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Edward Asahel Birge (1850-1951), professor and administrator at the University of Wisconsin, is shown here conducting limnology research in 1929. Birge became acting president of the University in 1900, and though he hoped to stay in the position, he was passed over in favor of Charles Van Hise after a controversial battle between UW Regent William Vilas and then-governor Robert LaFollette. When Van Hise died unexpectedly in 1918, Birge finally became President.

Birge engaged in an ongoing debate with William Jennings Bryan on the topic of evolution, and he was one of the founders of the field of limnology, the study of inland lakes and rivers. Along with collaborator Chancey Juday, he founded UW’s School of Limnology on Lake Mendota. Birge retired in 1925 but continued his research into the 1940s. He died in 1950; upon his death, the University renamed the Botany Building in his honor.

Video clip from “On to Wisconsin” (1929).

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Posted by Molly Temple for UW Archives

Filed under Limnology Edward A. Birge UW-Madison Wisconsin history presidents US history faculty university science fish lakes 1920s

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