Norris W. Rakestraw Papers, 1917-1983 (SMC 161)

Restrictions: Original sound recordings are restricted. Listening copies may be available for researchers.

Extent: 3 Linear feet (3 records cartons, 1 oversize folder)

Digital Content

Sound recordings in this collection have been digitized, and are available upon request.

Papers of Norris Watson Rakestraw (1895-1982), marine chemist and professor of chemistry at Brown University, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Rakestraw was known for his research into the chemical composition of seawater and the role of organic matter in seawater. The collection includes correspondence, laboratory notebooks, writings, research materials, images and sound recordings.

Norris Watson Rakestraw was born January 16, 1895 in Toledo, Ohio. He attended Stanford University where he received his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in chemistry from 1916 to 1921. He was employed as a chemistry instructor at Stanford from 1919 to 1925, and served in the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service from 1923 to 1924. He spent a year each teaching at the California State Teacher's College in San Jose and Oberlin College, and then was appointed assistant professor of chemistry at Brown University in 1926. Rakestraw also worked as a research associate at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution during the summers from 1931 to 1946. During 1933 to 1934, he visited European oceanographic stations and reported on their marine research. Rakestraw held a pilot's license, and served as a wing commander for the Rhode Island Wing of the Civil Air Patrol during World War II.

Rakestraw continued as an associate and full professor at Brown University until 1946, when he moved to Scripps Institution of Oceanography as professor of chemistry and head of the chemical oceanography department. He also served as acting director of SIO from 1952 to 1953, and dean of graduate studies at the University of California, San Diego from 1960 to 1965. After retiring from SIO as professor emeritus in 1965, he returned to Europe to work for two years as foreign liaison officer and scientific advisor to the London Branch of the Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research Laboratory.

One of the pioneer marine chemists in the United States, Rakestraw was known for his research into the chemical composition of seawater and the role of organic matter in seawater, as well as for his teaching of chemistry. Rakestraw served as chair of the New England Association of Chemistry Teachers, president of the Pacific Southwest Association of Chemistry Teachers, and editor of the Journal of Chemical Education for the American Chemical Society from 1940 to 1955. His awards include the Scientific Apparatus Makers Award and the James Flack Norris Award, both from the American Chemical Society, and Skin Diver magazine's Annual Award for Outstanding Service to Youth in the Field of Oceanography. Norris Rakestraw died on December 3, 1982 in Morongo Valley, California.

Papers of Norris Watson Rakestraw (1895-1982), marine chemist and professor of chemistry at Brown University, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Rakestraw was known for his research into the chemical composition of seawater and the role of organic matter in seawater. He was also a principal investigator for the International Geophysical Year 1957-1958 (IGY) geochemistry and CO₂ programs, and the collection contains a research notebook from the related Downwind Expedition and early correspondence with and about fellow carbon dioxide researcher Dr. Charles D. Keeling. The collection includes correspondence, laboratory notebooks, writings, research materials, images and sound recordings.


Container List


Scope and Content of Series

Series 1) BIOGRAPHICAL AND CORRESPONDENCE: Biographical information on Norris Rakestraw, including his bibliography, pilot log books, correspondence regarding his employment at Brown University, and a certificate from the Trans-Pacific Expedition in 1953. The series includes Rakestraw's essays on London life in the 1960s which were compiled in 1983 by Warren Wooster for his memorial service. Rakestraw's chronological correspondence from 1926 to 1974 includes correspondence with Henry Stommel, Wheeler North, Norman Nachtrieb, Sayed El Wardani, and William F. Kieffer.

Box 1 Folder 1-5
Chronological correspondence, 1926-1974

For correspondence regarding Rakestraw's participation in the International Geophysical Year, see WRITINGS AND RESEARCH series, IGY folders.

Box 1 Folder 6
Bibliography, 1951
Box 1 Folder 7
Brown University, 1941-1946
Box 1 Folder 8
Ouroboros Club, with photograph, 1921-1956
Box 1 Folder 9
Pilot log books, 1939-1947
Box 1 Folder 10
Trans-Pacific Expedition certificate, 1953
Box 1 Folder 11
A tribute to Norris Watson Rakestraw, 1983

Short essays on British life written by Rakestraw while he was a scientific advisor for the London Branch of the Office of Naval Research, 1965-1966. Originally published in European Scientific Notes, volumes 19-20, they were compiled by Warren S. Wooster as "Norris Watson Rakestraw in London" in 1983 for Rakestraw's memorial service.


Scope and Content of Series

Series 2) WRITINGS AND RESEARCH. Arranged in two series: A) Laboratory Notebooks and B) Writings and Research.

A) Laboratory Notebooks: Notebooks kept by Rakestraw and a few members of his laboratory at Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Many of the notebooks contain seawater measurements such as pH, phosphate, nitrate, and nitrite from locations in the North Atlantic and the Caribbean. Arranged chronologically.

B) Writings and Research: Manuscripts, drafts, notes and correspondence for Rakestraw's published and unpublished writings, including Rakestraw's M.A. and Ph.D. dissertations from Stanford University; a travel journal from the 1930s; articles on marine chemistry and the design of plankton nets; skits and monologues for a chemistry exposition; and a translation of a 1937 paper by H. Wattenberg. Chemistry Earns a Navy Award is the manuscript of a book written by Rakestraw for the Naval Research Laboratory on the use of chemistry by the U.S. Navy. The series also includes correspondence, data, notes, reports and photographs for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) and its research into atmospheric carbon dioxide from 1957-1958. Arranged chronologically.

