Luther Burbank

   Luther Burbank (1349-1926) once remarked: "I shall be contented if because of me there shall be better fruits and fairer flowers." In 50 years of work, he more than achieved his goal. He developed 618 new varieties of plants.

   Burbank was born on a farm near Lancaster, Massachusetts, on March 7, 1849. In his early years, Luther attended a one-room school. At 15 he entered Lancaster Academy, where he received some instruction in science. But it was in the Lancaster library that Bur­bank—at the age of 19—discovered the writings of Charles Darwin. From Darwin, Burbank learned how better varieties of plants could be developed. The secret was to select seeds from those plants with the most desirable traits and to breed for those traits.

   A few years later, Burbank was able to purchase land near Lunenburg, Massachusetts. There he set about developing his first "new creation," a larger and firmer potato. He planted potato seeds and selected the best potatoes from the resulting crop for replanting.

   The variety he developed in this way is still known as the Burbank potato.

   In 1875, Burbank sold his farm and moved to Santa Rosa, California. There he set up a small nursery garden, greenhouse, and orchard, where he grew and sold plants to support his research. He continued his selection process and also developed new plants, such as the Shasta daisy, by crossbreeding.

   Burbank bought more acres and established a world-famous experimental farm. His yearly catalog, New Creations, issued from 1893 to 1901, described his experiments. He used scientific principies and methods, yet Burbank's main interest was in practical results.

  Burbank died on April 11, 1926. Although he left behind little documentation of his work, Burbank is considered a significant contributor to the field of science.