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Finding aid to the Joseph Grinnell papers MVZA.MSS.0005
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The Joseph Grinnell papers include field notes, miscellaneous notes, publications, biographical materials, correspondence, Thomomys manuscripts and research, and graphic materials. These materials provide insight into the work done by Grinnell and his peers between 1894-1944.
Joseph Grinnell was born on February 27, 1877 at an Indian Territory near old Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Grinnell’s interest in zoology started very early on. When Grinnell was just a preteen, his first specimen for his collection was a “cotton-stuffed toad,” from his middle school time spent in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In 1893, Grinnell enrolled in the college division of Throop Polytechnic Institute, known today as California Institute of Technology or “Caltech.” There the young Grinnell received careful scientific training from the botanist Alfred James McClatchie. Almost all of his Saturdays and holidays were spent “in the field, as his old notebooks—[all 18 of them then]—testify” He carefully recorded each field experience he spent by himself, with his friends, or with his professors. Even then, Grinnell realized that “the record had a definite historical value.” He said, “[this] I realize is assuming a very difficult and tedious task… but even if I cannot bring such a thing to publication myself, I shall keep the bibliography and citation symmetrically arranged, so that anyone else can take up the work where I leave off.” This belief would eventually give rise to the famed “Grinnell Method.” In 1895, Grinnell’s name was cited in Dr. Hiram A. Reid’s 700-pages published work “History of Pasadena”: “[young] Joseph Grinnell…has won the reputation of having captured, preserved, labeled and classified more specimens of our native birds than any other person. He seems to have a specimen of every species and variety of avian fauna ever found here, all nicely preserved, and nearly labeled with both its common and its scientific name.”
4.7 Linear feet
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The collection is open for research.