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Jay Laurence Lush | 1956

Jay Lush is known as the father of modern scientific animal breeding.

1896-1982 | Artist: Joseph Allworthy (1892-1991)

Impact & Accomplishments

Jay Lush was a pioneer in animal genetics and modern scientific livestock breeding. With bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kansas State Agricultural College, he completed his Ph.D. in genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1922.

After work at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Dr. Lush accepted a faculty position at Iowa State College in 1930, where he taught until 1966. His textbook, Animal Breeding Plans, was published in 1937, and he was named president of the American Society of Animal Production in 1939.

The recipient of nine honorary doctorates, Dr. Lush was also honored with the Morrison Award (1946), the Borden Award (1958), the Armour Award (1965), and the Wolf Prize (1979). In 1967, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and the following year, received the National Medal of Science.

Did You Know?

Some of the sources of information used by Lush in his research were the records from private farms enrolled in the Iowa Cow Testing Association, on animals registered in the breed associations, and on poultry of the Kimber Poultry Farm. These records provided insights into the genetic and environmental sources of variation in economically important traits under commercial conditions. Lush was also associated with an Atomic Energy Commission research project on the genetic effects of ionizing radiation in swine.

Immediately on completing my Ph.D. degree, I did research for more than 8 years, with almost no interruption for teaching. I'm glad it happened that way. If I had taught the same course as much as three times in succession, using the available texts and my graduate notes and all the rest of what I thought I knew, I would surely have come to believe those things myself so firmly that the errors among them could scarcely have been corrected by any amount of subsequent experience.
As it was, the cattle and sheep and goats talked back to me. Having no papers to grade or class rolls to call, I listened. Usually the animals were saying something like: "Most of the things you think you know may be true in principle but you have many of them out of all proportion to their actual importance. When you draw a conclusion, you often overlook circumstances which, if you considered them properly, would upset your recommendations badly." Trying to solve these apparent inconsistencies drove me, whether I wished it or not, in the direction of measuring more accurately the factors in the problems. I was always needing to be surer of how the various factors interacted in any whole operation we might be considering. Jay Lush's (1973) view of teaching was given in his symposium paper "Teaching Animal Breeding and Training Graduate Students".

Lush received the National Medal of Science award in 1968 for his pioneering efforts.

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