Celebrating the bicentenary of the birth, in 1814, of John Bennet Lawes: founder of Rothamsted Research
John Bennet Lawes was an archetypal Victorian: scientist, entrepreneur and benefactor. He became interested in science after leaving Brasenose College, Oxford and, on assuming responsibility for the management of the Rothamsted Estate, started a number of small-scale experiments in pots in 1837-39 and in the field in 1840-41. He tested various ammonium salts on cabbages and showed that ammonium phosphate gave the greatest yields, thus highlighting the importance of phosphorus in plant nutrition. He also found that bones, treated with sulphuric acid to produce superphosphate, increased the yields of turnips grown on the soils at Rothamsted.