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Though as famous in his day as Thomas Edison, agricultural pioneer Luther Burbank (1849–1926) is little remembered; in this straightforward, engaging biography, author and historian Smith (Patenting the Sun: Polio and the Salk Vaccine) recounts Burbank's life and its context, chronicling also agribusiness's turn-of-the-century growth and industrialization. Smith covers Burbank's rural New England childhood; the influence of Darwin on his horticultural ideas; his move to Santa Rosa, Calif.; and the establishment of his experimental gardens and nurseries. Amazingly, Burbank discovered independently the Mendelian principles that form the basis of genetics, and developed more than 800 varieties of fruits, nuts, vegetables and flowers. He made little money, largely owing to insufficient patent law (plants were not covered at the time) and his own paranoia, but he gained ample fame amid the 19th-century vogue for progress. (Apr.)
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Jane S. Smith received her Ph.D. in English from Yale University and has taught at Northwestern University on topics ranging from twentieth-century fiction to the history of public health. Her history of the first polio vaccine, Patenting the Sun: Polio and the Salk Vaccine, received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science and Technology. She has served as a commentator, consultant, and writer for numerous documentary film projects. She works in a very small room with a very large window.
I really enjoyed this book. If you, or someone you know, at all enjoys gardening and has a curious mind, they'll like this book. Read morePublished on September 16, 2011 by Karen
This was really interesting for my mom who's an avid gardener and reader of historical non-fiction. She loved it!Published on October 29, 2010 by JC
A must read for anyone interested in American history, natural history, or gardening. Well written and researched.Published on March 16, 2010 by J. A. Quayle
The book isn't exactly a biography, but it tells the story of Luther Burbank, a man who was famous in his time for developing new plants, including the Russet potato and elephant... Read morePublished on September 23, 2009 by M. Godon