Lanoy N. Hazel

Lanoy N. HazelLanoy Nelson Hazel was born in the small Texas community of Shannon on April 23, 1911. His family moved near another small town on the south plains of Texas, Spur, where he grew up and attended school. He became actively interested in livestock from observations and part-time work at the SMS ranch nearby. He earned a B.S. degree in Animal Husbandry at Texas Tech College in 1933.


The Graduate Student

He spent a few years working with dairy operations in Texas and Florida before going to Texas A&M College for an M.S. degree in genetics. Graduation in 1938 was followed by an instructor's position. During that period, he was introduced to a new book, Animal Breeding Plans, published in 1937 by Jay L. Lush, which was of considerable interest to Hazel. He confided to C. B. Godbey, biometry professor, that there were parts of the book that he didn't understand. He was advised to go to Ames, IA to study with Lush to learn more about those parts.

Hazel followed this advice in 1939 and thus began a close professional and personal relationship with Lush that continued for over three decades. It was a relationship that was fully synergistic and without conflict. This was also the beginning of a research and teaching career filled with seminal developments that changed both the practices of animal breeding and the scientific methodologies supporting breeding research.

He received the Ph.D. degree at Iowa State University (then College) in 1941. He was influenced by W. G. Cochran and G. W. Snedecor of the Statistical Laboratory. Hazel's thesis was a foundational work that both provided the necessary theory to solve the practical problem of how to select for several traits at one time, something breeders usually did, and opened the door to further theoretical developments. His definition of the parameters necessary for developing the selection index introduced the concept of genetic correlations and how to estimate them. The concept of relative economic values was given, but the refinement of this required much future attention.

Hazel noted later that he had rushed into the office of Lush and enthusiastically presented the ideas for his thesis. Lush raised the green gambler's eyeshade he wore while at his desk, and looked perplexed. Then Hazel went back to his desk rather deflated, but there he organized his ideas and went back to Lush and over a series of presentations gave Lush the insights to see the problem and the solution. It has been stated that Lush once said, "Hazel was the first student who wrote a thesis I couldn't altogether understand." Whether true or not, it made a good story that was often repeated.

There have undoubtedly been few instances when a Ph.D. thesis has had as much effect on a field of study. Numerous scientists in the field have collected data, estimated the parameters, published papers, extended the theory to more complex concerns, etc. The principles of index construction have been a mandatory part of al graduate training since that time.

During his graduate work he met a young editorial assistant for the Bulletin Editorial office at Iowa State College. She was Frances E. (Fran) Peterson, who had a journalism degree from South Dakota State College. After a 2-mo whirlwind courtship, they were married in Arlington, SD on February 17, 1940.


The Young Scientist

Swine. After the Ph.D., three varied positions in succession gave hazel opportunities to apply his new knowledge and innate abilities. For a year and a half he worked for the USDA at the North Platte substation of the University of Nebraska estimating the heritabilities and genetic correlations of pertinent swine traits needed for index construction. He confided later that he was not really sure that genetic correlations existed except in theory. He reasoned that the genetic correlations among gains in successive periods in swine should be high and positive. And that is what he found. Methodology papers published with M. L. Baker and C. F. Reinmiller were often quoted by animal breeders. He was lucky, too, because he only had 47 degrees of freedom for sires. This study can also be considered as landmark in being the first breeding study to estimate components of variance and covariance. Statistical procedures for this have evolved considerably from that start nearly 50 yr ago. While Hazel was at North Platte, G. E. Dickerson at the Regional Swine Breeding Laboratory (in Ames) had developed an expression for expected genetic response per unit of time. Dickerson wrote a paper, with Hazel advising, concerning sequential selection, followed by another applying the principles to swine. These papers quantified the usefulness of the progeny test with its longer generation interval as a supplement to selection on own or sib performance.

Sheep. Early in 1943, Hazel moved to the USDA Western Sheep Breeding Laboratory at Dubois, ID. During the next 3 yr with C. E. Terrill, several pertinent analyses of accumulated sheep data were made to estimate genetic parameters for applying selection methodology for more effective programs. While at Dubois, Hazel developed a small paper on covariance analysis with multiple classification tables with unequal subclass numbers. This was the first use of the statistical theory of least squares in animal breeding and was the forerunner of much elaboration and use by W. R. Harvey, C. R. Henderson, and numerous others. Until then, animal breeders used S. Wright's method of path analysis. But the method of least squares was more useful for "unequal subclass number" difficulties of animal data, especially when Henderson introduced the mixed model in which fixed and random effects were estimated simultaneously.

