Agriculture is one of the most basic activities of mankind. The production of food and fibre from a resource of land might be regarded simply as an example of the application of the biological and physical sciences and the progress of farming could be chronicled in such terms. Farming, however, takes place in a political, economic and social environment and has indeed been responsible for, as well as responsive to, changes that have taken place in all these aspects of society. The ownership of land, the tenancy of land, the availability of capital for land improvement, the costs of essential inputs into farming, the prices obtained for its final products, the conditions under which men and women work on the land, the rewards they receive and the whole infrastructure of rural life, constitute a complex fabric in which science is but one thread. It is difficult to assess when technical innovation occurs and, if it takes place, who has taken the major steps, or whether it alters farming practice or disturbs what is rarely, if ever, a stable economic, social and political equilibrium in the countryside. It suffices to state that a wholly scientific account of agricultural improvement and an analysis of the origins of agricultural discovery cannot explain the extent of the advances which have been made in the past two centuries in Scottish agriculture.