BSE History

BSE Timeline

1891 F.H. King conducts first agricultural engineering extension work
1904 Agricultural Engineering Department established, George N. Knapp, Chair
1906 Agricultural Engineering building completed, Charles A. Ocock named Chair
1907 American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) founded
1913 Frank M. White named Chair
1918 E.R. Jones named Chair
1937 F.W. Duffee named Chair
1940 First farm safety programs established
1946 Tree-planting machine perfected
1960 Agricultural Engineering Laboratory completed
1962 H.D. Bruhn named Chair
1966 F.H. Buelow named Chair
1968 New four-year degree curriculum developedAddition to Laboratory (West) completed
1981 Addition to Laboratory (East) completed
1983 Gary D. Bubenzer named Chair
1988 James C. Converse named Chair
1996 Department name changed to Biological Systems Engineering; Richard J. Straub named Chair
1999 Ronald T. Schuler named Chair
2002 Graduate and Undergraduate Program changed name to Biological Systems Engineering

Agricultural Engineering at the University of Wisconsin - Madison had its start in the Department of Agricultural Physics. Early studies were concerned with dairy barn ventilation and soil drainage systems. The first extension work in Agricultural Engineering was conducted by F.H. King in 1891.

A.R. Whitsen, who became head of the Department of Agricultural Physics in 1902, asked Dean Henry to establish the Department of Agricultural Engineering, and in September of 1904, George N. Knapp was named to head the new department. Knapp headed the fledgling department for two years, during which time he directed the construction of the Agricultural Engineering Building. This building, which stands on the northwest corner of Henry Mall, still houses the Agricultural Engineering Department (now called Biological Systems Engineering).

In 1906, Charles A. Ocock was named to head the Department and served until 1913. On December 27, 1907 the American Society of Agricultural Engineers was founded in the Agricultural Engineering Building at the University of Wisconsin. Frank White served as Department Head from 1913 to 1918 and was succeeded by E.R. Jones. During the next twenty years, the Department advanced in many areas: conservation practices were forwarded, the first model forage harvester was built and tested, the first successful seed corn dryer was developed, and grass silage research was initiated.

In 1937 F.W. Duffee was named Department chairman to succeed Jones. In the decade of the 1940s, the Wisconsin Agricultural Engineers started the first safety program in the United States. Another development during this period was the tree planting machine. Perfected in 1946, it is still widely used today. During the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s the Department did extensive work on forage systems, including the development of a new forage harvester cutterhead. Research was also done on hay drying equipment, forage crushers, feed pelleters, hay balers, and forage blowers.

In 1960 the Agricultural Engineering Laboratory was completed. The additional space allowed for more year round research and was accompanied by significant strides in instrumentation. H.D. Bruhn was named Department chair in 1962. During these years departmental research centered on mechanical cherry harvesting, low moisture grass silage, mechanical feeding, and relocating the electric research farm.

F.H. Buelow became Department chair in 1966. A new curriculum replaced the dual degree programming in 1968, which led to a 4-year degree in Agricultural Engineering. Building programs again added space to the Laboratory and to the Agricultural Engineering Building. The new curriculum received ECPD approval in 1971. The reinstated Ph.D. program saw four degrees granted that year. Research work included animal waste management, mechanical dewatering of lake weeds, wind erosion control, grain drying systems, and farm building research