A Summer School of Science

Below: Photograph of students attending summer session at Hopkins Seaside Laboratory



Summer School of Natural History Opens at the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory.

PACIFIC GROVE, Cal., June 8. [1897] — The sixth annual session of the Summer School of Natural History opened yesterday at the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory at this place. The large number of students enrolled upon the first day and the unusual rapidity with which real work was begun greatly pleased the instructors as saving promise of an exceptionally successful term. The morning was spent in registration of the pupils, arranging the classes and planning the lines of work to be followed.

This year George C. Price, assistant professor of zoology at Stanford University, will take charge of the course in zoology. This will consist of the study of the structure, physiology and life histories of typical animal forms, more particularly marine animals. Walter R. Shaw, instructor of botany at Stanford, will give a course of lectures and assist in the investigation by the students along the line of study of the principal groups of (comparatively) freshwater and marine plant life, and a very little side work in land plant life. These two courses are known as the teachers' courses and are of great value to those who teach zoology and botany in the high schools or other departments of school work.

The advanced course in morphology, physiology and embryology will be conducted by Harold Heath, fellow in zoology in the University of Pennsylvania, and professor Frank McFarland of Stanford, who is associate instructor here, will conduct the class in histology.

In the afternoon yesterday some collection of specimens from the adjacent rocks and water was done, and the students busied themselves preparing the specimens for study.

The collecting grounds hereabouts are said by scientists to be among the richest in the world, and for this reason investigators from many of the prominent universities of America and Europe come during the year and avail themselves of the excellent facilities for work afforded by this well-equipped laboratory.

While really a separate institution the Hopkins laboratory is practically a part of Stanford University, and is attended by the students of that institution chiefly. Many gaps which are left by even the most thorough work at the university laboratory from specimens in alcohol may be successfully filled by the students of marine, plant and animal life, who can get his subjects fresh from the waters of Monterey Bay. For this reason Timothy Hopkins' generous gift is considered one of the most valuable adjuncts of Stanford's great institution.

About twenty-eight students were registered on the opening day and application, from many more have been received. The board of directors expect a total enrollment of about forty-five this year. (1)

The above newspaper article, appearing in the San Francisco Call in June 1897, reports the educational happenings to be taking place during the “Summer School of Natural History” at the “Hopkins Seaside Laboratory” in “Pacific Grove, Ca.” Among the items mentioned in this article are

1) the instructors in charge of courses,

2) the fact that the seaside laboratory is nominally associated with Stanford University,

3) and the appreciative recognition of the financial support provided by a Mr. Timothy Hopkins.

If one visits what is today, Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, one may happen upon a few of the remnants that refer back to the origins of this biological teaching and research facility. For example, a stroll through the grounds may lead one to a two story building whose cement façade, built of reinforced concrete, has chiseled in big bold letters above the entrance, the words, “HOPKINS MARINE STATION - JACQUES LOEB LABORATORY.” Entering through the doorway of this building, on the wall directly to ones' left, hangs a portrait of former Stanford trustee, Timothy Hopkins. This portrait, one of two commissioned by Mrs. Timothy Hopkins, was painted by William V. Schevill, and placed at the Hopkins Marine Station; the other painted by Kenneth Frazier, was placed in the Hopkins Room in the University Library in Palo Alto. (2) After viewing the portrait, if one turns immediately to the right, one notices two large photographs positioned on the wall. One of these photographs presents the faculty, students, and staff who spent the summer of 1894 at the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory, while the other photograph presents the faculty, students and staff who spent the summer of 1993 at Hopkins Marine Station. Many visitors who view the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory photograph of 1894 comment on the number of female students, practically half the cohort, who are standing amongst their male colleagues. With that comment, the visitors then recognize an almost equal proportion of men and women presented in the 1993 photograph.

Exiting the Loeb building, one may stroll a short distance across the grounds to a three story building, also built of reinforced concrete, whose facade has in big bold letters, running the across the top, the words “HOPKINS MARINE STATION OF STANFORD UNIVERSITY.” If one looks closely at the front face of this building, positioned just above the main entrance, one notices the word “AGASSIZ,” again, in big bold letters. Those visitors who are struck with a sense of inquiry, sometimes ask, who or what is Agassiz?

Strolling through the entrance of this building, directly to one’s right is a display of old scientific instruments, including a brass microscope, several examples of fancy laboratory glassware, and several old specimen bottles containing marine organisms of one kind or another. Just a few steps further, positioned along the wall, as one ascends the wooden stairs toward the third floor, are several more old historic photographs. One of these photographs presents a mingled conglomeration of wooden shacks, these being several of the residences of a Chinese fishing village that was once located on the property long ago. Another photograph presents the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory of Natural History, which consisted of two buildings perched on a seaside bluff.

The following pages present the history of the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory; the original facility that pioneered the formation, for what is today, the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University in Pacific Grove, California. Before presenting the history of the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory, it is important to tell the story of America’s first seaside laboratory, established on an uninhabited and remote island, twenty-five miles off the coast of Massachusetts, named Penikese.

Founded under the premise of an educational experiment, this first seaside laboratory introduced America to summer schools of science. The person responsible for organizing this first summer school of science was a Harvard professor named Louis Agassiz. We begin with an introduction to Agassiz, for it will be his mentoring efforts on a select group of students who attended America’s first summer school of science, that would migrate across the continent to the farthest reaches of the western United States, and inspire the establishing of the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory of Natural History in Pacific Grove, California.


(1) San Francisco Call. (1897). Summer School of Natural History Opens at the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory. June 8, 1897.

(2) Stanford University Bulletin Sixth Series, No. 56 December 31, 1937 For The Forty-Sixth Academic Year ending August 31, 1937.