Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/367

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363
LUTHER BURBANK'S WORK

SCIENTIFIC ASPECTS OF LUTHER BURBANK'S WORK
By VERNON L. KELLOGG

PROFESSOR OF ENTOMOLOGY, STANFORD UNIVERSITY

MR. BURBANK has so far not formulated any new or additional laws of species-change, nor do his observations and results justify any such formulation, and we may rest in the belief that he has no new fundamental laws to reveal. He has indeed the right to formulate, if he cares to, some valuable and significant special conclusions touching certain already recognized evolution factors, in particular, the influence on variability of the two long-known variation producing factors of hybridization and modification of environment. His reliance on the marked increase in variability to be got after a crossing in the second and third generations over that obvious in the first will come as a surprise to most men first getting acquainted with his work. He has got more starts for his new things from these generations than in any other way. He is wholly clear and convinced in his own mind as to the inheritance of acquired characters; 'acquired characters are inherited or I know nothing of plant life' he says; and also convinced that the only unit in organic nature is the individual, not the species; that the so-called species are wholly mutable and dependent for their apparent fixity solely on the length of time through which their so-called phyletic characters have been ontogenetically repeated. He does not agree at all with de Vries that mutations in plants occur only at certain periodic times in the history of the species, but rather that, if they occur at all, they do so whenever the special stimulus derived from unusual nutrition or general environment can be brought to bear on them. He finds in his breeding work no prepotency of either sex as such in inheritance, though any character or group of characters may be prepotent in either sex. He believes that no sharp line can be drawn between the fluctuating or so-called Darwinian variations and those less usual, large, discontinuous ones called sports. Ordinary fluctuating variation goes on under ordinary conditions of nutrition, but with extraordinary environmental conditions come about extraordinary variation results, namely, discontinuous, sport or mutational variation. These variations are the effects of past environment also, having remained latent until opportunity for their development occurs. Starvation causes reversions, but reversions can also be produced by unusually rich nutrition. New variations are developed most often, as far as environmental influences go, by rich soil