PROF. SAMUEL WILLIAM JOHNSON is eminent for the services which he has rendered to scientific agriculture as an experimenter, a contributor to its literature, and a teacher; and for his agency, always active and earnest, in securing the introduction of whatever could advance its standards or add to the prosperity of the farming interest. A descendant of Robert Johnson, one of the founders of the town of New Haven, he was born in Kingsboro, Fulton County, New York, July 3, 1830. When he was four years old the family removed to Deer River, Lewis County, in the "Black River country." He was taught in the common school and in Lowville Academy, where he studied Latin, Greek, French, algebra, physics, botany, and chemistry. His home, says the American Agriculturist, was upon a large, productive, and well-managed farm, where he became familiar with a wide range of agricultural practice. He taught in the common schools during the winters of 1846-'47 and 1847-'48, and during 1848-'49 was teacher of natural science in the Flushing Institute, Long Island. In 1850 he entered the Yale Scientific School, where he spent eighteen months under Profs. John P. Norton and B. Silliman, Jr., studying agricultural chemistry. He served during the winter of 1851-'52 as instructor in the natural sciences in the New York State Normal School at Albany. Having spent the succeeding winter in work in the laboratory at New Haven, he went to Germany in January, 1853, where he spent two years in study at Leipsic and Munich, under Erdmann, Liebig, von Kobell, and Pettenkofer. Thence he went to England, visiting the Paris Exposition on the way, and spent the summer of 1855 in study under Frankland.
In September, 1855, he became Chief Assistant in Chemistry in the Scientific School of Yale College, and took charge of the laboratory. The next year he was appointed Professor of Analytical Chemistry in that school, and in 1857 he took charge also, succeeding Prof. John A. Porter, of the chair of Agricultural Chemistry. In 1875 he became Professor of Theoretical and Agricultural Chemistry; and, in addition to the performance of these several duties, he has taught organic chemistry since 1870.
With the establishment of the State Board of Agriculture of Connecticut in 1866, Prof. Johnson was constituted one of its members. On expiration of his term of service, two years afterward, he was appointed chemist to the board, and has served in that capacity ever since. He began to advocate the establishment of a State Agricultural Experiment Station as early as 1873. The act of the Legislature organizing the station was passed in