Poultry. Lush had spent several summers working with Kimber Poultry Farms in Niles, CA. This led to an invitation for Hazel to work with W. F. Lamoreux at Kimber Farms to estimate parameters pertinent to indexes for poultry breeding. A study on disease resistance with Lush was an innovative study on breeding for all-or-none traits. There was other collaboration with I. M. Lerner at the University of California. Later, Dickerson completed the development of index procedures with Lamoreux and others at Kimber.

In addition to his research and publication productivity during this period, a daughter, Bonnie, was born in Nebraska, daughter Nancy and son Robert in Idaho, and daughter Laurie was born soon after the Hazels returned to Ames in 1947.


The Iowa Professor

Research. In 1947, Hazel was invited by Lush to return to Iowa State University to be Professor of Animal Breeding. This was at age 36, just 6 yr after his Ph.D. The relationship between Hazel and Lush shifted from a professor and student training program in research and graduate student training program in the nation. This return to Ames came at the time when numerous WWII veterans were returning to college on the G.I. Bill. Several of those and later students came to Ames to study with this pair of leaders. The majority of these became leaders of this profession at breeding corporations and educational institutions in the United States and around the world.

One student in particular, C. R. Henderson, applied Hazel's guidance in his thesis on the evaluation of 12 Poland China inbred lines. Their work was to initiate a whole new set of theories that became known as best linear unbiased prediction. From this thesis, Henderson went on, at Cornell, to solve two interrelated selection index problems. One was accounting for contemporary groups simultaneously with the random sire and (or) animal effects. The other was accounting for unequal subclass numbers in the simultaneous evaluations. Best linear unbiased prediction from mixed-model equations is basically an amalgamation of least squares and selection indexes, both of which Hazel pioneered.

Hazel initiated experimental field evaluation of the same 12 selected inbred lines of Poland China pigs through on-farm comparisons in Iowa of progeny from inbred line and industry purebred boars. Thereby, Hazel pioneered development of on-farm performance recording in swine herds. This basic idea of on-farm data recording in purebred herds later spread to other states cooperating in the Regional Swine Breeding Laboratory and, slowly, to the breed associations.

In contrast to the selection index procedure, statistically complex for the time, was the ingenious simplicity of the back fat probe for swine, a thin metal ruler inserted through a slit in the skin and pushed through inert fat tissue to muscle to measure fat thickness. The inspiration idea came from a conversation with a friend at Iowa State University about the difficulties of selecting for carcass characteristics, especially against fatness, because it required progeny testing or other information from relatives. The friend said, "Why don't you just measure the fat on a live hog?" After a sleepless, but thought-filled, night, Hazel spent the next day with his herdsman and a few hogs applying the inspiration. This was one of the joyous days that rewards scientists. An experiment with E. A. Kline followed that showed accuracy was better than measuring the carcass. This technique in time gave way to ultrasonic instruments to do the same thing; these were also investigated by Hazel. Selection for leanness has become increasingly important in the production of swine, so that measure of fat are used by all swine breeders serious about the job of genetic improvement.

Graduate Education. In the graduate education efforts, dairy research and students specializing in dairy breeding were primarily led by Lush, and beef and swine research and interested students were led by Hazel. The strength of the program was that they jointly worked with all the students and the interactions among students were considerable. Lush taught the graduate courses and Hazel the undergraduate (with Lush's Animal Breeding Plans as his text). Hazel had clearly overcome the difficult parts of that text, but his quick mind sometimes neglected the details, leaving his students with difficulties in understanding.

As a professor, most of his research was through guidance of graduate students. He and his students tackled many pertinent areas of research in various aspects of beef and swine breeding, and sometimes sheep breeding. Hazel's relationships with his students and with colleagues involved logic, directness, and mutual respect, balanced with a subtle wit. He expected his students to perform to the best of their abilities, and with that expectation, they did! On the other hand, students knew he was on their side if they made the effort. He had subtle ways of guiding and redirecting a student's focus, often without the student realizing he or she was guided. Although recognized for ability with statistical concerns, his enthusiasm was greater for biological aspects of breeding. Often he would pass on laborious but routine tasks to students while he explored novel and innovative aspects.

