Kenneth S. Norris: Naturalist, Cetologist, Conservationist, 1924-1998

175Kenneth S. NorrisKenneth S. Norris

For the complete text [PDF] of Kenneth S. Norris: Naturalist, Cetologist, Conservationist, 1924-1998 (Escholarship). Includes complete audio (streaming or download) for the oral histories in this volume. Note: Due to editing by the narrator and the Project, there may be minor differences between the audio recording and the transcript. Please quote from the transcript as the record and not the audio. Audio will be found under "Supporting Material."

1999, 361 pp.

New! Ken Norris's long-awaited memoir Mountain Time: Reflections on the Wild World and Our Place in it is available at:

This volume documents Norris's tenure at UCLA and UCSC; his pioneering research with dolphins; his role in founding UC's Natural Reserve System and UCSC's Long Marine Lab; and his singular Natural History Field course. It features oral history interviews with:

Kenneth S. Norris (in his own voice)
Robert M. Norris
William N. McFarland
William F. Perrin
Roger J. Samuelsen
Shannon M. Brownlee
Lawrence D. Ford
Donald J. Usner
Stephen R. Gliessman

Discussing the genesis of UC's Natural Reserve System, Norris's scientific legacy, and the Natural History Field Quarter.

Kenneth S. Norris was a scientist/naturalist, teacher, and conservationist but, above all, he was an extraordinary human being with a rare blend of genius, optimism, and belief in the human spirit.

From the oral histories . . .

"Our little moving organism across the state became an organism into itself and it was terribly different than teaching in a laboratory or a lecture hall on campus, where you're propped up in front of the students and the students are taking down your every golden word. In this case, you're living your life with them in a very real way. We divided up who would cook, who would wash dishes and all that sort of stuff. We ate each other's dreadful food, which I still consider dreadful for the most part. We wove ourselves into each other's lives." --Kenneth S. Norris

"In a world full of vanilla he was Rocky Road. He was sweet and he was lumpy and he was full of nutty surprises. And without him, everything is a little blander." --Shannon M. Brownlee

". . . He virtually created the field [of cetology] in the United States . . .This cuddly exterior of his was wrapped around a truly rigorous scientist." --William F. Perrin

"He was so many things to so many people. But I think the thing that impressed me most, that I'll take with me more than anything else was his heart. It's so ironic that that's what failed. Because he had the biggest heart." --Donald J. Usner

"Ken taught with love. But [half] of loving somebody [is] getting out of their way. So he would set up the situation that gave the students a sense of trust enough so that they could open themselves up to test out being creative. . . Then he got out of their way." --Lawrence D. Ford