David Starr Jordan

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It was through studying blind cave fish that the Indiana zoologist David Starr Jordan rose to prominence. A scientist of great charisma, he would lead IU before being chosen in 1891 as the first president of Stanford University. By my time at IU, however, Jordan was locally best known for quipping that every time he learned the name of a student he forgot the name of a fish. [12]

Stanford presidency

In March 1891, he was approached by Leland and Jane Stanford, who offered him the presidency of Leland Stanford Junior University, which was about to open in California. Andrew White, the president of Cornell, had been offered the position but instead recommended Jordan to the Stanfords based on an educational philosophy fit with the Stanfords' vision of a nonsectarian co-educational school with a liberal arts curriculum. Jordan quickly accepted the offer, [4] arrived at Stanford in June 1891, and immediately set about recruiting faculty for the university's planned September opening. Pressed for time, he drew heavily on his own acquaintances; most of the 15 founding professors came either from Cornell or Indiana University. That first year at Stanford, Jordan was instrumental in establishing the university's Hopkins Marine Station. He served Stanford as president until 1913 and then chancellor until his retirement in 1916. The university decided not to renew his three-year-term as chancellor in 1916. As the years went on, Jordan became increasingly alienated from the university. [11]

While he was chancellor, he was elected president of the National Education Association. [13] Jordan was a member in the Bohemian Club and the University Club in San Francisco. [14] Jordan served as a director of the Sierra Club from 1892 to 1903. [15]

Eugenics

In 1899, Jordan delivered an essay at Stanford on behalf of racial segregation and racial purity. [16] In the essay, Jordan claimed that "For a race of men or a herd of cattle are governed by the same laws of selection." Jordan expressed great fears and phobias for "race degeneration" that would result unless great endeavors were put forward to maintain "racial unity".

Eugenics-based argument against war

One of Jordan's main theses in the essay was that his goals for an ideal society are better engendered by peace than war. His argument against warfare contended that it is detrimental because it removes the strongest men from the gene pool. [17] [18] [19] Jordan asserted, "Future war is impossible because the nations cannot afford it." [20] As one commentator put it, "Though he found meager evidence to support his preconceptions, he still confidently asserted that 'always and everywhere, war means the reversal of natural selection.'" [3] :79

Jordan was president of the World Peace Foundation from 1910 to 1914 and president of the World Peace Conference in 1915 and initially opposed American entry into World War I [11] although he changed his position in 1917 after he became convinced that a German victory would threaten democracy. [3]

Multiple publications of essay

Soon after it was first delivered, the essay was published by the American Unitarian Association (copyright 1902) under the main title of "The Blood of the Nation" and a subtitle of "A Study of the Decay of Races Through the Survival of the Unfit". Multiple editions of that version followed over the next few years. [21]

An expanded version of the essay was delivered in Philadelphia at the 200th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's birth in 1906 and printed by the American Philosophical Society. The following year, an expanded version of the original essay with an embossed cover was published by Beacon Press in Boston under the new main title "The Human Harvest" and the same subtitle. [22] This new version was dedicated to Jordan's older brother Rufus, who had volunteered to fight in the American Civil War and, according to Jordan, was part of the "'Human Harvest' of 1862". However, Rufus was killed not as "cannon fodder" in fighting but by what would seem to be the "natural selection" of a disease (typhus) he was "unfit" to survive. [23]

In 1910, the original and slimmer version of the essay was again published by the American Unitarian Association in a "present less expensive form to insure the widest possible distribution." [24]

In 1915, Jordan published an "extended treatise on the same subject" titled War and Breed and again through the Beacon Press in Boston. [25] Here Jordan defines and begins to employ the relatively recent term "eugenics" and its opposite "dysgenics". [26]

Influential role

In 1928 Jordan served on the initial board of trustees of the Human Betterment Foundation, a eugenics organization that advocated compulsory sterilization legislation in the United States. [27] [28] He then chaired the first Committee on Eugenics of the American Breeder's Association from which the California program of forced deportation and sterilization emerged. [29] Jordan then went on to help found the Human Betterment Foundation as a trustee. The foundation published Sterilization for Human Betterment .

