Wolf Prize Laureate in Agriculture 1984
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Iowa State University, USA
“for their innovative contributions to the quantitative understanding of soil-water and other environmental interactions influencing crop growth and yield”.
His pioneering mathematical and physical analyses of the movement of water in the soil has provided solutions to a number of important practical problems. An outstanding example is the establishment, on a rigorous scientific basis, of efficient and economic designs for land drainage systems that have had a significant and worldwide impact on the maintenance of soil fertility and land productivity over a range of irrigated and rain-fed agricultural situations. Many of the standard techniques of measurement, as well as of analysis and design, now used in the study of soil-water relations, were developed initially by Kirkham. His combination of rigorous mathematical-physical analysis, carefully designed laboratory experimentation and extensive field trials and measurements has had a seminal influence on soil physics through his training of a large number of students, many of whom later attained distinction in this branch of science, as well as through his extensive folio of scientific publications, text books and manuals, and his lectures.
Kirkham’s long and productive career in soil physics, by its demonstration of the applicability of the fundamental laws of physics to soil and environmental problems and the advantages of mathematical analysis for their description and solution, heralded a new and productive era in soil science.
In coupling the names of Kirkham and de Wit, we believe that we have identified scientists who have been innovators in both theory and experiment and whose contributions to crop production systems have been both important and universal in nature.