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Historical Plaque

Portrait of William Johnston

Charles A. Zavitz 1863-1942
Assistant Chemist and Assistant Superintendent of Experiments, 1898-1904
Head, Field Husbandry Department, 1904-1927

Charles Zavitz was born in Coldstream, Ontario, in 1863. He graduated from the two-year program at the Ontario Agricultural College in 1886 and was appointed assistant chemist. When the three-year degree program was introduced, Zavitz enrolled and was one of the first five students to receive a BSA, conferred by the University of Toronto in 1888.

At that time, he was also appointed assistant superintendent of experiments. Within five years, Zavitz was solely responsible for experiments, and he was named head of the new Department of Field Husbandry in 1904.

Using a variety of seeds from around the world, Zavitz implemented innovative selective breeding techniques, small experimental plots, and meticulous measurements and testing. He increased Ontario’s crop yields exponentially by using the Ontario Agricultural and Experimental Union to distribute his experimental materials throughout the province.

Zavitz increased alfalfa production, experimented with potatoes, and pioneered the use of soybeans. He is best remembered, however, for his development of cereal crops, particularly OAC21 barley. The leading variety of barley for over 30 years, OAC21 provided the basis for almost all subsequent varieties and became the standard malting barley in the brewing industry.

The University of Toronto awarded Zavitz an honorary Doctor of Science degree in 1916 to honour him as a scientist, teacher and a man of peace. In 1935, the University of Western Ontario awarded a Doctor of Laws degree. He was inducted posthumously into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1974 and received a Doctor of Science from the University of Guelph in 1999 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Ontario Agricultural College.

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