Teaching Chemistry at VAMC
Davidson as Station Chemist and Professor of Agricultural Chemistry
As Station Chemist, Davidson set as his goal a complete analysis of the tobacco plant, from roots to leaves. Tobacco, then as now, was an important crop in Virginia. The station publications indicate he devoted much effort to this research. In 1893 he was rewarded for these labors by being invited to the Chicago World's Fair to present an exhibit on tobacco.
Probably his most important contribution was in the area of supporting vigorously and participating regularly in the affairs of the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists. The lack of reliable analytical methods in chemistry, an area essential to pursuing the mandate of the Hatch Act, was the prime motivation for the establishment of the Association. The Association had been established in 1884 and comprised institutional memberships (State Departments of Agriculture, State Colleges and Experiment Stations, the USDA, and state, federal, and city officials charged with enforcement of food, feed, drug, fertilizer, insecticides, and fungicide control level. The founder of the Association was Dr. Harvey B. Wiley (Father of the first Pure Food and Drug Law of 1906). The AOAC established a system of referee committees and peer reviews as the basis for developing Official Methods which were published in the Journal of the AOAC. Davidson attended every annual meeting of the AOAC from the time he became station chemist (1891) until his death in 1915. He served as president of AOAC in 1903 and also served as its delegate to the International Congress of Applied Chemistry in London in 1907. A more detailed statement of the Association's respect for Davidson's contribution to agricultural analytical methodology can be found in the Journal of the AOAC, Vol. 3, pages 590-2, 1920. Science also recognized Davidson with a resolution published in 1916 (Science, March 24, 1916).