David Starr Jordan (1851-1931)
ichthyologist, educator, writer

David Starr Jordan not only served as President of Indiana University, and later, as President of Stanford University, but he was also one of the world's leading ichthyologists. When his writings on fishes are arranged chronologically, among the very first are his reports in the Indiana Geological Survey of 1874, under the direction of E. T. Cox, then the State Geologist, from New Harmony.

Jordan's autobiography, The Days of a Man, Being Memories of a Naturalist, Teacher, and Minor Prophet of Democracy, contains a chapter on "The Experiment at New Harmony," and elsewhere Jordan wrote biographical sketches of Richard Owen, and C.-A. Lesueur which are quoted, in part, in these webpages.

For a listing of Jordan's 645 writings on fishes, and another 1372 writings on a wide variety of other subjects, see

Alice N. Hays, compiler, David Starr Jordan: A Bibliography of His Writings, 1871-1931, Stanford University Press, 1952.

Hays's bibliography opens with An Appreciation by Robert E. Swain. It contains a summary of Jordan's conversion to evolutionary theory:

His lectures on organic evolution revealed not only his scholarship but his courage, for they dealt with the Darwinian theory, which at that time was involved in bitter controversy from the pulpit and public platform and in the press. Years before, he had refused to be swept off his feet by this rapidly spreading concept, but, characteristically, entered upon an independent investigation of it. He finally became convinced of its validity, not by the arguments of Darwin and his followers, "but rather by the special facts unrolling themselves before my own eyes." Thus he not only added a great fund of convincing evidence in support of the theory, but became one of its most brilliant interpreters and exponents. He admits, however, that he "went over to the evolutionists with the grace of a cat a boy 'leads' by the tail across the carpet."
Born January 19, 1851 in Gainesville, New York, Jordan received bachelor's and master's degrees from Cornell University in 1872. He was a science teacher at Indianapolis High School during 1874-75, received the Doctor of Medicine degree from Indiana Medical College in 1875, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern Christian University (now Butler University) in 1878.

From 1879 to 1891, he was Chairman of the Department of Natural Sciences at Indiana University, where he then served as President from 1885 to 1891. From 1891 to 1913, Jordan was President of Stanford University, and from 1913 to 1916, he was Chancellor at Stanford.

"Obscured by the brilliance of his triple career as a naturalist, teacher, and 'minor prophet of democracy,' Jordan's talent as a creative literary artist" is examined in

David H. Dickason, "David Starr Jordan as a Literary Man," Indiana Magazine of History, 37 (1941) 343-358.

I thank Stanford University Press for permission to quote from Hays's compilation and Indiana University Archives (link below) for supplying a photograph of President Jordan.

David Starr Jordan Papers in Swarthmore College Peace Collection
David Starr Jordan Landmarks on the campus of Indiana University, Bloomington
David Starr Jordan Prize
Catalog of Fishes Search options: (e.g., Genera; then type Jordan)
Indiana University Archives Homepage
New Harmony Scientists, Educators, Writers & Artists
Clark Kimberling Home Page