In 1948, just weeks before his best friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts died, John Steinbeck wrote of Ricketts process of discovery, noting that “a young, inquisitive, and original man might one morning find a fissure in the traditional technique of thinking. Through this fissure he might look out and find a new external world about him.”
A Tidal Odyssey
a conversation about that “young, inquisitive, and original man” who found “a new external world about him” and so captivated the imagination of scientists and lay readers alike as he transformed our understanding of the seashore. This is a book about that remarkable man and his pathbreaking book about marine life on the Pacific Coast of North America.
With his friend Jack Calvin, Ricketts authored his magnum opus, Between Pacific Tides (1939), a guide to the seashore invertebrates in one of the most prolific life zones in the world. He and Calvin describe the key field characteristics of the species, and then place them in their ecological context, by habitat, in a natural history-based narrative. At a time when almost all studies of life in the intertidal zones were taxonomic, Ricketts and Calvin revolutionized the field and helped to lay the groundwork for studies of the impact of environmental change on the natural world.
By happenstance, Ed Ricketts is best known as a character in John Steinbeck’s fiction. But the real man is obscured by Steinbeck’s authorial license. Steinbeck’s Doc is the quirky young man who reads Li Po and drinks beer milkshakes. He was also a serious marine biologist who conducted pioneering studies of life in the intertidal zones. He was a true renaissance man — conversant in music and philosophy, poetry and mythology. Friendly with such notables as mythologist Joseph Campbell, experimental composer John Cage, and novelist Henry Miller, as well as with Steinbeck and many of the most eminent biologists of his time, he was a man for all seasons. This, then, is a book for readers who are interested in the world of Ed Ricketts as well as marine biology, intertidal ecology, and the manner in which ecological studies underpin our understanding of the impact of environmental change on the well being of our planet.
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Specification: A Tidal Odyssey