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Showing posts from April, 2005

Travel literature

I am a writer and a marine biologist

Strange combination they all say. The more diplomatic would say, unusual. I am a marine biologist looking at seashores and their life. My colleagues believe that many scientists can write good scientific papers that are objective with methods that can stand scrutiny by their peers. But essays with the human insight at hand?

Fortunately there are precedents. My favourite writer, John Steinbeck studied marine biology at Stanford and then started to write. His fiction carries a basic concept of marine biology, the nature of life and how it interacts with the environment. All these are enmeshed in the human experience. In “Grapes of Wrath” it is denunciatory and in “Cannery Row” it is celebratory. In Sea of Cortez both literature and science meet in an unusual collaboration, with another good marine biologist, Ed Ricketts.

I first encountered Steinbeck not in a high school or college literature class but in my first undergraduate course in marine biology…