William Buckland was a man of many achievements—most of them poop-centered. No one would be more proud of this than William Buckland.

William Buckland eventually became the Dean of Westminster, an impressive achievement, but not the one for which he’s most famous: Buckland was one of the great feces experts of his day. He could have managed a more than passing acquaintance with poop, simply by the way he played with his pet—Buckland kept a hyena and would feed it things, before then studying whatever came out of either end of it.


That wasn’t nearly enough input, or output, for him. He worked in geology and paleontology, specifically focusing on coprolites, and by studying them, he could figure out the food chains of bygone eras. He had his dining room table inset with coprolites, and would put them on stands around his home. Darwin was lucky enough to get a look at a few of Buckland’s favorites.

Buckland wasn’t just interested in past guano though. One of the people he took on a tour of countryside coprolites—showing the bones of prehistoric creatures embedded in the stone feces—was famed chemist Justus von Liebig, Buckland was among those interested in using guano, and the chemical components in it, to make farms and even gardens more fertile. This was a lifelong passion for both him and Liebig, but Buckland had a more flamboyant way of showing his appreciation.

One night, when Buckland was an undergraduate at Oxford, he took a bucket of guano—mostly from birds—and wrote the word “guano” on the grass outside the classrooms. Naturally, the Powers That Be had it cleaned off the grass. Too late. The nutrients from the guano had seeped into the soil, and made the grass grow thicker, more green, and faster for the rest of the season. Short of digging up the entire lawn, there was nothing anyone could do: The word “guano” was written on the lawn as a testament to poop’s power.


Header Image Credit: Philipp66

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