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Black, Charles A.

Published onJul 30, 2021
Black, Charles A.

(January 22, 1916 – July 6, 2002)

Quick Facts

Charles Black established the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) in his office at Iowa State in 1972.


Charles Allen Black was born Jan. 22, 1916 to Guy Cameron and Katharine L.Koehr Black. Black graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in chemistry and agronomy in 1937. He earned his masters and doctorate in soil fertility from Iowa State in 1938 and 1942, respectively. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve until 1946. Black, an expert in soils, consulted on the Mars Probe in 1964.

For many years Charles A. Black felt there should be some way to present sound, scientific information to the nation’s leaders, policy decision-makers, and others in key public positions. These people needed to be aware of information and facts available from the scientific community and from the host of professional agricultural science societies already organized.

Black’s concern led to the formation of CAST, the acronym for Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, in 1972. He became the first representative of CAST and established the organization in his office on the ISU campus. By then he was an established, highly-respected and distinguished professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, where he had taught, authored text books and papers, and had been a consultant since 1939.

Black had sensed, as president of the American Society of Agronomy in 1970, that many agricultural scientists were becoming increasingly troubled because decision-makers in the nation’s capital did not appear to consider agricultural science research when setting public policy affecting the nation’s food and agriculture. He suggested that a joint meeting of scientific societies be assembled by the agricultural committee of the National Academy of Sciences to create a new federation of professional agricultural science groups.

The result was the formation of CAST, composed of 4500 scientists and others belonging to 30 organizations and societies. Black retired from Iowa State and joined CAST full time in 1979. He would retire from the Board in 1988. CAST established an award in his honor beginning in 1986. Now, CAST is located west of the ISU campus in Ames. It distributes information to policy-makers, the media and the public on controversial issues in food and agriculture. CAST published quarterly newsletters, along with reports and a magazine for high school science teachers.

“We need to re-examine continually, in the light of current circumstances, what we are doing in agriculture…. If we temper our observations with realism, they can provide valuable guidance for the future.” —Charles A. Black Letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland October (1977)

He was honored with the Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture in 1976 and Distinguished Service Award from the American Agricultural Editors Association in 1979.

He was a full-time volunteer with WOI radio (Ames, IA) and compiled a 1,500 page pronunciation guide of music vocabulary and musicians’ names for English-speaking radio announcers. In his free time, Dr. Black enjoyed constructing and operating short wave radios and playing the French horn. Black, along with his wife Marjorie Anderson Black (1916-2015), is interred at the Iowa State University Cemetery.

Selections of text republished with permission from Iowans who made a difference: 150 years of agricultural progress by Don Muhm and Virginia Wadsley, published by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, 1996.

Selected Sources

CAST 40th Anniversary booklet.

Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. 2011.


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