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Luther Burbank

While not directly connected to Stanford University, Luther Burbank (1849 - 1926) was an acquaintance of David Starr Jordan, and Burbank Hall is named in honor of him. 

A trained botanist and horticulturist, Burbank developed hundreds of strains of plants through experimental crossbreeding, using the basics of heredity to cultivate new varieties of plants for human usage: the Shasta daisy and the Russet Burbank Potato, for example. Many of these plants are still in use today.

Fascinated by the breeding of plants, Burbank attempted to apply his knowledge of plant heredity to human reproduction. In his 1907 The Training of the Human Plant, Burbank described a system of eugenics that would treat humans in the same manner as a horticulturist treated plants. Just as the bad qualities of plants can be bred out through crossbreeding, so too could “unfit” qualities in humans be eradicated through eugenics.


As such, according to Burbank, “it would, if possible, be best absolutely to prohibit in every State in the Union the marriage of the physically, mentally and morally unfit.”

Burbank Hall is named after Luther Burbank.

A black and white photograph of Luther Burbank wearing a suit. He has shortish grey hair an a clean shaven face.
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