Recent biographical sources suggest that an individual by the name of Jean-Baptiste De Beunie, a physician who lived more than two centuries ago in what is now northern Belgium, came up with the idea of a three-class granulometry for soils and the perspective that the clay fraction determines the fertility of soils. The present article fills some gaps in the knowledge available in the literature about De Beunie’s life, contrasts his scientific contributions with those of his contemporaries, and shows that, by comparison, he was extremely original in his outlook on soils. Even though De Beunie virtually stopped being credited for his pioneering work just a few decades after his death, evidence suggests that he played a significant role in the scientific investigation of soils in the 18th century and that he deserves far more recognition by soil scientists than he is given at the moment.
Laboratory of Soil and Water Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY. SIMBIOS Centre, Abertay University, Dundee, Scotland, UK.
Address for correspondence: Dr. Philippe C. Baveye, Laboratory of Soil and Water Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 4040 Johnson Engineering Center, 110 Eighth St., Troy, NY 12180. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The author reports no conflicts of interest.
Received December 1, 2012.
Accepted for publication January 15, 2013.