Letter To The Editor

February 15, 2008

Mr. Paul Lagasse
Columbia University Press
136 S. Broadway
Irvington, NY 10533-2599

Dear Mr. Lagasse:

I very much enjoy and admire The Columbia Encyclopedia Sixth Edition. The writing and editing is absolutely fantastic. There are to my knowledge only two related errors I wish to point out. Also, I offer a few suggestions which I hope you find useful.

First, the interesting descriptions of the landscape architects A. J. Downing and Calvert Vaux contain an inconsistency that is probably just a typo. On page 2969, the Vaux entry states, “He emigrated (1857) to the United States with A. J. Downing, with whom he was first associated.” On page 822, the Downing entry lists him as deceased in 1852. Also, I’m not certain of it, but I don’t think that Downing spent such a significant time in England during his relatively short life to have emigrated from it, particularly when, as you state, he was born in Newburgh, New York.

On a purely subjective level, I request the inclusion of the novelist Bruce Chatwin, psychologist and author Irving Janis (who coined the term “group think”), musician and composer Frank Zappa, painter Wifredo Lam, anthropologists and authors Edmund Snow Carpenter, Edward T. Hall (who coined the term “polychronic” which is now called “multitasking”) and John Greenway, author and editor George Plimpton, inventor and pioneer photographer Marc Ferrez, philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin, classics scholar and author Edith Hamilton, poet Else Lasker Schueler (Heine’s successor as Germany’s greatest romantic poet), and art critic Mario Praz. They were all highly influential and in some cases popular contributors to their respective fields.

The founder of our company, W. Atlee Burpee, pioneered American vegetables by selectively breeding Northern European and English cultivars to become adapted to the US climate. He introduced the first yellow sweet corn (before then sweet corn was white), and the first iceberg lettuce—thereby making salad a year round rather than an exclusively seasonal dish. His many breeding breakthroughs included Black Beauty, the first large and uniform eggplant (extremely popular in the middle east), the first stringless green bean, the Fordhook lima bean, as well as Big Boy, the world’s most popular tomato. As a geneticist rather than a large landowner, he formed the first modern scientific seed company, based primarily on research rather than on harvest-based production methods, and land-holding advantages. He was a cousin of Luther Burbank and collaborated with him and Thomas Edison on developing industrial products such as rubber from native wildflowers. He also did much to help developing countries.

Also, his daughter-in-law, Lois Burpee, co-founded Welcome House with Pearl Buck, to which you refer in the latter’s entry. Both grew up as daughters of missionary fathers in China. When they met as neighbors in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, they became close friends and developed together the idea to provide adoptions and other assistance to Amerasian war orphans.

Also, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is the seat of Bucks County and has a population of about 25,000. Its omission is odd to me because you list my hometown of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a Chicago suburb and bedroom community of about 25,000. Yet in addition to the courthouse, Doylestown has several important museums, including the Henry Mercer Museum, the James Michener Museum, the Moravian Pottery Works, Fonthill Castle (one of the first poured concrete buildings in the US), Fordhook Farm (of Burpee fame), and Delaware Valley College (DVC), one of the few small (1,600 students) agricultural colleges left in the nation, and regularly scoring at the top of small college rankings (#25 at USA Today 2007 Report).

In addition, DVC has a fascinating history. It was founded by Rabbi Jacob Krauskopf in 1897. He was a German immigrant who led an urban congregation (Keseneth Israel) in Philadelphia that was experiencing a large influx of impoverished Russian immigrants. On a sabbatical to Europe, he visited Russia to consult people who might advise him about his struggle. He was profoundly inspired by a long meeting with Tolstoy, during which the great novelist, mystic and farmer suggested that he start a Jewish agricultural college—an unheard of idea at the time. Krauskopf returned home, obtained funds from members of the Philadelphia-area Jewish community and bought several adjacent farms 30 miles north of the city in order to create the National Farm School, the world’s first Jewish agricultural college. (It is now called Delaware Valley College.) Many of America’s kosher dairy, chicken and egg farms were started by the college’s early graduates. After the founding of Israel, many students as well as faculty moved there to work in the new agricultural projects, including the Vulcani Institute, Israel’s first and in some areas most important agricultural research institute. Krauskopf also wrote several books, including Evolution and Judaism, considered by scholars to be one of the finest such studies of the time. An excellent biography, Apostle of Reason, is by William Blood. Quite a story.

Last but not least, you omit the large Mexican city of Culiacan, the capital of the state of Sinaloa. It has a large population (approximately 500,000). Also, it is older than most cities in the region. It is considered the center of tomato production and processing in North America.

Thanks again for your fine work and consideration of my suggestions.

George Ball

This entry was posted on Friday, February 15th, 2008 at 7:01 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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2 Responses to “Letter To The Editor”

  1. Kitty said:

    Was tickled to run across the name Frank Zappa in your entry. I don’t think many recognize the pure genius of the fellow. I love the sultriness of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. I’ll have to return and see what other gems I can find hidden in your words.

  2. gold bullion said:

    Do you have new updates about it? Can you provide new information? Thanks!

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