Role in apparent coverup of murder of Jane Stanford

In 1905, Jordan launched an apparent coverup of the murder by poisoning of Jane Stanford. While vacationing in Oahu, Stanford had suddenly died of strychnine poisoning according to the local coroner's jury. Jordan then sailed to Hawaii, hired a physician to investigate the case, and declared she had in fact died of heart failure, a condition whose symptoms bear no relationship to those that were actually observed. [30] [31] His motive for doing this has been a subject of speculation. One possibility is that he was simply acting to protect the reputation of the university [30] [32] since its finances were precarious, and a scandal might have damaged fundraising. He had written the president of Stanford's board of trustees, offered several alternate explanations for Mrs. Stanford's death, and suggested to select whichever would be most suitable. [30] Since Mrs. Stanford had a difficult relationship with him and reportedly planned to remove him from his position at the university, he might also have had a personal motive to eliminate suspicions that might have swirled around an unsolved crime. [33] Jordan's version of Mrs. Stanford's demise [34] was largely accepted until the appearance of several publications in 2003 that emphasized the evidence that she was murdered. [30] [32] [33] [35]

Final years and legacy

In retirement, Jordan remained active, writing on ichthyology, world relations, peace, and his autobiography. [11]

Lifetime honors and awards

  • 1877 Honorary Ph.D. awarded by Butler University [36]
  • 1886 Honorary LL.D. awarded by Cornell University [37]
  • 1902 Honorary LL.D. awarded by Johns Hopkins University [38]
  • 1909 Honorary LL.D. awarded by Indiana University [39]

Skepticism

Although a proponent of eugenics, Jordan was skeptical of certain other pseudoscientific claims. He coined the term "sciosophy" to describe the "systematized ignorance" of the pseudoscientist. [40] [41] His later work, The Higher Foolishness, inspired the philosopher Martin Gardner to write his treatise on scientific skepticism, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science . [40] However, Gardner noted that "the book is infuriating because although Jordan mentions the titles of dozens of crank works, from which he quotes extensively, he seldom tells you the names of the authors." [40]

Children

His daughter Barbara (1891–1900) died in childhood. [42]

His son, Eric Knight Jordan (1903–1926), died at 22 in a traffic accident near Gilroy, California. [43] [44] Eric had participated in a paleontological expedition to the Revillagigedo Islands and was considering an academic career. [45]

Death

On September 19, 1931, Jordan died at his home on the Stanford campus after he had suffered a series of strokes over two years. [46]

Monuments and memorials

The former Jordan Hall at Stanford University in May 2020 (now known as Building 420) Jordan Hall Stanford.jpg
The former Jordan Hall at Stanford University in May 2020 (now known as Building 420)

Geographical landmarks

In July 2020, the president of the Sierra Club denounced Jordan and its other early leaders for being "vocal advocates for white supremacy and its pseudo-scientific arm, eugenics." The president also announced, "We will also spend the next year studying our history and determining which of our monuments need to be renamed or pulled down entirely." It is not yet clear how their reassessment would affect the status of Mount Jordan, which the club had helped to name in 1926, or that of other geographic features that bear Jordan's name. [50]

Namesake Tree

The David Starr Jordan "Namesake Tree" at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Campus Arboretum, an Indian rubber tree ( Ficus elastica ) was given to Jordan at the outset of a trip to Japan, and planted by him on December 11, 1922, [51] now listed as an Exceptional Tree of Hawai‘i. [52]

Fishery research vessel (1966–2010)

In 1966, the fisheries research ship David Starr Jordan was commissioned for service with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service 's Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. The ship later served in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fleet as NOAAS David Starr Jordan (R 444) [53] before it was sold for scrap in 2010. [54]

Schools named or formerly named for David Starr Jordan

During the 20th century several schools were named after him or in his honor. However, most of them were renamed in the 21st century, as his eugenics activities became well known.

University campus buildings

Jordan was closely associated with Indiana University and Stanford University, and both schools named buildings and other campus features after him. However, as his reputation became more controversial in the 2000s, they acted to remove Jordan's name from their respective campuses.

