The marine biological station of San Diego : its development as related to the ideas and ideals of William Emerson Ritter (1856-1944) Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/kw52jc872

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  • A number of historians of science have been involved in studying the nature of biology at the turn of the century, and the picture that they have developed describes biology during this time as a field struggling to define itself. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, biologists were trying to legitimize their field by discovering laws and theories that would underpin all of biology. In order to unearth these basic fundamentals, biologists looked to experimentation and shifted their attention to questions concerned with development and heredity. This "core" work did not constrain all of biology, however. There did exist researchers, fields of inquiry, and institutions that pursued biological investigations that did not coincide with the aims of discovering the basic laws and theories of biology. One such researcher who did not aspire to discovering the laws and theories of biology was William Emerson Ritter. William Emerson Ritter was largely concerned with making a biological survey of the coast of southern California. He wanted to discover how the marine organisms off this coast were distributed with respect to environmental factors, and he wanted to determine the adaptations they possessed that allowed them to live where they did. In order to achieve these aims, Ritter set out to create a marine station. His attempts culminated in the establishment of The Marine Biological Station of San Diego near the town of La Jolla, California in 1905. A study of the ideas of William Emerson Ritter as related to the founding and development of this station proves to be very instructive. It not only illustrates that an institution can reflect the aims of a strong personality, but also illustrates that not all researchers or the institutions at which they work must necessarily conform to the aims of the disciplines of which they are a part. The research undertaken at the San Diego Marine Biological Station, under the guidance of William Emerson Ritter, was not directed toward discovering the laws and theories that were the foundation of biology; rather, it was directed toward learning about the marine organisms that inhabited the Pacific off the coast of southern California by discovering and describing the organisms present in the area, their distribution, and the physiological, morphological and/or behavioral adaptations they possessed to allow them to exist where they did.
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