"A School for the Study of Life"


Buried treasure spanning more than a century. Tales of adventures on the high seas. Discovering the mysteries of the deep. Celebrating a lasting family legacy.  This is all real life and the only thing missing is Johnny Depp.

How It All Began . . .

More than a hundred years ago, noted newspaper pioneer E.W. Scripps proclaimed that he wanted to support “a little scientific concern at La Jolla for investigating the living things of the ocean and the ocean itself.” He predicted, “It may make additions to knowledge that will be of great value to the world.” 

With his sister Ellen Browning Scripps, E.W. helped create the aptly named Scripps Institution of Oceanography, what he called “a school for the study of life” that has become one of the most important research centers for understanding and protecting the planet. Together with sister Virginia, the Scripps siblings are remembered for their wisdom and deep appreciation for the world and its delicate future. Their generosity enabled a century of exploration and discovery in all corners of the earth and oceans. And that legacy has carried on through four generations of Scripps family members who still have great affection for their namesake institution.

A Look Forward . . .

On a recent sunny summer afternoon, with coastal ocean breezes tickling the air, more than 75 members of the Scripps family, descendants of E.W. and his offspring who now range from a few months old to octogenarians, visited Scripps Oceanography to experience hands-on science and to explore the wonders of the ocean.  They also visited the site of the Scripps Family time capsule, filled with historical artifacts and treasured memories, buried in 2013 and planned for excavation in 2063.  

Scripps Director Margaret Leinen captured the family’s attention with a short presentation on just how far ocean research has evolved over the century since the founding family extended its first helping hand. Collecting ocean circulation data that used to take years is today amassed in near real-time by a vast network of 3,500 ARGO floats spanning the global oceans. Satellites now help predict El Niño conditions months in advance and underwater microscopes are taking an up-close view of the inner-world of marine life interactions.

At the heart of what Scripps scientists are able to accomplish today, said Leinen, is the Scripps family’s “legacy of vision and extraordinary support that has provided faculty and students with the tools critical to study ocean, climate, weather, hazards – everything to do with the earth. This legacy continues to inspire our ability and technology to observe and understand the ocean.”

Scripps family members mixed it up with current Scripps researchers and students with interactive displays and activities geared toward engaging a new generation in science education through innovative science techniques, Antarctic research diving, and fun science video games

While enjoying the coastal ocean views, Scripps family member Charles Scripps reminisced about his family roots in the local community. Years back, a family reunion was held on the La Jolla street where famous author Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, lived. When the large collection of Scripps children from various parts of the country converged, they enjoyed the freedom and safety to run up and down the local street uninhibited.  The result of those visions came from Dr. Seuss in his book ”If I Ran the Zoo.”  The following year, the Scripps family met in La Jolla again, and once again Dr. Seuss illustrated the children’s rambunctious neighborhood adventures, this time titling a book “If I Ran the Circus.”  Charles says when he looks closely at the characters in the books he can tell that each Dr. Seuss character is modeled after an actual person, perhaps even from his own family.  

Members of the next generation of the Scripps family are as deeply immersed in the wonders of the ocean planet as their predecessors. 

“It’s important to watch out for the ocean, especially since there are so many things we don’t know about,” said Chase Kellogg, 13, a member of the Scripps family’s fourth generation, who has been lauded by his teachers as a very strong student in science.

The focus on education at Scripps Oceanography also has deep roots with its founders. While welcoming the family to an afternoon of exploration and activities at Birch Aquarium at Scripps, Margaret Leinen said, “Ellen Browning Scripps was extremely interested in education, especially for underserved communities, and we continue to support her personal legacy within the San Diego community today.” 

The recurring theme over the weekend remained the dual thoughts of past and future, of legacy and looking ahead. The vision and action by E.W. Scripps and his sisters enabled this “little scientific concern at La Jolla” to grow and thrive over the past hundred years and now that legacy continues to inspire other generations of ocean enthusiasts, scientists, and leaders of tomorrow.

- Cindy Clark

Related Image Gallery: Scripps Family Beach Party 2014

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