Edwin Broun Fred was born in Middleton, Virginia on March 22, 1887. He received a BS (1907) and MS (1908) from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, then went abroad for his PhD, earning that degree from the University of Göttingen in 1911. He taught at VPI for one year then joined the faculty at Wisconsin as an assistant professor in bacteriology in 1913. Fred served in the Chemical Warfare Branch of the U. S. Army during WWI then returned to Wisconsin as a professor of bacteriology from 1918 to 1958.
In 1934 Fred was made dean of the Graduate School, and in 1943 dean of the College of Agriculture. On January 25, 1945, the regents chose Fred to succeed Clarence Dykstra as president, effective February 15. During his administration student enrollment grew from under 8,000 to over 17,000, research spending grew almost eightfold, and the university added over 24 new buildings.
Fred believed strongly in the Wisconsin Idea, and he oversaw the growth of the university’s extension program, which eventually resulted in the opening of the UW-Milwaukee campus in 1956. Fred reached the university’s then mandatory retirement age in 1957, but the regents asked him to remain until June 30,1958, to allow time to find a successor.
After retirement, Fred continued his research and government service. Fred was both an able administrator and a leading bacteriologist. He died in Madison on January 16, 1981.