Hansen, N.E. (Niels Ebbesen), 1866-1950

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Hansen, N.E. (Niels Ebbesen), 1866-1950

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On January 4, 1866, Niels Ebbesen Hansen was born to Bodil Midtgaard and Andreas Hansen on a farm near Ribe, Denmark. His mother died when he was an infant. Andreas remarried, and with his second wife had two daughters, Helene and Kristine. The Hansen's left Denmark in 1872. They lived in New York and New Jersey for three years before migrating to Des Moines, Iowa in 1876. His father worked as a painter and is noted for his murals on the ceilings and walls of the new state house building in Des Moines. / As a boy, Hansen attended schools in New York and New Jersey but completed his education in Iowa. In March 1883, Niels enrolled at Iowa State College. He graduated with a BS degree in Horticulture in 1887. In 1895, he received his master's degree from the same college. / After graduation from college, Hansen went into commercial horticulture work. He worked for a year in Atlantic, Iowa and three years in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1895, Hansen came to South Dakota and became head of the Horticultural Department of South Dakota State College. / During his career, Hansen made eight world trips as an agricultural explorer. He searched for new grasses, fruits and other plants throughout Europe and Asia, including Siberia. He brought these plants back to America to raise or crossbreed with American varieties to produce a stronger plant. He was the originator of many new fruits, among them the Hansen hybrid plums. He is credited with the discovery and introduction of hardy Cossack alfalfa, crested wheat grass and brome grass. He developed larger apricots and plums by crossing native varieties with those he brought from Asia. He also developed pears without seeds and a rose to adorn farmyards. In 1949, a monument in recognition of Dr. Hansen and his contributions was erected on the campus of South Dakota State College. / Hansen was married twice. He married his first wife, Emma Elise Pammel on November 16, 1898. They had two children, Carl Andreas and Eva (Mrs. Dave Gilkerson). Emma died December 16, 1904. Three years later, he married Dora Sophie Pammel, his first wife's sister. The Dora died September 14, 1945. / Hansen was a member of the International Jury of Horticulture at the World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904 and a United States delegate to the First International Congress of Genetics in London, England in 1906. He served as secretary of the South Dakota Horticultural Society for many years. Hansen was frequently referred to as "The Burbank of the Plains". He had been on the State College staff for 55 years and held the title of Professor Emeritus. Hansen died at the Brookings Hospital on October 5, 1950, after a long illness.


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