Fun Fact Friday: Jethro Tull

Did you know that farming was revolutionized in the 1700’s by an agriculturist named Jethro Tull? Much like George Washington Carver, Tull believed that there were better and more efficient ways of farming possible, and set about trying to discover them. Tull’s influence is still seen in agricultural practices and equipment to this day.

Jethro Tull’s best known contribution to agriculture was perfecting the idea of the horse drawn seed drill. Prior to the seed drill, farmers used a method of seeding called “manual broadcasting”. This is a fancy way of saying that they would take handfuls of seeds and simply throw them on the planting field, allowing the crops to spring up where they may. As you might imagine, this method was inefficient for a variety of reasons. The seed drill allowed farmers to plant in the neat rows that we typically think of when we imagine a planted field. This allowed for easier harvesting, less wasted seeds, and prevented crops from being planted too densely, which would cause them to have to compete for nutrients and water, stunting their overall growth. Also, seeds had a much better chance of survival when planted in the drilled holes than resting near the surface of the soil. Planting in rows also makes weeding and upkeep much less difficult.

As you can see, Jethro Tull’s name lives on through his contributions to agriculture. However, if you were already familiar with the name Jethro Tull, you may know it for an entirely different reason. Jethro Tull is also the name of a prominent English rock band from the 1970’s. Another fun fact: They are possibly the only major rock group to feature a flute as a focal instrument. Yet another fun fact: They are probably the only major rock group named after a historic farmer.

One wonders why a group might make such a curious choice for a band name. The group’s leader/vocalist/flautist Ian Anderson explains:

“Back in February, 1968, we had many different names which usually changed every week, since we were so bad that we had to pretend to be some new band in order to get re-booked in the clubs where we aspired to find fame and fortune. Our agent, who had studied History at college, came up with the name Jethro Tull (an eighteenth century English agricultural pioneer who invented the seed drill). That was the band name during the week in which London’s famous Marquee Club offered us the Thursday night residency. So it stuck. Is it too late to change? I thought so.”

I bet that back in 1701, Jethro Tull could’ve never imagined how widely known his name would become!


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