News - December 15, 2017

Who is the true father of WUR?

The Salverdaplein was given the name for a reason. It is how the city honours the founder of agricultural education in Wageningen. But is that correct?

On the eve of the anniversary of Wageningen University, Professor of Soil Chemistry Rob Comans sheds a new light on the early history of the university. According to him, it is not Matthijs Salverda, who was Inspector of Agricultural Education when the first agricultural school was established in Wageningen in late nineteenth century, but instead Winand Staring – his predecessor - who should be given credit for it.

Comans bases this on a remarkable letter that he was able to acquire for a scratch. The story of Comans, the letter and its possible implications is the first in a series of stories that Resource is publishing in the scope of the WUR centenary. The series contains eleven stories that highlight a century of education and research in Wageningen. Wageningen success stories, research of the bizarre, student life during the war, and de Zaaijer.

The series starts with the origin of agricultural education in Wageningen and how, almost a century and a half later, the opinions still strongly diverge on the subject. Next spring, the Vereniging voor Landbouwgeschiedenis (‘Association for Agricultural History’), in collaboration with Vereniging Gelre (‘Guelders Association’), will organise a symposium on ‘150 years of agricultural education and research in Gelderland’. Comans will be one of the speakers, says organiser Piet van Cruijningen (Rural and Environmental History).

Richard Paping (University of Groningen) will highlight a rather different side of Staring during the symposium. According to Paping (and others), Staring had a hand in the downfall of the Landhuishoudkundige School in Groningen. At the time, in mid-nineteenth century, the school was the only agricultural school in the Netherlands. The school in Groningen hampered the establishment of a National Agriculture School.

The symposium will also focus on the role of women in agriculture. Joost van Kasteren will talk about WUR’s most recent history. He is currently writing a book on the topic together with publicist Martijn de Groot; the book will be published next year.

The true father of WUR