Seedsmen Hall of Fame
Honoring Horticulturalists

John B. S. Norton

Herbarium Founder J.B.S. Norton circa 1951.John Bitting Smith Norton was born in April 1872 to Samuel J. and Louisa Norton of Cocke County, Tennessee. He relocated to Kansas in the late 1890s to attend the Kansas State Agricultural College at Manhattan, now Kansas State University.

He received both his Bachelor of Science and his Master of Science degrees from the Kansas State Agricultural College (KSAC) in 1896 and 1901, respectively. While he was in school, he worked as an assistant professor at the Agricultural Experiment Station of the KSAC from 1894 to 1896 and as a botanical assistant at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1896 to 1901.[6]

J. B. S. Norton then moved to Maryland, where he was appointed State Plant Pathologist as well as professor of botany and plant pathology at the Maryland Agricultural College and was a founder of the college's herbarium.[4] As State Plant Pathologist, he was responsible for experimentation, botanical surveying, gathering and disseminating information, and instruction. He also shared responsibility with the State Entomologist for nursery and orchard inspections.

John B. S. Norton - Circa 1916In 1912, Dr. J. B. S. Norton of the Maryland Agricultural Experimental Station began selecting tomato plants for disease resistance. In 1915, he sent several unnamed resistant selections to tomato growers and breeders. Included in the list was Fred J. Pritchard of the USDA who started his own disease-resistance work that year. After further selection work, he released the 'Norton' tomato in 1917. It became one of the leading disease resistant tomato varieties, especially in the Eastern tomato growing regions, for some years.[2,3]

Norton gave up his position as State Plant Pathologist in 1914 to devote all of his time to his teaching and other duties at the Experiment Station, a unit of the Maryland Agricultural College.

Norton was also a prolific writer who contributed articles to magazines, bulletins, newsletters, newspapers, and Bailey's Cyclopedia of American Horticulture. During his tenure at the Maryland Agricultural College (1901-1942), he belonged to many horticultural societies and served as secretary-treasurer of the Maryland Horticultural Society.

The University of Maryland granted Norton an honorary Doctor of Science in 1923. He retired from teaching on April 1, 1942, at the age of seventy and held the title of professor emeritus until his death.

After his retirement, Norton grew dahlias for sale and show at his Hyattsville home under the name Norton Gardens. He belonged to the First Baptist Church of Hyattsville and Mount Vernon Lodge No. 179 of the Masons. J. B. S. Norton died on July 10, 1966, in Prince George's County, Maryland, at the age of ninety-four.[1]


  1. J. B. S. Norton Papers at the University of Maryland - Article and republished, for educational purposes, under the fair use clause of the 1976 copyright act. Text and images carry the copyright of their respective authors, photographers, and publishers. This page may be freely linked but not duplicated in any fashion without prior written permission of the respective copyright holders.

  2. "Yearbook of Agriculture," USDA, 1937.

  3. "Development of Wilt-Resistant Tomatoes," by Fred J. Pritchard, USDA, Bulletin No. 1015, March 28, 1922.

  4. Norton-Brown Herbarium, University of Maryland - Image copyright University of Maryland; Botany Department photographs; Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries. Republished here for educational purposes, under the fair use clause of the 1976 copyright act.

  5. Image of J.B.S. Norton circa 1916, Library of Congress, Call Number LC-B5-55974A [P&P]

  6. "A Guide to the Archives and Manuscripts of the Missouri Botanical Garden," by Martha Riley, St. Louis, MO, 1995


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