Friedrich J. Haberlandt of Vienna  (1826-1878) - Part 1

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s

(c) Copyright 2004 Soyinfo Center, Lafayette, California

Haberlandt Part 1 | 2 | 3

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Professor Friedrich Haberlandt of the University of Vienna awakened Europe to the potential of the soybean and soyfoods and initiated the first extensive soybean cultivation trials. The results of his work appeared in his magnum opus Die Sojabohne ("The Soybean"), published in 1878. His work played a major role in the culture of soybeans in Europe and in stimulating further research on soyfoods nutrition and utilization. Haberlandt's writings contain a surprisingly large amount of material about soyfoods, hitherto never translated into English. Haberlandt predicted that soybeans and soyfoods would play an important role in Western diets, eventually coming to be widely used as a supplement to the carbohydrates of the potato, at least in the diets of the poor, providing an abundance of essential and low-cost protein, fat, and energy.

Biographical Sketch. Gottleib Friedrich Johann Haberlandt was born on 22 February 1826 at Bratislava (called Pressburg in German), a city on the Danube in Slovakia, Czechoslovakia. He studied at the agricultural college in Hungarian-Altenburg, where he was active from 1851-53 as assistant professor and from 1853-69 as professor. In 1860 he published his first important work, The Most Important Plants and Weeds Classified by Where They Grow. On the basis of his work with silkworm diseases he was invited in 1869 to be director of the newly established sericulture (the production of raw silk by raising silkworms) research station at Goerz. In 1871 he published Mulberry Silkworms: Their Rearing and Diseases. In 1872 he was invited to be professor of agronomy and applied botany at the newly established Royal College of Agriculture in Vienna (Wiener Hochschule fuer Bodenkultur). From 1873-74, as Chancellor, Haberlandt was one of the most distinguished followers of the school of Justus Liebig, who established the close association of theory and practice as the basis of agronomy. Haberlandt's areas of specialization included research on seed germination and transpiration in cultivated plants, the promotion of agricultural seed exchanges, and studies in soil science. In 1875 and 1877 he published "Scientific and Practical Research on Plant Cultivation." The last years of his life were devoted to the promotion of soybean cultivation in Austria and Germany. Haberlandt died on 1 May 1878.

He was the father of Gottleib Haberlandt (1854-1945), a professor of botany in Berlin, and of folklorist Michael H. Haberlandt. He was grandfather of Edith Haberlandt and of the physiologist Ludwig H. Haberlandt, all of whom became famous in their fields (Santifaller 1959 - Oesterreichischer Biographisches Lexikon).

Early Work with Soy. Haberlandt apparently first became interested in soybeans in 1873, when he obtained seeds of 19 soybean varieties at the Viennese World Exposition. He may have seen a pamphlet about soybeans and soyfoods written in French by a Chinese for the Exposition. Haberlandt's 19 varieties included 13 from China (five yellow, three black, three green, two brown), four from Japan (three black, one yellow), one from Transcaucasia (between the Black and Caspian Seas; one black), and one from Tunis (capital of Tunisia; one green). Note that most of the soybeans were not today's typical yellow-seeded types.

In 1875 Haberlandt began what became an extensive series of experiments with these seeds. He began by planting some of them in the experimental garden of the Royal College of Agriculture in Vienna. Only four matured, all from China: two yellow, one black, and one brown. The black was so late that it matured with few seeds. In early 1876 Haberlandt published a detailed account of his first trials and analyses of the oil and protein content of the seeds in the Wiener Landwirtschaftliche Zeitung (No. 9, p. 87-89). Titled "Der Anbau der Rauhaarigen Sojabohne" ("Cultivation of the Hirsute Soybean"), this was his first publication on soybeans.

In the spring of 1876 the two yellow and brown varieties were tested by seven cooperators in Hungary, Bohemia, Steirmark, Bukowina, Moravia, and Silesia, with favorable results in each case. In 1877 seeds of all four varieties were distributed to 160 cooperators, mostly in Austria-Hungary, but some in Germany and Russian Poland, and one each in Switzerland and Holland. Most of the tests gave promising results, and in 1878 thousands of farmers were able to participate in the planting experiments. All of the varieties that Haberlandt was able to mature were short-season varieties, which in general are much lower yielding than later sorts (Piper and Morse 1923).

In 1877 Haberlandt published more extensive information about his work in a 25-page article "Der Anbau der Rauhaarigen Sojabohne" ("Cultivation of the Hirsute Soybean"), which appeared in an agricultural experiment station bulletin. He noted that soybean cultivation experiments were already being made in France at Ariege and Haut-Garonne, and that many years ago such experiments had been done unsuccessfully at Hohenheim, Germany (a suburb of Stuttgart and site of an agricultural university). He also discussed at some length the nutritional value and food uses of the soybean. In fact, the article began with the statement, "Among nutritious plants, the soybean stands in the first rank, for no other legume nourishes so many people nor has such great nutritional value or so many food uses." He went on to discuss the sweet soy sauce imported from Japan to India and then to other European countries; the fact that soybeans contain no starch and thus do not become soft upon cooking; their possible use in Polenta - a mush made from chestnut meal, cornmeal, semolina, or farina; and the fact that soybeans roasted at 160*C taste delicious and, when ground, make the best known coffee substitute. He also demonstrated the soybean's nutritional value with detailed nutritional analyses.

Part 1
Haberlandt Part 1 | 2 | 3