Henry Clay White – Encyclopedia of New Georgia
An internationally renowned scientist, Henry Clay White was professor of chemistry at the University of Georgia from 1872 to 1927. White was particularly interested in the application of chemistry to crop improvement and he advanced science and agricultural education in Georgia.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 30, 1848, White was the son of Louisa Elvira Brown and Levi Stratton White, a merchant. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 1870, he worked briefly for a chemical company in Baltimore and lectured at the Maryland Institute for the Advancement of the Mechanical Arts in the city. In 1871-1872 White was professor of chemistry at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, but left at the end of his term to become professor of chemistry at the University of Georgia.
Finding poorly equipped facilities at the university, he set out to improve the situation and developed one of the best chemical laboratories in the region. Devoting considerable time to agricultural chemistry, he published a number of important studies on soil conditions and cotton. He was particularly interested in improving the quality of fertilizers. In addition to his regular duties, White was a chemist for the Georgia State Geological Survey (1876-78), the State of Georgia (1880-90) and the Georgia Experiment Station (1888-1914), located in Griffin, where he was also deputy director (1891-1912).
Despite opposition from critics who disliked his liberal views and his advocacy for the theory of evolution, White was appointed in 1890 president of the State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, affiliated with the University of Georgia. Diverting the efforts of some of the administrators to make the college a fully independent institution, he succeeded in integrating it into the university in 1906 as the College of Agriculture. He held his administrative post until 1907.
White’s national and international position has grown steadily. In 1893 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Chemical Society of Great Britain and was active in many professional organizations. White continued to publish articles in agricultural chemistry and he conducted a series of important dietary studies in northern Georgia. He was awarded six honorary doctorates, the last of which was awarded by Columbia University in 1908. Concerned about the growing diplomatic tensions in the world after the turn of the century, White devoted time to the work of the peace and peace conferences. arbitration and addressed the Lake Mohonk (New York) Conference on International Arbitration in 1908 and 1912.
A confirmed promoter of the theory of evolution in 1875, White organized a conference on the subject in Athens, Georgia, in 1909, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, whom he considered one of the four greatest thinkers. in history. In his later years White wrote on literary subjects, and in 1926 he published a biography of Abraham Baldwin, the founder of the University of Georgia. White was married to Ella Frances Roberts from 1872 until her death in 1913; they had no children. He died in Athens on November 30, 1927.