Francis D. Hole (1913 – 2002) was a geography and soil science professor at UW-Madison from 1946 until 1983. He published widely and co-wrote a standard textbook, “Soil Genesis and Classification” and a seminal book on the soils of Wisconsin. he received the university’s distinguished teaching award in 1974. In 1983, he led a grassroots campaign to have Antigo silt loam named Wisconsin’s state soil.
He retired in June 1983 but remained active in education. As an emerit professor, he lectured to any interested audience, from preschoolers to academics to retirees, about humanity’s stake in the soil. Professor Hole was one of UW-Madison’s most popular former teachers, and a much sought-after guest lecturer. Professor Hole was a highly original soil scientist that focused his research and teaching on soils in the field and the relationship between soils, landscape and land use. He made great contributions to the understanding of the formation and spatial distribution of the soils in the state of Wisconsin. Professor Hole is deeply respected both nationally and internationally in the soil science community but also in UW-Madison and Wisconsin he was a much beloved person.
Francis D. Hole Memorial
On Tuesday, 15 Jan 2002, Francis D. Hole gently slipped away from us, aged 88 years, leaving the world richer for his passage through it. Emerit professor of soil science and geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he was one of the great American pedologists and one of the greatest teachers of pedologists.
We offer the world a few selections from our scrapbook of Francis Hole:
In his own words –
- “Popularizing the subject of soil” (1989)
- “Soil Songs” (pdf, 200kB)
- “More soil songs” (1985, 1991; contributed by Gundega Korsts)
- “The Pleasures of Soil Watching” (published in Orion Nature Quarterly, Spring 1988; pdf, 4.5MB)
- “The Earth beneath our Feet” (UW Emeritus Faculty Lecture, 13 Mar 1993; pdf, 1MB)
- “A conversation with terra loam, a voice of the soil” (1984, 1992; 120kB, pdf)
- “Terra loam encounters erosion, a puppet play” (120kB, pdf)
- “Some thoughts about studies of soil in k-12” (120kB, pdf)
- List of publications, 1943-1981 (pdf)
Francis Hole’s monograph, Soils of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976), is now available electronically from the UW Libraries.
Others about Francis Hole –
- “Francis Hole, champion of soil, dies at 88” (UW-Madison news, 16 Jan 2002)
- “Popular UW-Madison soil science professor ole dies at 88” (The Wisconsin State Journal, 16 Jan 2002, pg. B3; pdf format, 60 kB)
- “Down to Earth” (written by Terry Devitt, UW science editor, and published in Orion Nature Quarterly, Spring 1988; pdf, 2.1MB)
- Obituary written by the family and friends; published in The Wisconsin State Journal, 20 Jan 2002.
- “Hole taught students to love soil and to love life” Opinion, The Wisconsin State Journal, 22 Jan 2002.
I remember taking a hike led by Francis Hole during a “Prairies Jubilee” festival held at Goose Pond Sanctuary in Arlington, Wisconsin. We walked down the road a bit, with Dr. Hole in the lead, playing his fiddle and singing songs extolling the glories and mysteries of Soil. Suddenly he stopped playing, halting the march. He had us take off our shoes and socks and step barefooted out onto the prairie soil. “No talking now,” he said. “Just walk quietly through the grasses and contemplate the complex and beautiful, yet unseen, world beneath your feet.” He led on, playing a soft tune on his fiddle. I had a feeling that I was in a wonderful church.-Martha C. Anderson, PhD (Astronomy), Asst. Scientist (Soil Science)