Luther Burbank (March 7, 1849 - April 11, 1926) was an American horticulturalist who developed several new varieties of flowers and vegetables, most notably the Russet Burbank potato, now known as the Idaho potato.
He was born in Lancaster, Massachusetts and moved to Santa Rosa, California in 1875. Here he bought a 17-acre plot of land and, inspired by Darwin's "The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication", used it to conduct cross-breeding experiments on plants. His successful efforts include the Shasta daisy, the July Elberta peach, the Santa Rosa plum and the Flaming Gold nectarine.
The Russet Burbank potato was developed by 1871, and was exported to help Ireland recover from The Great Hunger.
His work also spurred the passing of the 1930 "Plant Patent Act" which made it possible to patent new plant varieties.
Burbank was also interested in spiritual issues and educational reform. During the last several years of his life he was a friend of Paramahansa Yogananda, who wrote about him in Chapter 38 of his autobiography, describing him as the ideal of an American saint.
"How Plants Are Treated to Work for Man" - 1921