David Nelson: Madison Science Museum

Image of Stephen Babcock and his original centrifuge

David Nelson, an emeritus Biochemistry professor and de facto historian, has been collecting old scientific instruments, books, papers and other scientific artifacts that for the past 45 years that testify to the long history of the Biochemistry (originally, Agricultural Chemistry) Department.

Nelson has amassed a collection that now fills three rooms on campus – two in the Biochemical Sciences Building and one in the Old Dairy Barn. Soon, many of these items will be sent to the home of the new Madison Science Museum, a non-profit museum that Nelson helped found and hopes to see open this coming fall.

The photo above shows CALS Dean W. A. Henry, Professor Harry Russell (Agricultural Bacteriology) and Professor Stephen M. Babcock (Agricultural Chemistry) with the prototype of the Babcock centrifuge used in Babcock’s butterfat test. The quantitative butterfat test put dairy farming on a firm economic basis; farmers could not “water” or skim the milk bought by dairies, and pricing could be based on the quality of the milk.

In the photo below, David Nelson poses with a Babcock centrifuge from his collection, dating approximately to 1905.

Photo of Dave Nelson with Babcock centrifuge

Photo By: 
Sevie Kenyon