San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionExhibits

Putting SDNHM Herpetology on the Map:
The Legacy of Laurence M. Klauber

Many of the specimens in the San Diego Natural History Museum’s collection came from Laurence Klauber, who donated his personal collection of 44,481 specimens to the Museum in 1961.<br />
© Klauber Family Photograph Collection
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When horned lizards outnumbered people in San Diego, Laurence Klauber explored the local world of reptiles. In 1923, Klauber was asked by the San Diego Zoo to identify some snakes. He began studying books and actively corresponding with herpetologists, who encouraged him to conduct research and publish his findings. He wrote over 100 scientific papers on snakes and lizards and described 53 new species and subspecies of reptiles and amphibians. In addition, 14 new genera, species, and subspecies have been named after him by other scientists.

Klauber, a member of the San Diego Society of Natural History since the early 1900s, achieved international recognition in herpetology and became Honorary Curator of Reptiles in 1926, a title he held until his death in 1968.

Fascinated with probabilities, he was a pioneer in applying statistical analysis to biology. “Night-driving” for snakes was a technique he invented by driving his car on desert roads. His research, which brought him face-to-face with more than 12,000 rattlesnakes in his lifetime, culminated in his monumental 1533-page definitive study, Rattlesnakes: Their Habits, Life Histories, and Influence on Mankind, published in 1956.

An electrical engineer by training, Klauber had another major role in the city of San Diego as President & CEO of San Diego Gas & Electric Company in the high-growth years following World War II. He rose through the ranks of San Diego Gas & Electric Company from an electric sign salesman to become president, then chairman and CEO. In the field of herpetology, he left his mark as the world authority on rattlesnakes. He was an outstanding scientist esteemed by his peers.

His hobby of collecting, identifying and publishing on reptiles went far beyond a standard definition of a hobby. His personal collection of some 8,600 rattlesnake specimens from across the Southwest was donated to the Museum, laying the foundation for the Museum’s herpetology collection.

Laurence and daughter Alice  Klauber, Plaza de Panama, Balboa Park, San Diego, 1916. <br />
© Klauber Family Photograph Collection  Klauber often took family and friends out on reptile collecting trips, like this trip in July 1924 with his children, Alice and Philip.<br />
© Klauber Family Photograph Collection  Philip M. Klauber with two  unidentified snakes. 1925, San Diego County<br />
© Klauber Family Photograph Collection 
Alfranio DoAmara  Sao Paolo, Director of  Brazil’s Instituto de Butantan and Laurence Klauber. West side Japatul Road, San Diego County, 1927. <br />
© Klauber Family Photograph Collection   Drawing for San Diego Gas and Electric Company <em>Newsmeter</em>, 1930s.
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