Dana G. Dalrymple, a 36-year veteran of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), worked to improve farming practices worldwide. Most of his career was spent working for CGIAR, formerly the Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research, which he supported soon after its inception in 1972. As an agricultural economist, he shaped the policies, programs and budgets of the agency’s Washington headquarters and 16 international centers in South America, Africa and Asia, and he traveled to most of them.
Dalrymple, 85, died of complications from pneumonia on March 7 at his home in Washington, D.C. after suffering from dementia. Colleagues, friends and family will celebrate his life at a later date to be announced.
A life-long scholar, Dalrymple conducted original research, which, combined with his deep knowledge of the science and economics of agriculture, informed his federal and international service. In his early career, he became an expert in Soviet agriculture; his 1964 article on the 1932-34 Soviet famine was the first general review of the subject and was regarded by colleagues as the “standard work on the topic for 20 years.” From the late 1960s through the 1980s, he was the main researcher tracking the adoption of high-yielding crop varieties in the developing world. In government, he was a primary advocate of Norman Borlaug’s theories of a “green revolution.” As science policy advisor for USAID, he wrote many papers showing how science and research act as a force for public good.
In retirement, Dalrymple returned to an earlier interest in malarial control. He compiled and published an extensive survey of research into the use of a Chinese medicinal herb, artemisia, in treating drug-resistant malaria. To encourage the widest possible use of this work, he made his book freely available online. Artemisinin, ACTs and Malarial Control In Africa was reviewed favorably in Science magazine and a dozen other professional journals.
Partly because of that project, Dalrymple received the Outstanding Alumni Award in 2015 from the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, of which he was a 1954 graduate and active alumnus.
Dana Grant Dalrymple was born in Seneca Falls, N.Y., on Nov. 5, 1932 to Daniel M. Dalrymple and Esther Shappee Dalrymple. His future was forseen by a family friend and author, Raymond F. Yates, who dedicated The Boy and the Battery (1942), a primer on electricity and magnetism, “To a little boy named Dana Dalrymple who shows an uncommon interest in the world around him.”
Dana followed his father, Dan (assistant commissioner, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, 1959-1972), to the agriculture school at Cornell University, where he found a home at the Alpha Zeta agricultural fraternity. While studying pomology as an undergraduate (B.S., 1954), Dalrymple was inspired by agricultural economics professor Herrell DeGraff, whose agricultural geography course sparked his life-long interest in fusing agricultural policy and economics on an international scale. He earned two advanced degrees in agricultural economics—the M.S. from Cornell in 1956, and, after a stint at the University of Connecticut, the Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 1962.
That year, with his degrees and new title, Dr. Dalrymple headed for Washington, D.C., where he found a job in fruit and vegetable marketing with the Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Federal Extension Service. He also met his future wife Helen Wheatley there, in the elevator of the Tiber Island apartment complex, where each lived; they were married in 1967. (She then worked in the office of Sen. Leverett Saltonstall, R-Mass., but spent most of her subsequent career at the Library of Congress.)
Within a few months, Dalrymple moved to a new job, with the USDA’s International Agricultural Development Service. He worked with department administrator Lester Brown, an early proponent of sustainable agriculture and practices friendly to the environment. Five years later, Dalrymple convinced the USDA to let him continue his career there while starting a new job with USAID. Thought to be one of the first such deals for Washington-based workers, this arrangement continued for 36 years, until he retired in October 2008. During a few of those years, Dalrymple reported for work in the mornings at USDA and then walked across the National Mall to work afternoons for USAID, whose offices were located in the State Department.
In his spare time, Dalrymple pursued other research interests. In 1980, he co-founded and co-presided over the Friends of the Palisades Library, a community group based in the northwest D.C. neighborhood to which the Dalrymples had moved a decade before. Around home, he kept a close eye on neighborhood construction projects in the capacity of “sidewalk superintendent” and indoors, he read extensively on engineering and the history of technology. Another passion of his, the history of Washington’s National Mall, culminated with his writing a chapter about the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Designing the Nation’s Capital: The 1901 Plan for Washington, D.C., published by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in 2006.
Dana was preceded in death by his wife, Helen in 2009 and his brother, Ross in 2001. He is survived by his sons, Dan, of Rockland, Maine, and Will, of London, England; brothers Doug of Bloomington, Ind., and Roger of San Leandro, Calif.; his sister Anne Krantz of Amherst, N.H. and sister-in-law Bonnie of Richmond, V.A.; three grandchildren, Kate, Tom and Emily Dalrymple, all of London; and several nieces and nephews.
Donations in lieu of flowers should go to the DC Public Library Foundation, https://www.dclibrary.org/donate, or the Agricultural History Society, http://www.aghistorysociety.org/join/.