Zon, Raphael

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Raphael Zon
Raphael Zon


Raphael Zon December 1, 1874 (Simbirsk, Russia) - October 27, 1956 (USA)


Raphael Zon was born in Simbirsk in the Russian Empire in 1874, to parents Gabriel Zon and Eugenia Berliner. A schoolmate of Lenin's, he attended the "classical gymnasium" in Simbirsk, and, studying "medical and natural sciences," graduating from the Kazan Imperial University with a bachelor's degree in "comparative embryology". He fled Russia in 1896 while on bail following arrest for organizing a trade union. Zon and companion Anna Puziriskaya, whom he would later marry, fled to Belgium where he studied in Liège. He spent nine months in London before emigrating to the United States in 1898.

In the United States, Zon studied forestry under Bernhard Fernow, Filbert Roth and others at the New York State College of Forestry at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, earning a professional degree of Forest Engineer (F.E.) in the college's first graduating class in 1901. Upon graduation, he went to work for the U.S. Forest Service, where his career spanned 43 years as a forest researcher. Zon was a protégé' of both Dr. Bernhard Fernow and Gifford Pinchot, first Chief of the United States Forest Service, and a close friend of Bob Marshall in the 1930s. In 1923, Zon left Washington to become the first director of the Forest Service’s Lake States Forest Experiment Station (LSFES) in St. Paul, Minnesota. Zon made significant contributions to forestry literature. Many of his more than 200 scientific publications have been translated into Russian, French, German, and Japanese. With Bernard Fernow, Zon helped establish American forestry’s professional periodical literature. These contributions began when he joined the editorial staff of Forest Quarterly. He deepened his involvement, becoming editor of the Proceedings of the Society of American Foresters in 1905. When Forest Quarterly and Proceedings merged, Zon became one of the founders and the first managing editor of the combined publication, the Journal of Forestry. He served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Forestry from 1923-28.

Zon was a "giant" among American foresters, or as Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard said, the "dean of all foresters of America." A large stone memorial with plaque commemorating Zon stands at the USDA Cutfoot Sioux Experimental Forest, in Minnesota, near where his ashes were scattered. He was a Charter member of the Ecological Society of America (1916). In 1940 he was listed for the New York World's Fair "Foreign-born citizens judged to have made the most notable contributions to American democracy in the past 100 years". In 1952 he was awarded the Gifford Pinchot Medal of the Society of American Foresters and in 2005 the U.S. Forest Service Centennial Congress Science Leadership Award.

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

From 1907 to 1920, Zon was chief of Silvics and Forest Investigation in the Bureau of Forestry and in 1908 he proposed a system of distributed experimental forest research stationss. The first was established in 1908 at the Fort Valley Experimental Forest in northern Arizona. A year later, the Fremont Experimental Forest was established near, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Carlos Bates, a graduate forester (University of Nebraska), spent 1907 through early 1909 working under Zon in Washington. In 1909 Zon sent Bates to Colorado to open the Fremont Experimental Forest and establish a satellite watershed experiment 480 km away at Wagon Wheel Gap.

From 1907 to 1912, Zon compiled 1200 references concerning the relation- ship between forests and water. These references, dating to 1801 (with observations from 1789), represented work in North America, Europe, Russia, India, China, and Africa. Zon’s conclusions mirrored those of Marsh. One conclusion was that man and his impact on forest cover and soils changes the quantity and timing of streamflow.

Reference Material[edit]

Wikipedia entry for Raphael Zon

Verry, Elon Sandy, Roger R. Bay, and Donald H. Boelter (2011), Establishing the Marcell Experimental Forest: Threads in time, in Peatland biogeochemistry and watershed hydrology at the Marcell Experimental Forest, edited by R. K. Kolka, et al., pp. 1-13, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL

Raphael Zon: Forest Researcher, Journal of Forest History (1980) 24(1):24-39, doi: 10.2307/4004435

Rudolf, Paul O. (1 January 1957). "R. Zon, Pioneer in Forest Research". Science. 125 (3261): 1283–1284. doi:10.1126/science.125.3261.1283. JSTOR 1753283. PMID 17780698.

Major Publications[edit]

Zon, R., 1904. Chestnut in southern Maryland (No. 53). US Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Forestry.

Zon, R., 1908. Principles involved in determining forest types. Journal of Forestry, 6(3), pp.263-271.

Zon, R., 1908. Plan for creating forest experiment stations. US Forest Service: np Available: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD, Record Group, 95.

Zon, R., 1910. The forest resources of the world (Vol. 82). US Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service.

Zon, R. and Graves, H.S., 1911. Light in relation to tree growth (No. 92). US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.

Zon, R., 1913. Quality classes and forest types. Proceedings of the Society of American Forester's, 8, pp.100-104.

Zon, R., 1913. Darwinism in forestry. The American Naturalist, 47(561), pp.540-546.

Zon, R., 1914. Meteorological observations in connection with botanical geography, agriculture, and forestry. Monthly Weather Review, 42(4), pp.217-223.

Zon, R., 1920. Forests and human progress. Geographical Review, 10(3), pp.139-166.

Bates, C.G. and Zon, R., 1922. Research methods in the study of forest environment (No. 1059). US Dept. of Agriculture.

Zon, R. and Sparhawk, W.N., 1923. Forest resources of the world (No. 634.927 Z87).

Zon, Raphael (1927), Forests and water in the light of scientific investigations, 106 pp, USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC.

Zon, R. and Greeley, W.B., 1928. Timber growing and logging practice in the Lake States.

Alway, F.J. and Zon, R., 1930. Quantity and nutrient contents of pine leaf litter. Journal of Forestry, 28(5), pp.715-727.

Zon, R., 1941. Climate and the Nation's Forests. Climate and Man, (27), p.477.


Jeremy  C. Young, Roots of Research: Raphael Zon and the Origins of Forest Experiment Stations in Olberding, Susan D., and Moore, Margaret M., tech coords. 2008. Fort Valley Experimental Forest—A Century of Research 1908-2008. Proceedings RMRS-P-53CD. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 408 p.