Development imperative, terrae incognitae: a pioneer soil scientist 1912-1951

J. M. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


James Arthur Prescott was a prominent soil scientist whose career responded to an increasingly complex, recognisably Australian web of interpenetrating spatial scales, served to promote revolutionary global advances in his chosen field, and in the process negotiated the blurred boundaries between 'pure' and 'applied' research. Encounters with this instructive life suggest that, while resolutions of pivotal anxieties might turn on ineluctably personal qualities, they also reflect a dynamic interplay between international, imperial, national and state contexts. Prescott's innovative contributions to soil science, fruits of a tenaciously consolidated career, influenced resource appraisal and environmental management across a prodigious continental expanse. A sustained focus on local and regional development brought him into contact with a wide range of contemporaries, including pioneering geographers, and culminated in his election to a Fellowship of the Royal Society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-264
Number of pages16
JournalGeographical Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2010


  • Agriculture
  • Australia
  • Australian geography
  • British Empire
  • California
  • Career trajectory
  • CSIR
  • James Arthur Prescott
  • Place engagement
  • Russia
  • Soil science
  • Waite Institute

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