David Starr Jordan Papers
- Type of resource:
- Mixed material
- The Jordan Papers span 1861-1951, although the bulk of the collection dates between 1891 and 1929. Very few items pre-date Jordan's connection with Stanford University and there is very little material after the severe stroke he suffered in the summer of 1929. The papers of Jessie Knight Jordan [Series I-F], cover the two years of Jordan's illness, her reminiscences and the memoires of his old friends.
The collection consists primarily of Jordan's voluminous correspondence (62.25 linear ft.) relating to professional and university matters, but also contains other types of material such as writings (published and unpublished), clippings, journals and diaries, scrapbooks, financial papers, biographical and genealogical information, and photographs.
The major subjects are those which deeply involved David Starr Jordan during his lifetime. In his autobiography, The Days of a Man, he described himself as A Naturalist, Teacher, and Minor Prophet of Democracy.
Jordan was a naturalist-first a botanist and secondly and of greater significance an ichthyologist. In the latter field, his works are still considered authoritative. In this role he was also interested in conservation, zoological nomenclature and the protection of fur seals, which endeavor was extremely important and highly documented.
All his life he was a teacher. Even when he was a university president at Indiana and Stanford he personally taught courses. His career as a public lecturer, beginning in 1871, was an educational endeavor-to teach natural history, moral goals and standards, the progress of education and peace and international arbitration.
As an educator Jordan brought the separation of education from religion and the system of elective courses learned at Cornell to the new western universities. In the field of science he emphasized the importance of field and laboratory work rather than mere reliance on textbooks. He developed the idea of a junior college and was responsible for developing Stanford University into an intellectually competitive university rather than the technical training school envisioned by the founders.
Social Darwinism was the major cause of Jordan's devotion to peace and his interests in eugenics, temperance, non-smoking and genealogy. Anything that, to his mind, threatened to weaken or destroy man's natural abilities and health, Jordan fought against. According to Jordan, was affected the degeneration of the race by destroying the most promising men and leaving the least desirable at home to reproduce and create the future generations. He was limited by his puritan heritage and his belief in the superiority of a biological, intellectual elite.
The David Starr Jordan Papers in the Hoover Institution Archives contain the majority of Jordan's papers relating to politics and pacifism. A guide to that collection is available in the reading room of the Department of Special Collections.
- Related item:
- Finding Aid
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