Wilford Gardner: Mormon Scholar

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Wilford Gardner Mormon Scholar

Wilford Robert Gardner was a soil physicist and professor. He was born on October 19, 1925, in Logan, Utah. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1949 from Utah State University. He and his mentor, Don Kirkham, did the pioneering work on the neutron probe, which is used to monitor soil water content. He earned his master’s degree in soil physics and his PhD in soil physics and mathematics at Iowa State University. He worked as a researcher at the U.S. Salinity Laboratory in Riverside, California. He then received a professorship at the University of Wisconsin and taught there from 1966 through 1980. He was distinguished with a senior Fulbright Fellowship in 1972 and was awarded the Medal of Honor by the University of Ghent, Belgium.

From 1980 to 1986, he was head of the department of Soil and Water Science at the University of Arizona. From 1987 to 1994, he was the dean of the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley, and received emeritus status in 1994. He was also associate director of the California Agricultural Experiment Station. From 1995 until his death, he was an adjunct professor at Utah State University. He is the author of close to 150 books, chapters, and scholarly articles, including two memoirs. He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Agronomy, the International Soil Science Society, the Soil Science Society of America and other soil science associations. He was the first Utah State University graduate and the first soil scientist to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. The Gardner soil— a soil of which the moisture transport coefficient varies exponentially with its moisture content—is named after him.

In 2014, the Soil Science Society of America and U.S. Committee for Soil Science (USNC/SS), a committee of the National Academy of Sciences, which represents all U.S. soil scientists to the International Union of Soil Sciences, announced the Wilford Gardner World Congress of Soil Science Fellowship. This program provided financial assistance for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers at U.S. institutions who were making presentations at the 20th World Congress of Soil Science in Jeju, South Korea, on June 8–13, 2014. The National Science Foundation funded the program. The fellowship program was named in honor of Gardner, who was the USNC/SS's founding chair and SSSA past-president.

Gardner was a veteran of World War II and served with the Army Corps of Engineers in both the European and Pacific Theatres. He was an accomplished flutist. He was married to the former Marjorie Louise Cole. They were the parents of three children. He passed away on May 20, 2011.