Dr. Vigfus Samundur Asmundson (1895-1974), is the professor for whom Asmundson Hall at UC Davis is named, was an early pioneer in poultry genetics. Born September 24, 1895 in Reykjavik, Iceland, VS Asmundson's father, a fisherman, drowned at sea when Vigfus was two years old, leaving his mother to raise him and his older sister. Upon her death six years later, a relative sent funds to bring him to live with her in Tantallon, Saskatchewan. Vigfus entered the first class in agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan in 1912 and worked at the university poultry plant. He received an associate certificate in 1915, followed by a BS in 1918; Vigfus went on to earn a master's at Cornell in 1920.
VS Asmundson took on a staff position in poultry husbandry at the University of British Columbia in 1920, where he advanced to associate professor over the next twelve years and gained international attention in 1926 for producing what was then a world record pen and hen for egg production as part of his chicken genetics program. During a sabbatical, he took on graduate work at the University of Wisconsin and was granted a PhD in genetics and poultry husbandry in 1930.
When his position at UBC was eliminated during the depths of the depression, he came to UC Berkeley in 1932 as an associate in poultry husbandry; by 1933 he was appointed assistant professor at UC Davis where he developed a research program using turkeys. Here he oversaw poultry research and instruction until 1951.
In the thirty-four years that followed to his retirement as emeritus professor in 1967, he concentrated his research on problems encountered by California turkey growers. During this time he made outstanding contributions in the fields of turkey genetics and egg formation, and his findings have been widely quoted. He studied inherited lethal genes of chickens and turkeys and the effects of hormones and artificial light on poultry. Dr. Asmundson contributed to the study of avian muscular dystrophy, which has been used as a model for the study of muscular dystrophy in humans. His turkey research laid the basis for changes in management and breeding of this species to commercial reproduction at any season from the period originally restricted to the spring months.
Upon his retirement in 1963 university alumni established an endowment to support outstanding avian science students. Dr. Vigfus S. Asmundson died September 10, 1974, followed by his wife Aline [1914-1999]; both were laid to rest in the Davis Cemetery. Together they had three sons, two daughters, and four grandchildren at the time of Vigfus' death. Note: Former Davis Mayor Vigfus A. Asmundson was a lawyer who later married Mayor Ruth Asmundson.
Honors & Committees
- Poultry Science Research Prize, 1931
- Borden Award in Poultry Science, 1942
- National Turkey Federation Award, 1947
- Davis Faculty Research Lecturer in 1947
- Honorary LL.D. from UC Davis, 1964
- Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Poultry Science Association
- World's Poultry Science Association
- American Genetics Association
- Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
- Society for the Study of Evolution
- Genetics Society of America