Science: Praise for the Earthworm

In 1881 Charles Darwin wrote: "Without the work of this humble creature, who knows nothing of the benefits he confers upon mankind, agriculture, as we know it, would be very difficult, if not wholly impossible." The great evolutionist was referring to the lowly earthworm.

In 1906 a young Texas physician and surgeon named George Sheffield Oliver read Darwin's book on earthworms. A descendant of the James Oliver who invented the steel plow, George Oliver was living on a five-acre plot, and he decided to try earthworm culture on his grounds. Soon earthworms were such a big part of his life that he...