This Day in History: 1897-05-14

Ed Ricketts (1897 – 1948) was born on this day.
He was a US marine biologist and ecologist, considered a pioneer of marine ecology. Ricketts is best known for Between Pacific Tides (1939), a pioneering study of intertidal ecology, and for his influence on writer John Steinbeck, who used Ricketts as the model for ‘Doc’ in Cannery Row (1945). Ricketts and Steinbeck collaborated on a non-fiction work, Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research (1941), later republished as The Log from the Sea of Cortez, detailing a six-week long expedition they shared, collecting marine specimens in the Gulf of California. Ricketts carried out an innovative study in quantitative ecology, analyzing the Monterey sardine fishery, documenting harvests, describing sardine ecology, and noting that harvests were declining as fishing intensity increased; a seminal application of ecology to fisheries science, but not published as an academic paper.

Ricketts is honoured in the names of a number of species under rickettsi(i) and in the name of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s ROV Doc Ricketts, which in turn features in the species name docrickettsae.