Extension. Never content with "academic exercises," Hazel was always concerned about the utility of research results. He was a strong advocate and advisor for the extension breeding programs of R. M. Durham and R. C. DeBaca in Iowa. While providing guidance to the boar and bull test stations, among the earliest in the United States, he would describe them as demonstrations of techniques purebred breeders should be using in on-the-farm tests. At times, he confided disappointment at not seeing more visible results of his research in the practices of the tradition-bound purebred industries. But, during his life, his research had a considerable effect on breeding practices. Observations of today would suggest he should have been patient, changes were coming; but it was not his nature to be complacent about the status quo. Many direct students and other students of his research have been instrumental in the implementation across species of performance testing, genetic evaluation, and selection indexes both in traditional purebred segments and in corporate breeding organizations of the United States and around the world.

Stature and Recognition. The collaboration and synergistic relationship between Lush and Hazel continued through this period, obviously based on mutual respect of each for the other. Their relationship enhanced their joint guidance of a major program with resulting recognition for both. Lush was named Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture in 1957 and Hazel was awarded the same title in 1966. Hazel was the recipient in 1960 of the Morrison Award, the American Society of Animal Science's highest award; in 1962 he was the recipient of the first Animal Breeding and Genetics Award. His wife, Fran, accepted the Morrison Award on his behalf because he was in Argentina helping former students design genetic research projects. During the next 30 year, five of Hazel's students, several of Lush's, and students of their students were to earn the Breeding and Genetics award. A faculty citation from Iowa State University was presented in 1968. Besides the American Society of Animal Science, he was a member of Sigma Xi and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies.

In 1964, in a series on the effect of science, the farm magazine Furrow featured Hazel's picture (a reproduction accompanies this biography) on the cover with the caption, "Dr. L. N. Hazel behind the big change in livestock.. . . ." In the cover article, Ralph Reynolds stated "Hazel is an animal scientist who deals in deep and complicated theory. Many of his research projects are sheer exercises in higher mathematics. Yet his thinking is behind such livestock boons as performance testing of beef and hogs, and the highly successful swine-testing stations. . . . As a scientist, Hazel is energetic and impatient. Ideas are an irritations until he finds a way to make them useful."

Hazel was a brilliant man with intuitive insight into very complex problems. His brilliance was not always noticed, because it was expressed without pretentiousness. He investigated problems with great vigor and often developed theoretical insights while seeking practical solutions. Different from some scientists, he was motivated by the joy of learning more than by ego gratification. It is remembered how he reacted when he learned that an old friend, A. Robertson of Edinburgh, had found a theoretical solution for determining standard errors for estimates of genetic correlations. Hazel and his students had been studying the problem with computer simulation. Many would have felt disappointment that someone else solved the problem before them. But not Hazel; he was pleased and excited at the new knowledge. Prudent and pragmatic, Hazel was a model more scientists should emulate.

Lush came to Ames in 1930 and Hazel returned in 1947. After that, it is hard to separate their students. In reality, nearly all were students of both. In total over the period Iowa State University had 279 graduates with M.S. or Ph.D. degrees in animal breeding. They worked in 42 states and 32 foreign countries.

Hazel's list of publications is only about 70. But to him utility and quality were more important than mere quantity. Once he found an answer he quickly moved to other ideas of concern to him. Those around him benefited from his keen insights. He often looked as if he was sleeping in seminars, but he usually asked the first question filled with burning insight!

In 1968, Hazel reluctantly shifted his focus from direct teaching and research and became an administrator, Head of the large and diverse Animal Science Department at Iowa State University, until 1973 when he retired.


The Arkansas Retirees

In August 1973 he retired at the age of 62 to spend more time with Fran and his family, then including grandchildren. He and Fran moved to Mountain Home, AR, into a home on a ridge near Norfork Lake surrounded by trees. They entertained in a family room with picture windows overlooking a spectacular view. One hundred acres and a small herd of cattle (crossbred, of course), boating, fishing, canoeing, entertaining family and grandchildren, square dancing and much bridge playing fully occupied their time. These things he did with the same enthusiasm and enjoyment that he put into his professional career. This retirement life continued for over 19 years.

In 1982 he was awarded the Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus Award from his first alma mater, Texas Tech University.

In 1990, Lanoy and Fran Hazel celebrated fifty years of life together. On October 14, 1992, Lanoy Hazel departed this life after a period of illness with emphysema. Lanoy is survived by Fran; three daughters: Bonnie, Nancy, and Laurie, two grandsons; a granddaughter; and one great-grandson. He was preceded in death by his son, Robert.