The Wizard of Botany

“It is well for people who think,
to change their minds occasionally
in order to keep them clean.”
Luther Burbank

The Wizard of Botany

Luther Burbank and his dog Bonita circa 1925

 

I bet when you hear the word French fry, you associate it with the French or the Belgium who actually invented this recipe. But there’s one man you would never in a million years have guessed was responsible for the modern French fry. That man was Luther Burbank, a famous American botanist, horticulturist and pioneer in agricultural science. He created a disease resistant potato named the Russet Burbank potato which is the main source of McDonald’s French fries and most all French fry fast food.

Burbank made it his life‘s work to create new varieties of plants, ranging from flowers, fruits and even cacti. He is credited with creating over 800 new varieties of plants and received 16 plant patents.

He was one of the first botanist to cross pollinate fruits and flowers spending decades perfecting this cross pollination. For example, he cross pollinated plums and apricots to get the plumcot as well as cross pollinated four different types of daisies and spent 17 years to create the Shasta Daisy.

Shasta Daisy

Shasta Daisy

Not only a talented botanist admired for his work but also admired for his generosity and kind spirit. He was very interested in education and gave money to local schools. One US Senator stated, “he is doing more to instruct, interest, and make popular the work in the garden than any man of his generation.”

At seventy-seven years old, Burbank said: “I love humanity, which has been a constant delight to me during all my life; I love flowers, trees, animals, and all the works of Nature as they pass before us in time and space. What a joy life is when you have made a close working partnership with Nature, helping her to produce for the benefit of mankind new forms, colors, and perfumes in flowers which were never known before; fruits in form, size, and flavor never before seen on this globe; and grains of enormously increased productiveness, whose fat kernels are filled with more and better nourishment, a veritable storehouse of perfect food—new food for all the world’s untold millions for all time to come.”

Today, most people when they hear the name Luther Burbank might associate the name with the town of Burbank, California. However, that city was named after David Burbank, a New Hampshire born dentist and entrepreneur who established a sheep ranch there in 1867.

Burbank became world famous in the early 1970s, by Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show daily monologue jokes poking fun of the town where the tonight show was filmed, “Beautiful Downtown Burbank.”

Every single day we encounter something that Luther Burbank created because he was truly the wizard of botany.

Shine On

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