Chadwick, Alan, 1909-1980

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1909-07-27
Death 1980-05-25

Biographical notes:

Biography / Administrative History

The English born Alan Chadwick came into the world on July 27, 1909. Born into the upper class of Edwardian society, Alan was exposed at a young age to a variety of aesthetic pursuits, gardening being chief among them. As a youth the mystic Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner heavily influenced him. Steiner's theories, though largely disregarded by the wider academic community, found a stronghold in the mind of young Alan. Later in his life Chadwick would combine what he learned from Steiner with French gardening techniques to develop his own brand of biodynamic horticulture. Chadwick's passion for the arts led him to the Shakespearean theater where he performed professionally for thirty two years. However his life pursuit of beauty was violently interrupted by the Second World War, which he described as having "capsized my attitude to civilization." After the war he moved to South Africa where he continued to act and to garden. In 1967, Chadwick was persuaded by his friend Countess Freye von Moltke to take a position at the burgeoning UC Santa Cruz. During his time at the University, Chadwick labored to construct a showcase garden employing his biodynamic techniques. While working the soil, he taught the students his philosophy based on a clear understanding of the rhythms of nature in creating a thriving botanical environment, as well as about the role of the garden in human culture. Chadwick was an extremely magnetic individual who attracted a large following to his lectures and a large number of devoted volunteers, whom he worked hard in the garden. Though a charming person, Chadwick was also quick to anger and notoriously difficult to get along with at times. This aspect of his personality, along with disputes over the direction of his ambitious farm project, led to his leaving the University in 1973. In the final seven years of his life, Alan continued to work in his signature style helping to create several gardens around America. He died on May 25, 1980.

Alan Chadwick remains highly regarded by the agricultural community and is seen as the forerunner to the Center for Agro-ecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) that exists today at UC Santa Cruz. The original garden remains an island of peace within the bustling University and is now named in his honor.

From the guide to the Alan Chadwick papers, 1935-1977, (University of California, Santa Cruz. University Library. Special Collections and Archives)

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Subjects:

  • Theater--South Africa

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