Albert Orth

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Albert Orth (* 15 June 1835 in Lengefeld near Korbach, Waldeck; † 23 August 1915 in Berlin) was a German soil scientist and agronomist.

Life and work

Orth, son of a tenant farmer, studied geology and chemistry in Göttingen and Berlin from 1854 to 1857, then worked in agricultural practice and from 1860 to 1865 was a teacher at the Beberbeck Agricultural College near Kassel. In 1867 he continued his studies. He was now particularly interested in soil science and geology. In 1868 he received his doctorate at the University of Göttingen with a dissertation on contributions to soil investigation, and in 1870 he qualified as a professor at the University of Halle with a paper on the geological conditions of the North German alluvial plain. In 1871 he was appointed associate professor of agriculture at the Agricultural Teaching Institute in Berlin.

In the following years, Orth was intensively involved in the geological survey of Prussia. He played a major role in ensuring that the geological maps also included an evaluation of the soils for agricultural use. Thus, Orth was one of the co-founders of agricultural soil mapping. Until 1880 he was head of the agronomic-chemical laboratory of the Prussian Geological Survey in Berlin

When the Berlin Agricultural Teaching Institute was merged with the Agricultural Museum in 1881 and the Royal Agricultural College of Berlin was founded as a new institution, Orth took over the full professorship of arable and plant cultivation. He worked here until 1910 and called his university institute the “Agronomisch-Pedologisches Institut” (Agronomic-Pedological Institute) due to his strongly soil and agronomic-oriented research.

Orth was mainly concerned with questions of lime fertilization, green manuring, root growth, weed control and irrigation. From 1887 until his death, he chaired the arable farming department of the German Agricultural Society. In this capacity he succeeded in having the effect of lime thoroughly tested on the various soils of Germany by field trials of many years’ duration. With his book Kalk- und Mergeldüngung (Lime and Marl Fertilization ), published in 1896 on behalf of the Fertilizer Department of the German Agricultural Society, Orth for the first time comprehensively presented the scientific principles and practical application of lime application in agriculture. Through lectures he was able to convince numerous farmers of the necessity of liming acidic soils

A great friend of associations, Orth also held leading positions in numerous other agricultural organizations, including the then famous Berlin “Klub der Landwirte”, whose scientific lectures he organized and whose newsletter he edited. Orth wrote numerous obituaries for deceased friends and colleagues. In 1905, on his 70th birthday, his students and colleagues presented him with a commemorative volume published by the Berlin bookshop Paul Parey.

Albert Orth died in Berlin on 23 August 1915. With his sister Marie (1830-1910) and his brother August (1828-1901), architect, he is buried in a common grave on the Dreifaltigkeitskirchhof II in Bergmannstraße in Berlin-Kreuzberg.

Writings (selection)

  • Contributions to soil investigation. Diss. phil. Göttingen 1868.
  • Die geologischen Verhältnisse des norddeutschen Schwemmlandes. Habil.-Schr. Halle-Wittenberg 1870.
  • Die geognostisch-agronomische Kartirung mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der geologischen Verhältnisse Norddeutschlands und der Mark Brandenburg. Berlin 1875.
  • The scientific foundations of soil science. In: Die landwirthschaftlichen Versuchs-Stationen Vol. 20, 1877, pp. 63-69.
  • Die Kalk- und Mergeldüngung. Berlin 1896; 2nd ed. ibid. 1918; 3rd ed. ibid. 1928.
  • Agriculture in Thaer’s time and in the scientific century. Festrede zur Feier des Geburtstags des Kaisers und des 25jähringen Jubiläums der Königlichen Landwirtschaftlichen Hochschule zu Berlin. Publishers Paul Parey Berlin 1906.


  • The Royal Agricultural College in Berlin. Festschrift for the celebration of the 25th anniversary. Edited by L. Wittmack. Berlin 1906, pp. 97-112 (with list of publications).
  • L. Wittmack: Albert Orth †. In: Jahrbuch der Deutschen Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft Vol. 30, 1915, pp. 169-179 (w. picture).
  • B. Tollens: Albert Orth †. In: Journal für Landwirtschaft Jg. 63, 1915, pp. 197-198 (w. picture).
  • H. P. Blume: Albert Orth als Bodenkundler, Quartärgeologe und Landwirt. In: Mitteilungen der Deutschen Bodenkundlichen Gesellschaft Bd. 30, 1981, pp. 472-475 (with selected bibliography).

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