University Museums

Title: J. Brownlee Davidson, Professor and Head, Agricultural Engineering, 1905-1946
Name: Portrait
Date: 1944
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 30 x 24 in. (76.2 x 61 cm)
Classification: Paintings
Credit Line: In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, Biorenewables Complex (BRL)
Object Number: U89.61
More Information
Davidson is recognized as the founder of agricultural engineering. He was a rural Nebraska native and a 1904 mechanical engineering graduate of the University of Nebraska. He arrived in Ames in 1905 to take a position as associate professor-in-charge of agricultural engineering. Davidson is credited with giving farm mechanics professional status, developing the four-year agricultural engineering program that was first in the nation. The program he developed at Iowa State also set the pattern for programs later adopted by nearly all United States and Canadian institutions offering degrees in agricultural engineering. In 1907, he was the creative force behind the formation of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) and was elected as the first ASAE president, further promoting the profession of agricultural engineering. Davidson joined the University of California faculty in 1915, but returned to Iowa State in 1919 as head of agricultural engineering. He retired from administrative duties in 1946 and from the faculty in 1956.

Fast fact: In 1975, the Agricultural Engineering Building was renamed Davidson Hall in honor of the department's founder. In 2008, fundraising is underway to construct a new building to house the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering.