William Burns obtained his DSc degree (1914) from the University of Edinburgh, UK. His specialization was in agriculture and soil science. He was Economic Botanist, Indian Agricultural Service (1908); Professor and Principal (1922), College of Agriculture, Pune; Director of Agriculture (1932); Agricultural Expert (1936); and Agricultural Commissioner, Government of India (1943).
Academic and Research Achievements: Burns did yeoman's service to agriculture in India in various capacities. His research interests were plant genetics and improvement of grasslands. He addressed the problems of soil fertility, dry farming, soil conservation, breeding better varieties of wheat, rice, cotton, jute, sugarcane and other crops, controlling pests and diseases, development of cattle wealth, and agricultural education and extension.
Awards and Honours: Burns was CIE (1939) and a Member of Indian Society of Plant Breeding and Genetics (President, 1943-44). He was a Fellow of Royal Society of Edinburgh as well as of Botanical Society of Edinburgh.