Stanford honored its former president in 1917 by renaming its zoology building, built in 1899, to Jordan Hall. [65] Other campus features were named Jordan Quad, Jordan Modulars, and Jordan Way. In October 2020 the Stanford Board of Trustees voted unanimously, on the recommendation of an advisory committee, to remove Jordan's name from all four facilities. The former Jordan Hall was to be referred to as Building 420 until a permanent name could be selected sometime the following year. Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne was charged to rename Jordan Quad and Jordan Modulars. The advisory committee recommended that the renaming of Jordan Way, a street on the medical campus, "may take place during the course of ongoing construction and planning." [66] [67] [68]

When Indiana University built a new building for its biology department in 1956, the building was named in honor of Jordan, its former president and biology faculty member. [69] [70] [71] In October 2020 the Indiana University Board of Trustees voted overwhelmingly to remove Jordan's name from the biology building as well as a parking garage and a "river" (actually a small creek) that runs through the center of the campus. Jordan's name was stripped from these places immediately after the trustee meeting had concluded, and they were given temporary, generic names to be used until permanent names could be selected the following year. Jordan Hall, the Jordan River and the Jordan Avenue Parking Garage became respectively the Biology Building, the Campus River, and the East Parking Garage. [72] [73] [74] In August 2021, staff members of the Biology Department sent a petition to the new IU President Pamela Whitten urging the university leadership to rename the Biology Building in honor of James P. Holland, an African-American IU alumnus, award-winning former faculty member and endocrinologist who died in 1998. [75] [76]

IU President Michael McRobbie requested the University Naming Committee to work with the city of Bloomington to find a name as a replacement for Jordan Avenue, a thoroughfare that is owned in part by IU and in part by the city. [77] As of October 2020, there have been calls in the Bloomington City Council for Jordan Avenue to be renamed, but no such action has been taken so far. [78] In April 2021, the Mayor of Bloomington created a seven-member task force to investigate possible replacement names for Jordan Avenue. [79] In September 2021, the City of Bloomington Plan Commission announced that it approved the renaming of Jordan Avenue to Eagleson Avenue while IU is in the process of renaming its section of the street to Fuller Lane pending approval by the IU Renaming Committee and the IU Board of Trustees. The city plans to complete their street renaming by February 2022. Both new street names honor prominent African-American families who moved to Bloomington after being born into slavery. [80] In December 2021, the IU Board of Trustees reconsidered their decision to rename the university's section of the street as Fuller Lane by adopting Eagleson Avenue as the new name for the University-owned section of Jordan Avenue. [81] [82]

As of September 2021, the Indiana University South Bend campus has a scholarship named in honor of Jordan that enables its students to study outside of the United States for a short period. [83]

Cornell's David Starr Jordan Prize (1986–2020)

Starting in 1986, the David Starr Jordan Prize was funded as a joint endowment by Cornell University, Indiana University, and Stanford. Every three years it was awarded to a young scientist (under 40 years) who made contributions in one of Jordan's interests of evolution, ecology, population or organismal biology. [84] The prize was last awarded in 2015 to a biology professor at the University of Texas at Austin. [85]

As Jordan's reputation became more controversial due to his support of eugenics, and particularly after the removal of Jordan's name from buildings on the campuses of Stanford and Indiana universities in 2020, there were calls to rename the prize. The prize was officially discontinued in 2020 and the endowment funds were returned to their respective universities. [86]

Papers

Jordan's papers are housed at Stanford University [87] and at Swarthmore College. [11]

Works

Books

Selected articles

Miscellany

Eponymy

Numerous genera and species bear the name Jordan.

Genera: Jordania Starks, 1895, Davidijordania Popov, 1931, and Jordanella Goode & Bean, 1879

Species:

See also

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Further reading

David Starr Jordan
Portrait of David Starr Jordan.jpg
1stChancellor of Stanford University
In office
1913 (1913)–1916 (1916)
Academic offices
Preceded by President of Indiana University
18841891
Succeeded by
New office President of Stanford University
18911913
Succeeded by
New office Chancellor of Stanford University
19131916
Vacant
Title next held by
Ray Lyman Wilbur