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Street renaming honors UC ag pioneer

By Clifton B. Parker on November 7, 2008 in University News

UC agricultural pioneers Edward J. Wickson and Frederic T. Bioletti are memorialized in the name of a building and a street, respectively, on the Davis campus.

Now the administration has changed the name of another street to honor a third such pioneer: Eugene W. Hilgard, dean of the College of Agriculture at Berkeley from 1875 to 1905 and founder of the university’s Agricultural Experiment Station.

Hilgard Lane is the new name of what used to be Beau Vine Lane, built a few years ago as part of the west entry garage project. Today, the street also fronts the new Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.

Professor Roger Boulton said honoring Hilgard in this way, in close proximity to the RMI, holds special meaning for the two departments that have taken up residence there: Viticulture and Enology, and Food Science and Technology.

“He is considered to be responsible for the establishment of the Department of Viticulture (at Berkeley), which has become today, the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis,” Boulton wrote in suggesting the name change to Hilgard Way in August 2007.

“In addition, the Department of Food Science and Technology, which was originally part of viticulture when it moved from Berkeley to Davis, shares the Hilgard heritage.”

‘Key and lasting role’

Boulton, holder of the Stephen Sinclair Scott Endowed Chair in Enology and a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, noted: “We presently have a Bioletti Way and a Wickson Hall on the UC Davis campus, both named after faculty members that Hilgard would have appointed, but there is no physical recognition of him on the Davis Campus, or within the institute, while he played a key and lasting role in the founding of the College of Agriculture.”

JaRue S. Manning, a professor emeritus of microbiology, wrote a letter in support of the name change, describing Hilgard as “a giant in his time” and saying that the university had benefited enormously from his agricultural stewardship in those formative years.

Hilgard, the second dean of the College of Agriculture at Berkeley, is revered for successfully bridging the gap between science and farming, advocating for high-level in education in agriculture—the training of the mind rather than the hand.

Under UC Davis policy, the naming request made its way through channels, gaining support from the Department of Viticulture and Enology, the Department of Food Science and Technology, the RMI, and the dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Finally, the suggestion went to the Naming Board, which made a unanimous recommendation in favor of Hilgard Lane, rather than Hilgard Way. Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef signed off on the name change, and the new street sign went up in time for the RMI’s grand opening Oct. 10.

With his new lane at UC Davis, Hilgard now has two streets named after him on UC campuses. The other is Hilgard Avenue at UCLA.

In addition, he is the namesake of Hilgard Hall, home of the Department of Soil Science at Berkeley, and the Hilgard Chair at Berkeley’s Greek Theater.

UC Davis’ Department of Viticulture and Enology houses the Hilgard Project, a research database and historical archive that is designed to track all activity in campus vineyards and wineries; and the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources is the home of the Hilgard Society, the college’s fundraising arm.

Hilgard’s name was the root of the title of the UC agricultural science journal Hilgardia, which ceased publication in 1995.

Hilgard was a geologist and chemist, often described as “The Father of Soil Science.” The mineral hilgardite is named after him, as are a mountain and lake in the Sierra Nevada.

He might also be described as “The Father of Wine Science” due to his scientific approach to his grape and wine investigations, Boulton said.

He said Hilgard is credited with evaluating many of the first European wine grape varieties that today form the basis of the wine industry in California and the United States. He also carried out the first scientific studies of wine color and tannin levels.

Creating the ‘farm’

Boulton, in his request to have a street named after Hilgard, also noted the appropriateness of honoring Hilgard during the UC Davis Centennial.

“As early as 1880,” Boulton wrote, “Hilgard was sending students to work on farms near Woodland for grape growing studies. Hilgard felt that Berkeley did not have the climate for proper agriculture experiments.

“And others, including the dairy industry, took up the cause to create the farm”—referring to the University Farm that accepted its first residential students in 1908-09 and which eventually became UC Davis.


Media contact(s)

Clifton B. Parker, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,