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Breaking Through

Essays, Journals, and Travelogues of Edward F. Ricketts

Edward F. Ricketts

Publication Year: 2006

Trailblazing marine biologist, visionary conservationist, deep ecology philosopher, Edward F. Ricketts (1897–1948) has reached legendary status in the California mythos. A true polymath and a thinker ahead of his time, Ricketts was a scientist who worked in passionate collaboration with many of his friends—artists, writers, and influential intellectual figures—including, perhaps most famously, John Steinbeck, who once said that Ricketts's mind "had no horizons." This unprecedented collection, featuring previously unpublished pieces as well as others available for the first time in their original form, reflects the wide scope of Ricketts’s scientific, philosophical, and literary interests during the years he lived and worked on Cannery Row in Monterey, California. These writings, which together illuminate the evolution of Ricketts’s unique, holistic approach to science, include "Verbatim transcription of notes on the Gulf of California trip," the basic manuscript for Steinbeck’s and Ricketts’s Log from the Sea of Cortez; the essays "The Philosophy of Breaking Through" and "A Spiritual Morphology of Poetry;" several shorter pieces on topics including collecting invertebrates and the impact of modernization on Mexican village life; and more. An engaging critical biography and a number of rare photographs offer a new and richly detailed view of Ricketts’s life.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9


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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-xiv

I began the research for this collection of Ricketts’s writings very soon after finishing my edited volume Renaissance Man of Cannery Row. I have been fortunate to have the help and support of many individuals throughout the course of my work on Ed Ricketts, now spanning more...

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pp. xv-xviii

A marine biologist by profession and a philosopher by vocation, Edward F. Ricketts is paradoxically famous and yet relatively unknown. Hundreds of thousands have met him without ever learning his real name; he is best known as John Steinbeck’s immortal character Doc—...

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Editor’s Note

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pp. xix-21

Previously published pieces in this volume are reprinted as they appeared originally in print. All other pieces have been transcribed from Ricketts’s own original manuscripts and typescripts. Small errors and inconsistencies in spelling, grammar, and punctuation have been corrected...

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pp. 1-79

Edward F. Ricketts’s passion for zoology began when he was a child in urban Chicago during the first years of the twentieth century, well before he was a fledgling collector on the shores of Monterey Bay in California in the 1920s. In a letter, he recalls, “At the age of six, I was ruined...

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Chapter 1. Foreword to the 1925 Pacific Biological Laboratories Catalog

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pp. 80-83

The 1925 Pacific Biological Laboratories catalog that Ed Ricketts produced was his first major scientific publication. A twenty-five-page, letter-size volume, it is bound in a dark brown paper cover and includes photographs and line drawings of many specimens available from his...

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Chapter 2. “Zoological Introduction” to Between Pacific Tides

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pp. 84-88

Ricketts revised the original draft of Between Pacific Tides throughout the early 1930s, resubmitting it to Stanford University Press in 1936. To this draft he appended his four-page “Zoological Introduction,” in which he defended the book’s ecological arrangement as “a natural history...

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Chapter 3. “The Philosophy of ‘Breaking Through’”

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pp. 89-104

Ricketts drafted and revised this essay throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, often after discussions and correspondence with friends such as John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell. The version included here is from a typescript marked “Revised July 1940, Mexico City,” composed of...

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Chapter 4. “A Spiritual Morphology of Poetry”

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pp. 105-118

The shortest of Ricketts’s three philosophical essays—the 1939 version reproduced here is a fourteen-page typescript—”A Spiritual Morphology of Poetry” represents an attempt to “work out” his notions about breaking through and non-teleological thinking “in an actual, practical...

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Chapter 5. “Essay on Non-teleological Thinking”

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pp. 119-133

Ricketts developed this essay during the early years of his friendship with John Steinbeck, a period also marked by collaborations with Joseph Campbell, Henry Miller, and other friends and colleagues. At the heart of Ricketts’s desire to articulate non-teleological thinking is his...

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Chapter 6. “Verbatim Transcription of Notes of Gulf of California Trip, March–April 1940”

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pp. 134-201

This collection of notes consists of forty-six, single-spaced typed pages documenting the Sea of Cortez expedition, as well a two-page addendum called “Statement of Collecting Stations in the Spring 1940” that lists coordinates and topographical information for each collecting...

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Chapter 7. “Thesis and Materials for a Script on Mexico”

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pp. 202-214

The antiscript Ricketts composed during the summer of 1940, “Thesis and Materials for a Script on Mexico Which Shall Be Motivated Oppositely to John’s ‘Forgotten Village’,” is the only existing documentation of the single most profound ideological disagreement between Ricketts...

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Chapter 8. “Outline and Conspectus” for a Book on the Mandated Islands

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pp. 215-221

Ricketts’s interest in the Japanese Mandated Islands—in particular the Palau Islands east of the Philippines—began in the early 1940s and continued through World War II. Though he initially hoped to assist the United States Navy by gathering data about the region from published...

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Chapter 9. “Transcript of Summer 1945 and 1946 Notes Based on Trips to the Outer Shores, West Coast of Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Islands, and So On”

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pp. 222-323

By 1945, Ricketts had begun what he expected to be the third volume in his North American Pacific trilogy, a study of the outer shores of British Columbia that would complete an ecological map of marine invertebrates of the North American Pacific coast. That summer, he and Toni...

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Chapter 10. “Investigator Blames Industry,Nature for Shortage”

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pp. 324-330

Ed Ricketts’s serious studies of the sardine cycle span the almost twenty-five years he lived and worked in Monterey—from the mid-1920s through the late 1940s—as he watched the boom and bust of Cannery Row. By the time his last and most articulate essay about the subject,...

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pp. 331-353

So ended Edward F. Ricketts’s career, prematurely, at a time of considerable environmental and economic peril for the Monterey Bay, a region that defined him. In his final essay, we see him struggle to come to grips with a crisis and reconcile the complexity of the human and natural factors...

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Living at the Lab with My Father

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pp. 333-335

Our family broke up in 1936, when Dad moved out of the Carmel house to live in his lab across the hill, on Cannery Row in Monterey. Later, Mother and my sisters went to Washington State and I moved to the Row—an abrupt change for me. What were once leisurely times in a...

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Early Days: Nicknames and Such

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pp. 336-339

“Mugwumps” is what he called all three of us children from time to time. Dad was big on names, on words in general. And “Mugwumps” was always said so lovingly! Among other names he called me were “Peaches” and “Nancy Jane, Butterfly name”; he called both Rikki and...

Works Cited

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pp. 341-345


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pp. 347-348

E-ISBN-13: 9780520932661
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520247048

Page Count: 369
Publication Year: 2006