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Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton


Isaac Newton, a civil servant born in New Jersey, is inducted as the first United States Commissioner of Agriculture. When Congress established a National Department of Agriculture on May 15, 1862, Newton was the Superintendent of the Agricultural Division in the United States Patent Office. President Abraham Lincoln appointed him as the Commissioner of the newly enacted USDA. While Commissioner of Agriculture, Newton advocated daily weather reports to be telegraphed nationwide and this vision eventually became the United States Weather Service under the USDA.

As a youngster, Newton’s grandfather taught him farming practices and principles. Newton received little formal education, but he was a man of vision and entrepreneurial talent. As a young adult, he operated a dairy farm and shop in Philadelphia. He later farmed in Virginia, near Washington D.C., and marketed his products to the White House.

His reputation led to diverse experiences in horticulture, chemistry, entomology, and agricultural economics. Newton’s ventures even included an experimental farm in the National Mall near the Capitol, ironically where the USDA headquarters now stands—a befitting testament to the solid foundation Newton established for the USDA.

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