects in areas which included Dorchester, Charles, and Worcester Counties in Maryland, Sussex County, DE, and Salem, Cumberland, and Cape May Counties in NJ.  In 1994, George was awarded support by the USDA-NRCS Graduate Studies Program to pursue a Ph.D. in pedology, which he completed at the University of Maryland in May 1998, with the writing of his thesis “Subaqueous Soils of Sinepuxent Bay, MD.”  For this work, he recently received the Emil Truog Award which each yar is given to a single soils graduate student in the country for “outstanding contributions to soil science as evidenced in the PhD dissertation.

George conceived the fundamental concept of subaqueous soils in the early 1990's when he published an “idea” paper in Soil Survey Horizons, and he continued to pursue it even while concerns about its legitimacy were expressed by other soil scientists.  The potential value of George’s ideas, however, were recognized by the NRCS when they awarded him support and academic leave under the their Graduate Studies Program so that he could pursue his Ph.D. in pedology.  George convincingly demonstrated that additions, losses, translocations and transformations occur within subaqueous sediment profiles, causing the formation of pedogenic soil horizons, and leading to the conclusion that these sediments are better understood to be subaqueous soils.  Based upon these findings a proposal was adopted by the NRCS to modify the definition of soil as stated in Soil Taxonomy, in order to accommodate subaqueous soils in shallow water environments.  George developed a protocol for producing detailed bathymetric maps which enabled him to conduct subaqueous terrain analysis and identify subaqueous landscape units that contained distinct suites of soils.  In this way he demonstrated that the soil-landscape paradigm could be applied in a subaqueous environment. In demonstrating the applicability of the pedological paradigm to shallow water estuarine environments, George Demas effectively pushed soil science across a new frontier, and has thrust the principles of pedology into an entirely new realm.

            Following the completion of his doctoral studies, George continued his work with the USDA-NRCS and had been named Project Leader responsible for management and oversight of the soil survey update for the State of Delaware and for subaqueous soil mapping projects in the Mid-Atlantic Region.  George was also a founding member of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Professional Soil Scientists (MAPSS) and provided unlimited energy, creativity, and humor during his tenure as president and newsletter editor.  George Demas passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at his home on December 23, 1999.  His parting left a gaping hole in the Maryland soil survey program, in subaqueous soils research, and in the hearts of many of us.

Therefore, because of his outstanding contributions to soil science in Maryland, as well as to the larger profession of soil science, we were pleased to posthumously elect George P. Demas to be an honorary member of this society.

Richard Hall (inducted 2004)

Soil scientist Richard (Dick) Hall worked for more than 50 years and mapped more than 1 million acres of soil as a Soil Scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Maryland and Delaware

Richard Hall served in many different capacities as a Soil Scientist with NRCS, formerly known as the USDA Soil Conservation Service.  He began his five-decade civil service career in 1950 as a Soil Scientist Trainee working in Maryland.  The last year of his soils mapping work was in Delaware.  Between Maryland and Delaware, Hall had mapped over one million acres, and he had different positions within the agency ranging from Soil Scientist Trainee to the State Soil Scientist in Delaware.  His name is recognized in 8 soil survey manuscripts across Maryland and Delaware.

 After retiring as State Soil Scientist, Dick continued to work with the soils program both in Maryland and Delaware as a volunteer and as a consulting Soil Scientist.  “He contributed immensely to the Maryland and Delaware programs as an advisor as well as a supporter for the modernization of soils information in both Maryland and Delaware,” said Jim Brown.  “Hall has always had a keen eye to recognize unique and different kinds of artifacts and relics on the landscape such as the oyster kitchen middens in Queen Anne’s County and sulfidic exposure of sea shells and sharks teeth along the Potomac River.”

“He worked on a variety of projects that included an acid sulfate study where he assisting Ph.D. students in their research at the University of Maryland.  He collected well water data from the early 1960’s until 2002.  The data has helped tremendously in our understanding of the Agricultural Drainage Class Interpretations.”

Hall also had a great interest in providing soils information to environmental education classes at middle schools and high schools.  He played an instrumental role in establishing a nationally recognized program – The Envirothon.  The Envirothon is an international environmental competition for teams of high school students that begins at local schools and continues through county, state, and international competitions.

He was active in the American Society of Agronomy, Soil and Water Conservation Society, and was a charter member of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Professional Soil Scientists.  Richard Hall passed away after a long illness at his home on Oct. 16, 2003.  Therefore, because of his outstanding contributions to soil science in Maryland and Delaware, we were pleased to posthumously elect Richard Hall to be an honorary member of this association.