Ritter, William Emerson, 1856-1944

Variant names

Hide Profile

Professor of Zoology, University of California, Berkeley; member of the Harriman Alaska Expedition; director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at La Jolla.

From the description of William E. Ritter papers, 1879-1944. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 122403282

American zoologist; founder and first director of the Marine Biological Association of San Diego which became the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD.

From the description of Papers, 1893-1944 bulk 1903-1923. (University of California, San Diego). WorldCat record id: 26268542

Biographical Sketch

William Emerson Ritter, professor of zoology at the University of California, was born on a Wisconsin farm on November 19, 1856, where he lived and worked for the first twenty years of his life. After graduating from the Oshkosh Normal School, he continued his studies at Harvard in 1890, married Mary Bennett in 1891, and came to the University of California at Berkeley in 1893 as a biology instructor. In 1899 he was elected president of the California Academy of Sciences, and that same year took part in the famed Harriman Expedition to Alaska.

By 1904 Ritter had begun working in San Diego on what he hoped would be an exhaustive study of marine life focused on a limited area, using the vessel Albatross for deep water investigation. He was hence for many years to divide his time between Berkeley and La Jolla where he spent his summers. It was on his return from a trip to Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines in 1906 that Ritter actively sought to interest Andrew Carnegie, Edward Harriman and others in the financing of a biological station at La Jolla. Only in 1912, after much negotiation, were final arrangements between benefactor Edward Wyllis Scripps and the University of California completed, and Ritter named first scientific director of the new Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a position he held until 1922. The Institution soon attracted many young men to work under Ritter's supervision, namely Harry B. Torrey, Loye Holmes Miller, Samuel Jackson Holmes, Joseph Grinnell, Charles Atwood Kofoid, and others who would later attain prominence in the world of science.

Ritter, vitally concerned at the lack of wide-spread dissemination of accurate but intelligible reports on scientific developments and discoveries, as early as 1915 discussed the possibility of training professional scientists to write on scientific subjects in a popular vein. This idea, by 1920, germinated into a full-fledged proposal for a news service known as Science Service, which was financially backed by E. W. Scripps, and officially commenced in February 1921.

A man of varied interests, and a strong believer in the humanity of science, Ritter was fascinated by the relationship of science to religion, and of biology to social questions, and his numerous published works reflecting his philosophy include War, Science and Civilization; The Higher Usefulness of Science and Other Essays; The Probable Infinity of Nature and Life; The Scientific Method of Reaching Truth; The Natural History of Our Conduct (with Edna W. Bailey); and The Organismal Conception (with Edna W. Bailey). As a result of his study of the activities of animals under natural conditions, he evolved his concept of "organism as a whole" which was published as The Unity of the Organism, or the Organismal Theory of Consciousness in 1918. A second part to this work was planned, and though written in large part and revised, it was never completed. A detailed study of woodpeckers and their acorn-storing proclivities culminated in the publication of his California Woodpeckers and I by the University of California Press. Ritter had also partially written a work tentatively entitled The Ocean and its Life, which he never finished. Over a period of years he collaborated with Edna Watson Bailey on his Charles Darwin and the Golden Rule, a distillation of his many writings on the subject, completed by Mrs. Bailey only after Ritter's death. Ritter also contributed many articles on a variety of subjects to learned journals.

A member of the California Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and many other scientific organizations, Ritter took part in the 1923 Pan-Pacific Scientific Congress held in Australia, and went to England for the International Congress of Science and Technology in 1931.

Emeritus in 1924, Ritter was to continue his scientific work and writing for many years. Although childless, he was much interested in children and in their education, and at this time supported the Berkeley Children's Community School where he taught natural science. He also was a strong advocate for the teaching of evolution in the California public schools.

In failing health since 1941, Ritter died in Berkeley on January 10, 1944.

