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Justus von Liebig

Justus von Liebig


Justus von Liebig, a German chemist, is inducted for his groundbreaking work in organic and biological chemistry.

Liebig’s Theory of Mineral Nutrients established the foundation of agricultural chemistry, revealing that the chemical elements of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) are essential to plant growth. Liebig’s Law of the Minimum revealed that plant growth is not determined by the total resources available, but by the scarcest available resource. These two discoveries launched Liebig’s development of the first nitrogen-based fertilizer.

His book, Organic Chemistry in its Application to Agriculture and Physiology, published in 1840, reported that plants acquire Carbon (C) and Hydrogen (H) from the atmosphere and from water (H2O). Liebig further reported that since there is not sufficient nitrogen in the atmosphere, fertilizer is needed to grow the healthiest crops.

Liebig’s findings had a profound impact on agriculture and led him to become an early advocate of conservation. Understanding that the essential elements of NPK recycled constantly, Liebig was already considering in the 1850s what is now called "alternative" agriculture as a solution to dwindling mineral deposits in the soil.

While Liebig’s essential discoveries earned him the title of “Father of the Fertilizer Industry,” he also developed a manufacturing process to utilize beef extract and founded a company that later trademarked the Oxo brand of beef bouillon cubes.

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