Mark Alfred Carleton was born March 7, 1866, in Jerusalem, Ohio, and moved to Cloud County, Kansas with his family in 1876. Carleton studied biology and chemistry at Kansas State Agricultural College (later Kansas State University) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1887. Shortly after, Carleton became a professor of natural history at Garfield University in Wichita, Kansas, but eventually left in 1890 because there was not enough money to pay for his position. Carleton returned to Kansas State to receive a master’s degree in botany and horticulture. In 1894 Carleton became an assistant pathologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Vegetable Physiology and Pathology division. In 1897 he married Amanda Elizabeth Faught and they had four children. While working for the USDA Carleton set out to find a high yield wheat crop that was more drought and rust resistant than could be found in the U.S. at the time. Realizing that the Mennonite community’s crops faired better than the standard crops on average, Carleton traveled to Russia hoping to bring back hardier crops that would withstand the Great Plains environments. Carleton found three new types of wheat in Russia and Europe, brought them back to the U.S., and despite the resistance from farmers and millers, proved that they were more successful than other varieties. In 1901 Carleton became the cerealist in charge of all grain inventions at the Bureau of Plant Industry, which gave him greater freedom to travel and test his new types of wheat. In 1908 Carleton became the founding president of the American Society of Agronomy. Unfortunately, despite Carleton’s success at finding a studier wheat crop, personal tragedy and conflicting interests forced his career to an early end in 1918. In 1920 Carleton traveled to Panama and Honduras to study diseases in bananas for the American Fruit Company, and on April 25, 1925, Carleton died in Peru from heart complications caused by malaria.
Entry: Carleton, Mark
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2012
Date Modified: September 2015
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.