Burbank, Luther 1849-1926
Burbank was a horticulturist and plant breeder.
He was born in Worcester County, Massachusetts, and was primarily of English descent. His father was a farmer, maker of brick and pottery. Burbank undoubtedly had a passionate love of plants. He attended a simple New England district school until he was 15 years of age, and Lancaster Academy for four winters. He was apparently greatly influenced by reading Darwin's Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication (1868) which he borrowed from the local library. After his father's death in 1868 he took up the business of market gardening in which he made a moderate success. It was in this garden that he produced the Burbank potato. In 1875 he sold his farm and went to Santa Rosa, California. He established a nursery garden with a greenhouse where he carried on his work uninterruptedly for 50 years. The objective of his work was to produce more and better varieties of horticultural plants. He made his own crosses and took a minimum amount of time to assemble and preserve the data. In fact the records were in most cases destroyed as soon as he finished any particular experiment. He also imported from foreign countries many kinds of plants, some for their economic value and others largely for observation or use in hybridization.
His contributions consist mainly in making horticulture a popular and interesting field in the eyes of the public. He introduced a considerable number of new cultivars of fruit, vegetable, flowers and grasses. He believed in the inheritance of acquired characters.