Pacific Biological Laboratories, Monterey

Pacific Biological Laboratories, Monterey

by | May 16, 2019

Pacific Biological Laboratories was a biological supply company located on a small property, now sandwiched between the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Intercontinental Hotel, along Cannery Row in Monterey, California. The company sold preserved animals many of which were marine species, and also prepared microscope specimen slides for schools, museums, and research institutions.

The company was started in 1923 by Ed Ricketts with his college roommate and business partner Albert Galigher. The lab was originally located in neighboring Pacific Grove, and in 1930 was moved to Ocean View Avenue in Monterey when Ricketts became the sole owner. The lab became a meeting place for intellectuals, artists, and writers, including Bruce Ariss, Joseph Campbell, Henry Miller, John Steinbeck, Lincoln Steffens, and Francis Whitaker. On November 25, 1936, a fire broke out at the Del Mar Cannery next to the lab (site of today’s Monterey Bay Aquarium) and most of the contents of the laboratory were destroyed. The lab was rebuilt in 1937 with the financial backing of Steinbeck. The onset of World War II led to the decline of commercial operations, however, the legacy of the lab are the many specimens collected and distributed to museums throughout the world including the Field Museum in Chicago, the Smithsonian Institution, the California Academy of Sciences, the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, and the Museum of Zoology at Lund University in Sweden.

Edward Ricketts was a marine biologist, ecologist, and philosopher. He wrote the ecological classic Between Pacific Tides published in 1939, which is still considered a pioneering study of intertidal ecology. He became known for his influence on writer John Steinbeck and was portrayed as “Doc” in Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, “Friend Ed” in Burning Bright, “Doc Burton” in In Dubious Battle, “Jim Casy” in The Grapes of Wrath, and as “Doctor Winter” in The Moon is Down. They collaborated on the book Sea of Cortez, which was republished in 1951 as The Log from the Sea of Cortez. Read more here and here. Explore more of Pacific Biological Laboratories here:

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