John E. Kimber was born in New York City on March 14, 1895, the son of an Episcopalian minister and a professional musician mother. At about the age of 14, following the death of his father, he moved to California. As a teenager he undertook a poultry project and is said to have visualized then a production plant of a million hens, an unheard of goal for that time.
He graduated from Stanford University with a major in agriculture and a minor in music. Later he took graduate studies at Oregon State University under Professor James Dryden.
For several years in California, Mr Kimber taught in schools, first in Cambria and Atascadero. Later 91929-1933) he taught instrumental music (both band and orchestra) at Washington Union High School in Fremont. Starting with 800 hens and 17 acres of land, he founded the Kimber Poultry Breeding Farm in August, 1925, at Niles, California. His visionary approach to poultry breeding has had a lasting impact on the industry.
He recognized early the need to provide a broad financial base for the breeding programme and to this end he set up a hatchery operation which marketed chicks directly to poultrymen instead of trying to sell expensive pedigreed stock, as was the custom among most breeders at that time.
He was the first among commercial breeders to recognize the desirability of applying modern genetic principles to poultry breeding, and he assembled a staff of geneticists to serve as a research team. In this context Kimber Farms pioneered the use of electronic data processing procedures fro breeding records. Mr Kimber also realized the need for veterinary participation in this effort, and included in the research team a group of professional veterinarians. Several other outstanding poultry breeders worked at Kimber Farms to receive training.
Kimber Farms had developed a wide reputation for quality Leghorns as early as the 1930s, but sales were restricted to California until the mid 1950s when a nationwide system of associate hatcheries was established. Later the company expanded into broiler lines and turkeys, and operated on a world-wide basis.
A unique attribute of his leadership was the encouragement of the professional staff to publish results of its research in scientific journals. Kimber Farms funded the Kimber Genetics Award, administered by the National Academy of Science, for distinguished contributions to the science of genetics.
Mr Kimber was a charter member of the Niles Rotary Club, a past president of the California Poultry and Hatchery Federation, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco Symphony Association. He had a life-long interest in music, and he personally sponsored a prestigious music scholarship for California music students. Among the many contestants and winners, several are now well-known professional artists.
He and his wife, the former Mary Alice Barnes, had two sons, John E. Kimber, Jr and Arthur Kimber.
John E. Kimber, whose innovations and foresight changed the direction of commercial poultry breeding, died in Fremont, California, on May 16, 1970.
Nominated by United States of America