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Guide to the Raymond B. Cowles Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing Information
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Separated Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Raymond B. Cowles papers
    Dates: 1920-1992
    Collection number: MS-02
    Creator: Cowles, Raymond B. (Raymond Bridgman), 1896-1975
    Collection Size: 6 linear feet 8 boxes
    Repository: Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (University of California, Santa Barbara). C. H. Muller Library
    Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9615
    Abstract: This collection consists of correspondence, published and unpublished manuscripts, photographs, artifacts, and biographical materials of zoologist and UCLA professor Raymond Cowles.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration, UC Santa Barbara. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Cheadle Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    Raymond B. Cowles papers, MS-02, Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration. University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Kay Wolsey, Cowles' daughter.

    Processing Information

    Arrangement and description of this collection was made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

    Biography / Administrative History

    Ecologist, naturalist, and teacher Raymond Bridgman Cowles was born in 1896 in Natal, South Africa to missionary parents. He left Africa for the United States where he attended school, worked, served in the military during WWI, and attended Pomona College, earning a bachelor's degree in 1920. Following field work in Africa from 1925-27, he received his PhD in zoology from Cornell in 1928 and began working at UCLA in 1929, where he taught zoology until 1963.
    Cowles wrote extensively about animals and specifically about reptilian thermoregulation, his pioneering research, from the 1920s through the mid 1970s. Other areas of research were fire ecology, desert ecology, continental drift and climate change, and overpopulation. Population issues, such as poverty, limited natural resources, famine, and birth control overlaid many of his arguments and were a concern stemming from his South African upbringing. Cowles published over 100 articles and wrote two books: Zulu Journal published in 1959 and Desert Journal published in 1977.
    Cowles was recognized for his teaching and research with many awards and honors, including an honorary doctorate of science from Pomona College; the Cowles Animal Medical Ward at the Living Desert Reserve; and the UC Cowles Temescal Canyon Reserve in the Santa Monica Mountains, dedicated in 1978. Cowles died in 1975 at the age of 79.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection of papers deals predominantly with the published and unpublished writings of Raymond Cowles. The Correspondence series gives an insight into Cowles' struggles to publish his works on overpopulation in a timely fashion, as well as his views on various issues appearing in his writings. Noted correspondents include colleagues Kenneth Norris, Garrett Hardin, and Robert Stebbins, as well as Zulu chief Gatsha Buthelizi. The series Published Writings and Unpublished Writings contain the bulk of the collection. Among the highlights are the two versions of his unpublished book On the Bondage of Human Numbers, a pessimistic look at the future of unrenewable, limited resources and the effects of overpopulation, which was to be published by University of Oklahoma press in 1968, as well as a different version co-written with Lucy Birzis. Also included are early drafts for his last book Desert Journal, published posthumously in 1977 with Elna Bakker, and a futuristic and optimistic novel that takes place 300 years after what Cowles predicted would be an economic-radiation crash. The Photograph series includes many images of desert reptiles and birds both in Africa and California, and photos of Zululand. Many of the photos have captions. The Artifact series contains the most unusual items--detritus from the first atomic bombs detonated in New Mexico in 1944, collected by Cowles during a survey he conducted on the effects of radiation on desert animals.


    This collection is organized into 7 series: Series 1 Biographical Materials, Series 2 Correspondence, Series 3 Professional Activities, Series 4 Published Writings, Series 5 Unpublished Writings, Series 6 Photographs, and Series 7 Artifacts.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Desert ecology--California
    field notes
    Cowles, Raymond B. (Raymond Bridgman), 1896-1975
    Desert ecology--South Africa--KwaZulu Natal

    Separated Material

    Cowles' reprint collection and his published books are housed separately in the library.