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Vintage San Diego: Scientists by the Shore

Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1910


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By the Numbers

1960 - Scripps becomes a department within UC San Diego

1,492 employees (professors, researchers, and more), plus 629 volunteers

3 Nobel Prize winners

$189 million in research expenditures (fiscal year 2012–2013)

4 research vessels

2015 - Scripps’ new Navy-owned research vessel, Sally Ride, will be delivered

Before sky-high real estate and UC San Diego took over the hills north of La Jolla Cove, there was science. A little marine biological lab known as the George H. Scripps Memorial Marine Biological Laboratory, designed by renowned architect Irving Gill, was completed in 1910 near what is now a paved La Jolla Shores Drive. (E.W. Scripps, who purchased the land, had to build a road just to get there.) The building was the first permanent marine science facility of the Marine Biological Association of San Diego, the nation’s first oceanographic institute, founded by Ellen Browning Scripps, E.W. Scripps, and other community leaders in 1903.

After becoming part of the University of California in 1912, the organization was renamed Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1925. A decade later, it was responsible for the country’s first curriculum in oceanography. During World War II, its scientific studies of surf enabled successfully timed landings on Normandy, and identified a crackling sound made by a snapping shrimp, which helped the Navy detect submarines. They could also mimic the sound and hide their own subs.

Today, the original lab is referred to as the Old Scripps Building and remains the oldest building on the UC San Diego campus.

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