Personal Life and Education
The Canadian geneticist Royal Alexander Brink, an important figure in the history of agriculture, is renowned for his seminal contributions to plant genetics and agricultural development. A native of Woodstock, Ontario, he was born on 16 September 1897 and grew up on a diary farm, and was educated first at a local school and then at the Collegiate Institute in Woodstock. He enrolled at the Ontario Agricultural College in 1914, took a brief break to join the Canadian Army at the outbreak of the First World War and then, owing to ill-health, left military service as he was unfit to continue. And so he resumed his studies. He graduated in 1919 in chemistry and physics.
This degree, however, failed to qualify him, as he wished, for postgraduate admission in soil sciences at Cornell University. So, after doing a milling and baking course at the Ontario Agricultural College, he worked for sometime at the Western Canada Flour Mills in Winnipeg and then, drawn back to academia, enrolled at the University of Illinois to study agronomy.
His genetics studies at Illinois University under J.A. Detlefesen led him to consider a career in plant genetics. On Detlefesen's recommendation, in June 1921, he received an Emerson Fellowship to work on a D.Sc. degree under E.M. East at the Bussey Institute, Harvard. Here, he carried out research on pollen cultivation and on the corn waxy gene.
Receiving his D.Sc. degree in 1923, he joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an assistant professor of genetics. He was to remain at Wisconsin University until his retirement in 1968, and continue on as professor emeritus until his death. Most of his important research work was done here.