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Dr. David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) President of Stanford University

October 8, 1912
Dr. David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) President of Stanford University
Stanford University Palo Alto, CA

Born January 19, 1851
Died September 19, 1931
(aged 80)
Nationality United States

David Starr Jordan, Ph.D., LL.D. (January 19, 1851 – September 19, 1931) was a leading eugenicist, ichthyologist, educator and peace activist. He was president of Indiana University and Stanford University.

Jordan was born in Gainesville, New York, and studied at Cornell University, Butler University, and the Indiana University School of Medicine. While at Cornell University, Jordan joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity. In 1885, he was named President of Indiana University, becoming the nation’s youngest university president at age 34 and the first Indiana University president that was not an ordained minister. In 1891, he became president of Stanford University, serving there as president until 1913 and chancellor until his retirement in 1916.

Jordan served as a Director of the Sierra Club from 1892 to 1903.

Although well regarded as an ichthyologist, Jordan was best known for being a peace activist. He argued that war was detrimental to the human species because it removed the strongest organisms from the gene pool. Jordan was president of the World Peace Foundation from 1910 to 1914 and president of the World Peace Conference in 1915, and opposed U.S. involvement in World War I.

In 1925, Jordan was an expert witness for the defense in the Scopes Trial.[2] That same year, he was a listed member in the Bohemian Club and the University Club in San Francisco.

He served as a member of the initial board of trustees of the Human Betterment Foundation, a eugenics organization established in Pasadena, California in 1928 in order to compile and distribute information about compulsory sterilization legislation in the United States, for the purposes of eugenics.

His son, Eric Knight Jordan (1903–1926) followed his father’s footsteps into the sciences. He had taken part in a successful paleontological expedition to the Revillagigedo Islands and was considered a rising star in the world of paleontology when he was involved in a traffic accident near Gilroy, California, suffering fatal injuries and dying at the age of 22. His death was a severe blow to his father.

Jordan’s files are housed at Swarthmore College.

[‘ABDU’L-BAHA] spoke at Leland Stanford Junior University in Palo Alto on Tuesday, October 8, and lunched with President Jordan at his home afterward. That evening He spoke at the Palo Alto Unitarian Church. An entire edition of the Palo Altan was devoted to articles concerning His visit and transcriptions of His addresses. The main headline of the November 1 edition read, “‘ABDU’L-BAHA, THE BAHA’I PROPHET, SPEAKS AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY.” Among the various articles were the following reports:

A crowded Assembly Hall, holding nearly two thousand people, awaited with eager expectancy the appearance last Tuesday morning, of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Abbas Effendi, the world leader of the Bahá’í movement ….

It [the Bahá’í Faith] is truly catholic. Christian and Jew, Moslem and Buddhist, are numbered among its adherents. Not a sect itself, it makes appeal to all the sects. Its ideal is the one God, the God of all the religions. Unity and universal concord: those are its aims and objects… .

… Those who pray for the coming of the kingdom of God on earth may see in Abbas Effendi one who dwells in that kingdom consciously, and creates an environment pulsating with the peace that passeth ordinary understanding ….

… Abbas Effendi leads his followers over what is elsewhere called the Mystic Way; but wherever they march, they tread with practical feet ….
—239 Days, 166-167.