This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

Father of B.S.


May 12, 1803: Justus Liebig Born

Justus Freiherr von Liebig was born today in 1803. Known as the Father of Fertilizer for his discovery of nitrogen as an essential plant nutrient.

433px-Justus_Freiherr_von_LiebigLiebig was a German chemist who made contributions to agricultural and biological chemistry also organizing organic chemistry. He is regarded as one of the greatest chemistry teachers of all time particularly for devising modern laboratory oriented teaching methods.

His formation of the Law of Minimum stated that plant growth is controlled not by the total amount of resources available but by the scarcest resource available.

Liebig’s barrel explains the Law of Minimum

Liebig’s barrel explains the Law of Minimum

Applied to crop growth it was found that increasing the amount of plentiful nutrients did not increase plant growth. Only by increasing the amount of the limited nutrient was the plant growth improved. Sounds like common sense now but at the time, the early 1800’s, humanity was just discovering these concepts.


This principle can be summed up in the aphorism, “The availability of the most abundant nutrient in the soil is only as good as the availability of the least abundant nutrient in the soil.”


Liebig also developed bouillon cubes, organic chemistry, investigated spontaneous human combustion and invented a silvering process that greatly improved mirrors.

Happy Birthday to the Father of Fertilizer.





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