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George F. Sprague

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George Frederick Sprague (September 3, 1902 – November 24, 1998) was an American geneticist and maize researcher. He was a faculty member at the Iowa State University and the University of Illinois and a researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He is credited with developing a genetically strong line of maize known as Iowa Stiff Stalk Synthetic. A recipient of the Wolf Prize in Agriculture, Sprague was also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.


Sprague was born in Crete, Nebraska. He was the son of Lucy Manville Sprague and minister Elmer Ellsworth Sprague. After graduating from Lincoln High School, he received an undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Ph.D. from Cornell University under supervision of Rollins A. Emerson.[1]

Sprague was a professor at Iowa State University. At Iowa State, Sprague realized that open-pollinated corn often suffered from weak roots and stalks. After intermating 16 lines known to have strong stalks and roots, Sprague created Iowa Stiff Stalk Synthetic. This variety was still used in corn breeding as of 2008. Sprague's techniques took advantage of his belief that good germplasm was crucial to successful breeding.[2]

Leaving Iowa State for the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in 1958, Sprague led the Corn and Sorghum Investigations Unit.[2] He served as president of the American Society of Agronomy in 1960.[3] Sprague retired from the ARS in 1972 and took a research position at the University of Illinois, where he was employed until 1994. In 1998, Sprague died at his home in Eugene, Oregon.[1]


Sprague was inducted into the ARS Science Hall of Fame in 1990.[4] He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and he later chaired the organization's section on applied biology.[1] Sprague shared the 1978 Wolf Prize in Agriculture with plant pathologist John Charles Walker.[5] In 2007, Iowa State University Department of Agronomy established the George F. Sprague Endowed Chair.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Hallauer, Arnel (2000). "George Frederick Sprague 1902 – 1998" (PDF). National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Hallauer, Arnel R. (2008). Corn Breeding. Iowa State Research Farm Progress Reports. Paper 475. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  3. ^ "ASA Past Presidents". American Society of Agronomy. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  4. ^ "ARS Science Hall of Fame". Agricultural Research Service. Archived from the original on April 12, 2016. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  5. ^ "George F. Sprague Winner of Wolf Prize in Agriculture – 1978". Wolf Foundation. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  6. ^ "ISU Agronomy Department names Sprague and Frey Endowed Chairs". Iowa State University. June 20, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
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George F. Sprague
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