Pasadena, Calif. (Aug. 12, 2016) – The second featured alum in our Olympic Spotlight series, 2016 Caltech Athletics Hall of Honor inductee Folke Skoog represented his native Sweden in the 1932 Summer Olympics hosted in Los Angeles.
Having emigrated to the United States in 1925, Skoog claimed three SCIAC titles in track & field as well as one cross country title during his time at Caltech, setting program records in the 1-mile and 880-yard runs in addition to the 3-mile cross country distance.
Skoog went on to represent Sweden in the 1500-meter run the summer following graduation. He placed sixth in his heat due to some early jostling among competitors, missing out on fourth and thus a place in the Final by a mere 0.8 of a second, while his time of 3:59.6 would have placed second and qualified for the Final in either of the other two heats.
Following his athletic career, Skoog pioneered a number of breakthroughs in plant physiology, namely the discovery of cytokinins and soon earned his PhD in biology from Caltech for his work with auxin, a plant hormone. He continued his career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he taught and eventually co-published one of the most-cited papers in plant tissue culture concerning a then-unknown plant growth regulator in tobacco juice. His extensive list of accolades includes a National Medal of Science, election as a foreign member to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.