What Bob has been doing…


Bob Hitz

We’re extremely pleased that Bob Hitz and some of his writing are featured in this University of Washington School of Aquatic Sciences celebration of its centennial.

There’s an official event in April, but we are interested in the memories of some of the alumni, both student and faculty, and that includes Bob.


It is exciting to see the school celebrate its birthday but dispiriting that the actual event is so firmly focused on the future there is no acknowledgment of any past. But then fisheries scientists are firmly uninterested in how they got to be fishery scientists. Still this is a major accomplishment that the School is recognizing.

Founded in 1862, the University of Washington was already offering courses in ichthyology through the Zoology Department, but supporters wanted an actual fisheries school. They included Miller Freeman, publisher of Pacific Fisherman, and Trevor Kincaid, head of the university’s Zoology Program.

The organizational structure was modeled on the world-renowned Imperial Fisheries Institute in Japan, where practical instruction and research had been underway since 1897. Kincaid suggested a two-year program with a concentration of classes in administration, technology or fish culture during the second year. Six years later, the school was established in 1919, with John Nathan Cobb (1868-1930) as its director.[1]

Cobb laid out his vision for the school in 1920, not to train fishermen or scientists, but something in between, “men of executive ability with a through understanding of the fisheries.”  According to biologist J. Richard Dunn, Cobb’s approach to the School reflected his experience with the fishing industry and the practical needs of the commercial industry. It would be a program in applied fisheries science and management. For Cobb, the salmon industry needed scientists, but it also needed men to run the fish companies and manage the growing complexity of the annual Alaskan fishery.

The faculty remained small, with a great deal of turnover, probably the result of the low salaries. There were two tracts of study, fish culture and fisheries technology. Enrollment was strong during the first decade, ranging from 30 to 117 students a year. The first graduating class was in 1922, and the first Master of Science degree in 1924. By 1928, Cobb could boast that 40 graduates had found work in some branch of the fisheries.[2]

[1] Robert R. Stickney, Flagship: A History of the Fisheries at the University of Washington

(Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1989), 6.

[2] J. Richard Dunn. “John Nathan Cobb (1868-1930): Founding Director of the College of

Fisheries, University of Washington, Seattle” Marine Fisheries Review 65, no. 3 (2003): 5.


About finleyc

I'm a writer and a historian of science. I'm interested in the intersection of science and policy in the oceans, and especially around fishing.
This entry was posted in Environmental History, fisheries science, History of Science, History of Technology, Maritime History, Pacific Fishing History Project, R/V John N. Cobb, William F. Thompson. Bookmark the permalink.

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