Laboratory Notebooks

Box 1 Folder 12-13
Salisbury Cove, Gulf of Maine Survey, 1929-1930
Box 1 Folder 14
Untitled, 1930-1932
Box 1 Folder 15-16
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, notebooks 1-2, 1931-1932
Box 1 Folder 17
Standardization of new nitrate standards, 1933-1940
Box 1 Folder 18
Cruise 15 - NO3 calibrations, 1933 February-May
Box 1 Folder 19
Cruise 21 - Analyses for pH, nitrite, and buffer capacity. Stations 1741-1799, Nova Scotia to Cape Cod, colorimeter table, 1933-1941
Box 1 Folder 20
Cruises 23-24 and 26-29, G.M. Nova Scotia to Cape Cod, 1933-1934
Box 1 Folder 21
Miami to Hatteras, 1933-1934
Box 1 Folder 22
1646-1720, G.M. 1725-1739, to South. Standing experiments on light, etc., 1933 July-August
Box 2 Folder 1
Cruise 31, Stations 2219-2231. Cruise 37, Stations 2268-2300, 1934-1940
Box 2 Folder 2
Oxygen consumption experiments, 1934-1946
Box 2 Folder 3
Victor Emmel - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 1935-1940
Box 2 Folder 4
Clifford E. Herrick III - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 1937 March-November
Box 2 Folder 5
Water samples for sh v. branch, 1937-1938
Box 2 Folder 6
Physical chemistry - Notes on Eucken, Jette, and La Mer, 1938 May-September
Box 2 Folder 7
Dissolved N samples, 1938-1941
Box 2 Folder 8
Calibration of microburet, 1952-1953
Box 2 Folder 9-11
Ammonia notebooks, 1953-1957

Collaborators include Frank Leinhaupel, James W. Wheeler, Jr. and Frank L. Margolis.

Box 2 Folder 12
Records from Downwind cruise, 1957 September 24-December 23

Rakestraw participated on the Downwind Expedition as part of the IGY.

Box 2 Folder 13
Theoret 1, parts 1-2 - Notebooks on the conservation of matter and energy, undated

Writings and Research

Box 3 Folder 1
Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and sea surface, undated
Box 3 Folder 2
Chemistry 2 - Notes, undated
Box 3 Folder 3
Chemistry Exposition - Monologues and skits, undated

Includes "The Chemistry of a Kiss" by Carl M. Cohen, "The Chemistry of Love" by C.U. Pittman, "Scenic Reactions," and "All Wet - A Scientific (?) Treatise on Water."

Box 3 Folder 4
"Determination of the Alkalinity of Sea Water" and "The Partition of Alkalinity and Carbon Dioxide", undated
Box 3 Folder 5
Notes - Miscellaneous, undated
Box 3 Folder 6
Spectrographic Determination of the Arsenic Content of Some Marine Organisms, undated
Box 3 Folder 7
Metabolic Effects of Excessive Quantities of Sugar. M.A. thesis, Stanford University, 1917
Box 3 Folder 8
Chemical Factors in Fatigue. I. The Effect of Muscular Exercise Upon Certain Common Blood Constituents. Ph.D. thesis, Stanford University, 1921
Box 3 Folder 9
Impressions - Travel journals regarding visits to research institutions in North America and Europe, 1933-1934, and undated
Box 3 Folder 10
Critical Review of the Methods Used for Determining Nutrient Salts and Related Constituents in Salt Water. 1. Methoden zur Bestimmung von Phosphat, Silikat, Nitrat und Ammoniak im See Wasser (H. Wattenberg, 1937). Translation by Norris Rakestraw, 1937
Oversize FB-126 Folder 13
Outline of the History of Chemistry - Poster by Rakestraw, 1937


Box 3 Folder 11-15
International Geophysical Year (IGY) - Geochemistry and CO₂ Program, 1956-1959

Six folders of chronologically arranged correspondence, memoranda and reports regarding the IGY program for continuous monitoring of atmospheric carbon dioxide, including concentration in sea water and its exchange with the atmosphere. Letters describe Rakestraw's early research collaboration with Charles D. Keeling, the U.S. Weather Bureau, and data-gathering on the Downwind Expedition and sites like Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

Oversize FB-126 Folder 13
The effect of temperature to pCO₂ of sea water. Takahashi - Data, 1960 July
Box 3 Folder 16
An apparatus and arrangement for opening and closing plankton nets, 1963
Box 3 Folder 17-20
Chemistry Earns a Navy Award, 1968


Scope and Content of Series

Series 3) AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS: Images and sound recordings created by or of Norris Rakestraw. Includes images of Rakestraw, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, European research institutions, and R/V Atlantis. Sound recordings include Rakestraw narrating the history of marine chemistry in the United States and his memorial service at SIO in 1983.

Box 3 Folder 21-24
Photographs - Contact prints and negatives, ca. 1933

Images from the 1930s of Rakestraw, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and European research institutions. Prints were made from original nitrate negatives.

Box 3 Folder 25
Photographs - Images from the deck of R/V Atlantis, 1963

Sound recordings

Box 3 Folder 26
Historical Intro - Rakestraw describes the history of marine chemistry as a discipline in the United States, ca. 1965

Open reel tape, time: 0:16:47.

Box 3 Folder 26
On marine chemistry - Rakestraw reads paper, "Variation of carbon 14 in atmospheric CO₂," by two scientists from Norway (Ryder and Nigel?), 1960

Open reel tape, time: 1:28:32.

Box 3 Folder 27
Rakestraw records his memories of papers delivered at Gordon Conference on Marine Chemistry, ca. 1965

Open reel tape, time: 1:23:00.

Box 3 Folder 27
Memorial service at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 1983 January 26

Speakers include William A. Nierenberg, Roger Revelle, Edward D. Goldberg, Charles D. Keeling, Marston Sargent, and Warren S. Wooster. Audiocassette, time: 0:56:34.