Luther Burbank

The field of botany has many great names and one of them is that of Luther Burbank. He is an America Botanist and horticulturist and just so happens to be one of the pioneers of agricultural science. Burbank was so brilliant that he managed to come up with an excess of 800 plant varieties and strains in all of his 55 years in the field. He came up with different fruit, grains, flowers, vegetables, and grass variations and also came up with a variety of cactus that didn’t have spines that is mostly used to feed cattle. He also came up with the “plumcot” which is what he got when he naturally crossed apricots and plums.

Some of his most well-known creations include the fire poppy, the Shasta daisy, and the “July Elberta Peach. He also came up with the “Flaming Gold” variety of nectarine and the freestone peach. When it came to potatoes, he was quite he king and he created a potato with russet colored skin that was actually a variation of the Burbank and was a natural genetic variation. This russet colored Burbank potato was later called the “Russet Burbank potato” and is the most common potato that is used in food preparation in a more commercial scale.


His life

Luther Burbank was born on a farm in Lancaster, MA, on Mach 7, 1849. He didn’t really progress in school and in fact only managed to gain an elementary education. His parents had 15 children of which he was the 13th. While he didn’t get much education, he did enjoy the plants his mother had in their garden and this may just be where he formed an interest in plants.

His lost his father when he was just 21 but he did gain access to his inheritance. He used this to gain ownership of a 17-acre farm located near the Lunenburg center. This was where he came up with the vaunted Burbank potato of which he held the rights to. Later on, the rights to his potato creation were sold for $150 which was considered a considerable sum during those times. He made use of this cash to take a trip to Santa Rosa in California in the year 1875. It was a few years after he moved to Santa Rosa that he came up with the Russet Burbank potato and it became so famous that it is the potato most commonly used in fast food and commercial use. In fact, this is the kind of potato used by McDonalds for their fries.

When he arrived in Santa Rosa, he again bought a 4-acre farm and this was where he built his nursery and greenhouse. He also established fields where he conducted most of his crossbreeding projects. He was inspired to do so by Darwin’s work which was entitled The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication.” Luther Burbank didn’t stop there though because he decided to upgrade and moved on to buy another vastly larger plot of land that was about 18-acres large. This was in Sebastopol which was quite near Santa Rosa. He named it Gold Ridge Farm.

From the years 1904 to 1909, he was the recipient of several grants given by the Carnegie Institution and it was so he could go on with his hybridization projects with the support of Andrew Carnegie himself. Some of Andrew Carnegie’s advisors were against Burbank since they believed his methods weren’t very scientific but Andre Carnegie believed in Burbank and supported him all the way.

It was by way of his plant catalogues that Burbank became most well-known. The most famous of these catalogues was the New Creations in Fruits and Flowers which was published in 1893. Satisfied customers were also responsible for his fame because they couldn’t stop from talking about him and the many wonderful things he could do with plants. In fact, he was so famous that people simply could not stop talking about him during the first decade of the new century

Despite the fact that he didn’t have much of an education, he was quite prolific and came up with an impressive number of plant varieties and hybrids. However, it wasn’t all smooth-sailing for Luther Burbank because more than a few members of the scientific community were quick to criticize him for not being more careful with his record-keeping. The scientific community is known for their meticulous record-keeping ways but as it happened, Burbank was more interested in the results rather than the methods and this explained why he was so lax with his records. In fact, according to one Purdue professor, this lack of record-keeping is what keeps them from considering Luther Burbank a scientist, academically-speaking of course.

His methods

For all his lack of record-keeping, he was a very accomplished individual and made use of a variety of techniques in his work. In his experiments he made use of a lot of different techniques like hybridization and grafting. He also dabbled in cross-breeding different kinds of plants and came up with the most fascinating products like the plumcot. When it came to flowers, he used the cross-pollination technique and selected the very best products to breed further.

His personal life

By all accounts, Luther Burbank was a kind-natured man that was interested in helping people. He was also all for education (perhaps because he didn’t have much education himself) and gave money to many different schools. Though he was married twice, he didn’t have any offspring with either of his wives. He died on 11 April 1926 but before that, he suffered a heart attack and went through gastronomic complications.

Indeed, he was one man who contributed a lot to the world and deserves all the accolades he was given. Every time you order French fries in some fast-food joint, you really need to give a little thanks to this man for coming up with the potato used for your food. He was a man well ahead of his time and all his works are considered important up until today.