From the guide to the William E. Ritter Papers, 1879-1944, (The Bancroft Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Yerkes, Robert Mearns, 1876-1956. Robert Mearns Yerkes papers, 1822-1985 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Sumner family. Papers, 1875-1960, bulk 1894-1945. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Ritter, William Emerson, 1856-1944. Letter to John Hyde Preston. Washington. 1927 Mar. 19. University of Iowa Libraries
creatorOf Scripps family. Papers, 1903-1990, bulk 1903-1938. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Ritter, William Emerson, 1856-1944. William E. Ritter papers, 1879-1944. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Ritter, Mary Bennett, 1860-1949. Diaries, 1919-1937. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Plankton Record, June 1891, May 1901-August 1917. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Ritter, William Emerson, 1856-1944. Papers, 1893-1944 bulk 1903-1923. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Michael, Ellis LeRoy, 1881-1920. Papers, 1904-1921 Bulk 1907-1920. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Ritter family. Papers, 1841-1916, bulk 1862-1905. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of Zoology. Report, August 10, 1903. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of Zoology. Preliminary Report to the President of the University of California on the Marine Biological Explorations conducted by the Zoological Department of the University on the Coast of Southern California, during the summer of 1901. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Kofoid, Charles A. (Charles Atwood), 1865-1947. Papers, 1902-1940, bulk 1905-1917. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Berkeley Club Papers, 1873-1960 Bancroft Library
creatorOf William E. Ritter Papers, 1879-1944 Bancroft Library
creatorOf Scripps, E. W. (Edward Willis), 1854-1926. E.W. Scripps Papers, 1868-1926. Ohio University, Alden Library
referencedIn George Sarton additional papers, 1901-1956 Houghton Library
creatorOf Ritter, William Emerson, 1856-1944. Letter to John Hyde Preston. Berkeley, CA. 1927 July 3. University of Iowa Libraries
referencedIn Bennett family. Papers, 1882-1944, bulk, 1897-1940. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Dummer, Ethel Sturges, 1866-1954. Papers, 1766-1962 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Ritter, William Emerson, 1856-1944. Photographs, 1927-1940. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Klyce, Scudder, 1879-1933. Papers of Scudder Klyce, 1911-1933. Library of Congress
creatorOf Coe, Wesley R. (Wesley Roswell), 1869-1960. Letter to William E. Ritter, May 24, 1904. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Yerkes, Robert Mearns, 1876-1956. Robert Mearns Yerkes papers, 1822-1985 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Yerkes, Robert Mearns, 1876-1956. Papers, 1822-1985 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn H. S. (Herbert Spencer) Jennings papers, ca. 1893-1947, Circa 1893-1947 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Ayers, Howard. Sensory - Mammals and reptiles. [By] Geoffroy, Arnold, Osawa, Eigenmann ... [et al.]. California Digital Library
referencedIn Scudder Klyce Papers, 1911-1933 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Ritter, William Emerson, 1856-1944. Correspondence to Van Wyck Brooks, 1941. University of Pennsylvania Library
referencedIn Pearl, Raymond, 1879-1940. Papers, ca. 1895-1940. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Raymond Pearl Papers, Circa 1895-1940 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Hocking, William Ernest, 1873-1966. William Ernest Hocking Papers, 1860-1979 Houghton Library
creatorOf Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Records, 1901-1923. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Ritter, William Emerson, 1856-1944. Letter, 1933, to Lewis Mumford. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bailey, Edna Watson, b. 1883. person
associatedWith Bennett family. family
correspondedWith Berkeley Club corporateBody
associatedWith Coe, Wesley R. (Wesley Roswell), 1869-1960. person
associatedWith Dummer, Ethel Sturges, 1866-1954. person
associatedWith Harriman Alaska Expedition (1899) corporateBody
correspondedWith Hocking, William Ernest, 1873-1966 person
associatedWith Jennings, H. S., (Herbert Spencer), 1868-1947 person
associatedWith Klyce, Scudder, 1879-1933. person
associatedWith Kofoid, Charles A. (Charles Atwood), 1865-1947. person
associatedWith Marine Biological Association of San Diego (Calif.) corporateBody
associatedWith Michael, Ellis LeRoy, 1881-1920. person
associatedWith Online Archive of California. corporateBody
associatedWith Pearl, Raymond, 1879-1940. person
associatedWith Preston, John Hyde,1906- , person
correspondedWith Provine, William B. person
associatedWith Ritter family. family
associatedWith Ritter, Mary Bennett, 1860-1949. person
correspondedWith Sarton, George, 1884-1956 person
associatedWith Science Service. corporateBody
associatedWith Scripps, Ellen Browning, 1836-1932. person
associatedWith Scripps, E. W. (Edward Willis), 1854-1926, person
associatedWith Scripps family. family
associatedWith Scripps Institution of Oceanography. corporateBody
associatedWith Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Library. Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Library. Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith Sumner family. family
associatedWith University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of Zoology. corporateBody
associatedWith University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of Zoology. corporateBody
associatedWith University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of Zoology. corporateBody
associatedWith Wheeler, Benjamin Ide, 1854-1927, person
associatedWith Yerkes, Robert Mearns, 1876-1956. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Alaska
Subject
Zoology
Women teachers
Biology--History--Archives
Biology
Marine biology
Oceanography--History--Archives
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1856

Death 1944

Information

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6qz29cd

Ark ID: w6qz29cd

SNAC ID: 73247726