Nature and Science on the Pacific Coast

My search for historical information concerning the California condor sometimes leads me to books that I soon appreciate for reasons in addition to their “condor content”.

One such book is Nature and Science on the Pacific Coast, published in 1915 by Paul Elder and edited by Joseph Grinnell.


The book is dedicated to the great John Muir, who died just before the book was published:


The subtitle describes the book:


(That early logo for the American Association for the Advancement of Science – AAAS – is sharp.)

An “Introductory Note” provides more about the book’s origin and purpose:

Recognizing the need for ready information on nature and science in the West, the Pacific Coast committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science has considered it desirable … to bring together in hand-book form concise data upon matters of general interest for use of travelers in this region.

The descriptions contained in this book have been prepared with care by specialists, and the volume is addressed to all travelers in the West who wish to know the significant features of the land through which they pass.

The mention of “all travelers” contrasts with the subtitle’s reference to “scientific travelers”.

What’s inside? Among the book’s 30-some chapters are those concerning weather, earthquakes, and oceanic circulation. There are a number of chapters on flora and fauna.

Several chapters are devoted to practical matters such as mining, agriculture, and hydroelectric development. There is a chapter on astronomical observatories and another on museums.

There are also chapters about Native Americans and the early Spanish settlements.

The titles of the last 5 chapters demonstrate that the scientists who developed the book had interests beyond science:

Mountaineering on the Pacific Coast
Outdoor Life and the Fine Arts
Literary Landmarks on the Pacific Coast
Legal and Political Development of the Pacific Coast States
Scenic Excursions

The book is not shy on details. For example, the chapter on museums informs readers which street car route stops near particular museums.

The California condor is noted in 2 chapters. “Significant Features in the History of Life on the Pacific Coast” discusses fossils of the condor and related species.

The chapter titled “The Vertebrate Fauna of the Pacific Coast” refers to the “nearly extinct condor” as being of “relatively ancient origin” and “quite certainly indigenous”. A fine, captioned photo is included:


Fortunately, Nature and Science on the Pacific Coast has been scanned and is available to all on the web. There is much in this century-old book that is still of interest and value, and I recommend having a look.

On a related note, a general travel guide from 1939, California: A Guide to the Golden State is described in a previous post: Driving to the birds.