Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Rest Of The Story

A few months ago I did a post about hybrid oaks, and research conducted at Texas A&M by H. Ness. Nowhere could I find reference to his full first name. In my mind I started thinking of him as "Herman" Ness, for no good reason.

For a few months, while tied up with some major transitions in my work, I completely missed the fact that a reader posted a comment with (with apologies to Paul Harvey) the rest of the story:

"Mr. Ness's name was not 'Herman.' It was actually worse. It's Helge. He was from Norway an dit may have gone over better there than in Texas. Are you familiar with J. Russell Smith's Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture? That is where I learned about Mr. Ness's efforts. Only one other guy is mentioned by Smith as having attempted to breed oaks: Thomas Q. Mitchell. The only thing I could find that Mitchell had written was an article titled 'Consider the Acorn' in the Feb 1948 issue of Harper's magazine. You have to be a subscriber to access it. Anyway, I enjoyed your post and thought you might like knowing about 'Helge.'"

How cool is that?? Thank you for commenting!
Do I know about Tree Crops? If considering it to be my bible means I know about it, then yes I know about it.
I will try to track down a copy of the Thomas Q. Mitchell article in Harper's. I'll let you know if I put my hands on it.


  1. Christian,

    I'm glad you got my comment on Mr. Ness. I noticed that in a follow up to my comment on your original (Nov. 2, 2009) post you were curious how I found out his name was Helge. Well, it was easy. I just looked at the index to the 1953 edition of Tree Crops. On page 403 he is listed as Ness, Professor Helge. And on page 374 he is mentioned in the course of this nice rant by Smith:

    I don’t believe Helge Ness had any special appropriation when he did that hybridization of oaks in Texas over forty years ago, with its remarkable results. It’s no great mystery to hybridize oaks. Why hasn’t it been done by a dozen or two of station men on the side? I think the answer must be found in the
    character of the institutions or the staffs, essentially torpid, lacking in the vital quality of curiosity. Curiosity is one of the
    parents of scientific progress, perhaps it is the parent.

    If you were just looking at the 1929 edition every reference to Ness indeed only gives the single initial "H." I have some other relevant tidbits I could share if you were interested and I had a way to e-mail you.

    Thank you for writing this blog,


  2. David - Thanks again! Geez, you're right, there it is in the index.
    My email is: siemschristian(at)gmail.com
    I'd love to get more relevant tidbits of info!