Samuel Jackson Holmes

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Samuel Jackson Holmes (March 7, 1868 – March 5, 1964[1][2]) was an American zoologist and eugenicist. He was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley (UC-Berkeley) for 27 years.[2] Noted as a genetics pioneer, and for his studies of animal behavior, heredity, and evolution.[3] Over the course of his career he migrated from studying animals to humans, taking the behaviors and traits learned in the former and looking for them in the later.[4]


After attending Chaffey College in Ontario, California, he obtained his Bachelor of Science (1893) and Master of Science (1895) from the UC-Berkeley. His biological research at Berkeley earned him a fellowship to the University of Chicago in 1895,[5] where he received his Ph.D in 1897.[6]

After teaching at San Diego High School for the academic year 1897–1898,[4] between 1898 and 1906 he was an instructor of zoology at the University of Michigan. From there he moved to the Stevens Point Normal School (University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point), 1906 to 1912. In 1912 he returned to UC-Berkeley as an associate professor, and then in 1916 was promoted to full professor.[6] He was named faculty research lecturer in 1929.[4] He retired in 1939 but continued on as professor emeritus until his death in 1964.[6]

Holmes was a vocal proponent of eugenics, particularly in reference to immigration to the United States from Mexico and parts of Asia. In 1925, at a major conference on race relations along the Pacific Coast at Stanford University, Holmes told an audience of social scientists and public officials that, “the Mexican problem is by far the greatest race problem which confronts the people of California at the present time. .. We are in a considerable amount of trouble before we see the amicable adjustment of the whole Mexican situation. The Mexican problem urgently needs to be studied very thoroughly.”[7] His later work advocated for the sterilization of citizens and immigrants who might diminish the genetic quality of America. He was one of the original incorporators of the Human Betterment Foundation,[8]

In his book Life and Morals, Holmes claimed that morals had a natural origin but, Darwinian evolution "does not logically compel me to adopt any one standard of conduct rather than another."[9][10]


He was born in Henry, Illinois to Avis Folger (née Taber) and Joseph Holmes.[11][12] He moved to California with his family at the age of 15.[4]

Holmes married Celia Warfield Skinner (November 14, 1882 – March 12, 1958[1]), daughter of Minerva Celia (née Shreve) and Henry E. Skinner, on September 21, 1909, in Berkeley.[13][14] She was a student at UC-Berkeley and graduated with the class of 1905.[15]

They had five children:

  • Samuel Jackson Holmes, Jr. — (February 23, 1912 – November 27, 1973[1])
  • Marion Virginia Holmes — (later Wagner; August 7, 1913 – April 27, 2000[16])
  • Avis Celia Holmes — (later Olsen; September 20, 1914 – September 20, 1999[16])
  • John Warfield Holmes — (March 19, 1920 – November 23, 1996[1])
  • Joseph Edward Holmes — (June 25, 1926 – July 28, 1995[1])

Samuel Holmes died at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland at the age of 95.[2]

Their oldest daughter, Dr. Marion Holmes Wagner, became an obstetrician and gynecologist and delivered over 10,000 babies in the San Jose-South Bay area.[17]

Their grandson, Joseph Edward Holmes, Jr., is a notable landscape photographer in Kensington, California.[18]


Holmes contributed numerous articles to scientific periodicals and journals, and was the author of several books that included:[6][19]

  • 1900: Synopsis of California Stalk-Eyed Crustacea. — (California Academy of Sciences).
  • 1906: Biology of the Frog. — (MacMillan).
  • 1911: Evolution of Animal Intelligence. — (H. Holt and Company).
  • 1916: Studies in Animal Behavior. — (R.G. Badger).
  • 1919: Elements of Animal Biology. — (P. Blakiston's Son & Co.).
  • 1921: The Trend of the Race. — (Harcourt, Brace).
  • 1921: Louis Pasteur. — (Harcourt, Brace and company).
  • 1923: Studies in Evolution and Eugenics. — (Harcourt, Brace and Co.).
  • 1924: A Bibliography of Eugenics. — (University Of California Press).
  • 1924: Louis Pasteur. — (Harcourt, Brace).
  • 1926: Life and Evolution: An Introduction to General Biology. — (Harcourt, Brace and Company).
  • 1933: The Eugenic Predicament. — (Harcourt, Brace).
  • 1936: Human Genetics and Its Social Import. — (McGraw-Hill).
  • 1937: The Negros' Struggle For Survival. — (University Of California Press).
  • 1948: Life and Morals. — (Macmillan).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e California Death Records. - California Department of Health Services Office of Health Information and Research.
  2. ^ a b c "SAMUEL HOLMES, ZOOLOGIST, DEAD; Geneticist, 95, Taught at U. of California 27 Years", The New York Times, United Press International, March 8, 1964 
  3. ^ "Obituary: Dr. Samuel Jackson Holmes". Chicago Tribune. March 8, 1964. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Professor Samuel J. Holmes Is Named U. C. Research Lecturer". Berkeley Daily Gazette. November 27, 1928. p. One, Fourteen. 
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times, August 24, 1895  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ a b c d Fletcher, Russell Homles, ed. (1941). Who's Who in California. 1 1942-1943. Who's Who Publications Company. p. 419. 
  7. ^ Survey of Race Relations Collection, Stanford University, Box 4 Folder 11, "Findings Conference of the Survey of Race Relations."
  8. ^ Gosney, Ezra Seymour (1855-1942) (1980). Sterilization for Human Betterment (reprint ed.). Arno Press. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-14-051191-8. 
  9. ^ Holmes, Samuel Jackson (1948). Life and Morals. Macmillan Co. p. 41. 
  10. ^ Farber, Paul Lawrence (1994), The Temptations of Evolutionary Ethics, p. 140 
  11. ^ Lawrence, Alberta Chamberlain (1921), Who's who among North American authors, Volume 1, Golden Syndicate Publishing Company, p. 106 
  12. ^ Who was who in America: with world notables. 1969-1973, Marquis Who's Who, 1973 
  13. ^ Nellist, George Ferguson Mitchell (1941). Pan-Pacific Who's Who, an International Reference Work. Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Limited. p. 320. 
  14. ^ "Simple Ceremony At Home Wedding", San Francisco Call, p. 9, September 22, 1909 
  15. ^ "Holmes", San Jose Mercury News, p. 4, March 14, 1958 
  16. ^ a b Social Security Death Index. - United States Social Security Administration.
  17. ^ "Deliverer of 10,000 Babies Dies: Marion Wagner, 1913-2000", San Jose Mercury News, p. 1B Local, May 1, 2000 
  18. ^ Joseph Holmes Natural Light Photography - Biography
  19. ^ WorldCat.

Research resources[edit]