Samuel McCutchen Bain

illustration for Bain DWG

(14 January 1869 – 30 January 1919)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) has about a dozen vascular plant specimens collected by S. M. Bain. It is likely that more will be found as our collections are cataloged.  Bain’s specimens curated by NCU date from 1891-1893 and were collected in Tennessee.

Evelyn and Samuel Bain had six sons:  Webster (b. ca. 1892), Henry F. (b. ca. 1894), Donald (b. ca. 1896), Sherwood (b. ca. 1899), David (b. ca. 1905), and Douglas (b. ca. 1909).1

The following tribute was written by Bain’s collaborator and co-author, Samuel Henry Essary, and it appeared in Phytopathology 10(4):  185-188 in 1920.   The photograph of Bain is from this article.

Samuel McCutchen Bain was born at Eagleville, Rutherford County, Tennessee, January 14, 1869, and died at Knoxville, Tennessee, January 30, 1919.  He was reared on a farm and educated in the public and private schools of his neighborhood.  He received the equivalent of a classical college course in Eagleville School, but his scientific education was obtained for the most part by independent study.  He studied French and German under the instruction of Miss Evelyn Franklin, whom he married at Henderson, Tennessee, June 6, 1891.

Early in life he developed a love for the sciences, particularly botany.  With the few books he had at his command, he commenced the study of the flora of the neighborhood.  Before his graduation, he was asked to give courses in the sciences in Eagleville School, where he showed great proficiency and ingenuity in the construction and handling of apparatus in teaching chemistry and physics.  In 1890 he was called to Union University at Jackson, Tennessee, to assist in the teaching of sciences and French.  He soon took up the study of the flora of that section and the collecting of material for his “Plantae Tenessei Occidentalis.”  During a vacation in 1892, he took a portion of his collection to the University of Tennessee to compare it with the specimens in the University herbarium [TENN].  Doctor F. Lamson-Scribner, who was at that time Professor of Botany in the University, was greatly impressed with his work, and asked him to return the following year (1893) as his assistant.  A short time later Doctor Scribner left the University, and Professor Bain was made Instructor of Botany and Geology and Assistant Botanist in the Agricultural Experiment Station.  He was advanced in position gradually and was made Professor of Botany in the University and Botanist in the Station in 1901.  He continued his studies f the flora of the state, and added very materially to the University herbarium.  In his Experiment Station work he soon became interested in the preparation and use of fungicides.  After several years of intense study and experimenting, he published in 1902 his bulletin on “The Action of Copper on Leaves,” which gained for him wide notice among the agricultural workers of American and Europe.

By 1904 he was appointed Special Agent and Collaborator in Cotton Breeding Experiments in the boll weevil investigations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  He devoted one-half of his time to this work for a number of years, working in West Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas.  While he was actively engaged in this work, he brought out the well known “Trice Cotton,” which is now grown very extensively in the South.  He spent more than a year in studying the oil content of cotton seed, the results of which have never been published.

About the time of his appointment in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he became interested in the selection of plants resistant to disease.  He selected and propagated a strain of red clover resistant to anthracnose, a disease which had well nigh put an end to the growing of red clover in the State.  This selection work had much to do with restoring the growing of red clover in Tennessee.  He soon started on a comprehensive scale the selection of other crop plants resistant to specific diseases, but this work was greatly hindered by illness during the latter years of his life.  Several projects along this line were unfinished at the time of his death.

Professor Bain was as successful a teacher as an investigator.  He never sought after large classes; but he had the ability to draw about him a small band of deeply interested students, who were inspired by is earnestness and devotion to his subjects, as well as by his cheerful and lovable disposition.  No teacher ever had more loyal pupils.  He believed in teaching Botany as a pure science, believing that the practical application of the subject would take care of itself.  As he had never had a teacher of Botany himself, he developed his own peculiar methods of presenting the subject.  Through his wide study and his own researches, he was able to give his students instructions fully up to the standards set by other institutions.  Many of his pupils have been called to teaching and station positions in other institutions.  He published a number of papers on botanical subjects, and there are several unfinished manuscripts among his files.  Some years ago, he began a paper, “Southern Contributions to Natural History,” which was never finished.  He left a valuable collection of pictures of the plants of the Tennessee mountains, among which are a number of color photographs unexcelled for their beauty.  He was a pioneer in the development and application of the autochrome process of color photography in this country. 

