The Hopkins Laboratory of Natural History

Below: Students attending Hopkins Seaside Laboratory. Those first days of the early seaside laboratories was a period when general biological observations and field trips were the primary activities of the students and biologists, for whom the facility was established. A little glassware and a microscope was nearly all that was required, even for the most technical investigative science.

In his first year as President of the Leland Stanford Junior University, Jordan would build upon his Penikese experience and set out to establish a seaside laboratory of natural history. A first step toward establishing this seaside laboratory was to find the appropriate location along the central coast of California for such a facility. According to Oliver Peeble Jenkins:

From the moment that the Leland Stanford Junior University proceeded as far in its organization as to have its first nucleus of a faculty appointed, the biologists of that number began to form plans for the establishing of a marine biological station somewhere on the coast. (1)

In the fall of 1891, upon the organization of the Departments of Zoology and Physiology, the appointed heads of these departments, Dr. Charles Henry Gilbert and Dr. Oliver Peebles Jenkins set about an examination of the possible sites along the Pacific Coast for the best location for the study of marine biology. (2) As described by to O. P. Jenkins

the examination on the Pacific coast were carried on quietly, so that no outside influences might be brought to bear to change the choice of a location; the desire being to select a situation wholly on its merits as a suitable place for such a laboratory. The points taken into the consideration in the selection were first, the natural advantages, then accessibility, and the facility of getting accommodations at which those engaged in the work could pleasantly and conveniently live. (3)

As for a possible location for which to establish the laboratory, the shoreline of the Monterey Peninsula was not unfamiliar territory for David Starr Jordan or Charles Henry Gilbert, as the two men had visited this region of California in 1880, during their survey of the fisheries along the Pacific coasts for the U.S Fisheries Commission. (4) David Starr Jordan would again find reason to visit the Monterey Peninsula during the summer of 1891. Having just arrived in Menlo Park for his new position as President of Stanford University in June of that year, Jordan visited the seaside village of Pacific Grove the following month as a speaker in the twelfth annual Pacific Coast Assembly of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle.

For the Pacific Coast Assembly of 1891, Jordan told the story of his climbing the Matterhorn and spoke to the Assembly’s School of Methods on the subject of pedagogy. (5) A San Francisco Call newspaper article relaying the ongoing activities of the Chautauqua Assembly provided the following description of the Matterhorn lecture:

"This afternoon President Jordan of Stanford University arrived, and this evening he delivered a lecture before a large audience, his subject being "The Ascent of the Matterhorn," giving a graphic description of his experience. It was the first time he has addressed a public gathering in California, and it was a feature of the assembly. President Jordan is a great lover of nature, and for years has spent the summers in investigations of the mountains in this country and abroad."

Jordan would leave from Pacific Grove and his participation in the Chautauqua Assembly impressed by the educational opportunities available to the participants, and the favorable setting of the area on Monterey Bay for marine studies. (6)


(1) Jenkins, Oliver Pebbles. (1893). The Hopkins Seaside Laboratory. Zoe, 4: 58-63.

(2) Elliott, Orrin Leslie (1937). Stanford University - The First Twenty Five Years 1891-1925. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

(3) Jenkins, Oliver Pebbles. (1893). The Hopkins Seaside Laboratory. Zoe, 4: 58-63.

(4) Jordan, D. S. (1887). The Sea Fishing Grounds of the Pacific Coast of the United States from the Straits of Fuca to Lower California. In Goode, G. B., ed. The Fisheries and Fishing Industries of the U. S. Section III. Washington. (1887). Pp.79-80. In U. S. 47th Congress, 1st Session Senate Misc. Doc. 124. Serial 2000.

(5) San Francisco Call. (1891). School of Methods. 8 July 1891. 70 (38) 8.

(6) Benson, Keith R. (1988). Why American marine stations? The teaching argument. American Zoologist 28:7-14.