Naturalists – Ralph R. Huestis, 1930’s and 1940’s

Ralph R. Huestis

Ralph Huestis (1892-1969) was a ranger naturalist at Crater Lake National Park for several summers during the 1930s and 1940s.

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Mr Huestis wrote many stories for Nature Notes From Crater Lake



Ralph R. Huestis Memorial. Mr. J. A. Shotwell presented the following memorial for the late Mr. Ralph R. Huestis:

Ralph Ruskin Huestis belonged to a generation now rapidly dwindling from among us. Only a dozen members of the University faculty, and only one from the College of Liberal Arts, had a longer continuous tenure than he at the time of his death.

Ralph Huestis was born in 8ridgewater, Nova Scotia, on January 14, 1892. His father was a Methodist minister, and Ralph showed the tenacity and toughness, the strength and honesty and true humility that we may fairly attribute to a godly upbringing in a harsh and simple land. He was not himself formally religious, but could often be heard singing, wordlessly, the hymn tunes that must have been the music of his youth.

Huestis received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from McGill University in 1914 and went directly into the Canadian Army. Five years of combat service, during which his brother was killed beside him, strengthened him without making him bitter. He was discharged in 1919, married that same year, and entered Graduate School in the University of California. His work for the master’s degree under R. E. Clausen involved a study in the genetics of Drosophila, then the most active and “fashionable” field in biology. The work was a substantial contribution to the field, and was published, but Ralph Huestis was never one to follow fashion.

In 1920, he took a post as research assistant to Francis B. Sumner at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Sumner was a man of brilliant intellect, an iconoclastic turn of mind, and of the strictest scientific standards. He was engaged, at that time, in a study of the evolutionary genetics of wild mice of the genus Peromyscus, a study into which he bad been led by his intellectual repugnance towards Morgan’s gene theory, the dogma of that day in biology. In the end, Sumner provided some of the best evidence for the validity of that theory in evolutionary interpretations.

Huestis found the intellectual and physical environment of what was then a relatively isolated scientific outpost congenial, and the course of his research bears the clear mark of Sumner’s influence. His Ph.D. thesis was a detailed microscopic study of the hair characters which played a primary part in Sumner’s and later Huestis’ study of inheritance. In 1924, he was appointed assistant professor of zoology in the University of Oregon, and his entire academic and much of his personal life centered here until his death.