I was telling a friend about a pioneer researcher in genetics who did his work in Northern California around the late 1800s. I was thinking this was in Marin, Sonoma, or Napa County.

When I tried to remember the name I drew a blank. My first thought was, "Gregor Mendel?", but of course that's not right.

I may be confused and it was Mendel I was thinking of, and I just mixed up California with eastern Europe. But is there someone who fits the description I mentioned above?

  • $\begingroup$ Wikipedia has history of genetics timeline. There is nobody on it from the US in 1800s (there are a couple of Englishmen), and the earliest US contributor is Morgan. But his famous fruit fly experiments took place at Columbia University in NY, not in northern California. He moved to Caltech in 1928, but that is as close as it gets. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Oct 30, 2016 at 20:54

1 Answer 1


This was almost certainly Luther Burbank. He was a horticulturist who started in Lunenburg, Mass and moved to Santa Rosa, CA in 1875.

Burbank developed hundreds of fruit, vegetable, and flower cultivars . His most famous contribution is the "Russet Burbank" potato, which is the most commonly grown potato variety in the US today.

Although his methods weren't particularly "scientific" (poor record-keeping) and he didn't practice "genetics" per se (the term hadn't been invented yet), his experiments were inspired by Darwin.

  • $\begingroup$ Luther Burbank! Yes, that's exactly who I was thinking of. Thank you very much! I think I'll have a nice baked potato for dinner... :-) $\endgroup$ Nov 5, 2016 at 0:00

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