As a man, Professor Bain was noted for his unfailing good humor and optimism.  He was under all conditions polite, genial, kind, and good-natured.  Even during the years of his ill health, he never lost the spirit of good cheer.  He was always ready to offer council, and not afraid to ask advice of others.  My personal recollections of him are very vivid.  His teaching was mostly out of doors, in the woods and fields.  He took his classes on many long trips around the country.  During the long summer vacations, he spent his whole time collecting and studying the flora of West Tennessee.

Professor Bain was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the Association Internationale des Botanistes, (1900); Member auxiliare (1902), Associe libre (1912) des l’Academie Internationale de Geographie Botanique; member of the St. Louis Academy of Sciences, member Royal Society of Arts, (1911); Member Botanical Society of America; charter member of the American Phytopathological Society; charter member Tennessee Academy of Sciences (1912), and President of same in 1916.  

1895.  Notes on Utricularia inflata.  Bull. Torr. Bot. Club 22:  478-484.
1895.  Some experiments with fungicides on peach foliage.  Tenn. Agr. Expt. Sta. Bull. 8 (3):  35-40.
1901.  The injury of fungicides to peach foliage.  Science, new series 14:  221-222.
1902.  The action of fungicides.  Bot. Gazette 33:244-245.
1902.  The action of copper on leaves, with special reference to the injurious effects of fungicides on peach foliage; a physiological investigation.  Tenn. Agr. Expt. Sta. Bull. 15:  19-108.
1902.  A simple method for demonstrating the translocation of starch.  Univ. Tenn. Rec. 5:  259-262.
1903.  On the manipulation of sections of leaf cuticle.  J. Appl. Micros. And Lab. Methods 6:  2160-2161.
1905.  S.H. Essary, co-author.  A preliminary note on clover diseases in Tennessee.  Science, new series.  22:  503.
1906.  S.H. Essary, co-author.  A new anthracnose of alfalfa and red clover. J. Mycol. 12:  192-193.
1906.  S.H. Essary, co-author.  Selection for disease-resistant clover.  A preliminary report.  Tenn. Agr. Expt. Sta. Bull. 75.
1907.  Parasitism of Buckleya distichophylla (Nutt.) Torr.  Science, new series. 24:  268.  (Abstract of paper read before the AAAS, December, 28-31, 1906.)
1907.  S.H. Essary, co-author.  Some results in selecting red clover for disease resistance.  Proc. Am. Breeder’s Assco. 3:  59-60.
1908.  Report on the propagation of resistant clover.  Tenn. Agr. Expt. Sta. Rpt. Coop. and Ext. Work 1907/08:  65-67.
1910.  An extraction apparatus.  J. Indus. And Engin. Chem. 2:  455-457.
1910.  S.H. Essary, co-author.  Four years results in selection for a disease-resistant clover.  Science, new series.  31:  756.  (Abstract of a paper read before the Am. Phytopathological Society.)
1911.  A cotton variation with a self-fertilized ancestry.  Amer. Breeders Mag. 2:  272-276.
1912.  Use of the autochrome plate method in plant pathology.  Phytopathology 2: 98.  (Abstract of a paper read before the Am. Phytopathological Society, Dec. 1911.)
1913.  A washing apparatus for mixed microscopis material.  Sci. Rec. 1(1). F. 1913.
1917.  The interrelation of plant and animal pathology.  Trans. Tenn. Acad. Scie.  2:  55-65.
1917.  Researches on disease resistance in red clover.  Preliminary report. (Abstract).  Trans. Tenn. Acad. Sci. 2:  85.
1917.  An irrigation slide for prolonged observation of living aquatics. (Abstract).  Trans. Tenn. Acad. Scie.  2:  88.
1917.  A simple device for serating [sic; aerating] aquaria.  (Abstract).  Trans. Tenn. Acad. Sci.  2:  88.

1.  1910 United States Federal Census [database online].  Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc. 2006.  Year:  1910; Census place:  Knoxville Ward 10, Knox, Tennessee; Roll: T624_1507; Page:  6A; Enumeration District:  0098; Image:  1127; FHL microfilm:  1375520.

2.  Essary, Samuel Henry.  1920.  Samuel McCutchen Bain.  Phytopathology 10(4):  185-188.