Frank and Kate Stephens, Collectors and Scientists


Frank and Kate Stephens (right) worked as a team studying natural history in southern California. Frank Stephens was a self-taught pioneer naturalist and mammal and bird collector born in New York. He gradually moved west, ending up in California in 1876. Stephens lived a life of outdoor adventures, studying and collecting local animals in the back country of southern California, the Southwest, and Baja California for more than 60 years. He was an important participant in the Death Valley Expedition of 1891, working with scientists of the U. S. Biological Survey. Frank Stephens was the first director of the San Diego Natural History Museum. His collection of bird and mammal specimens formed the backbone of the research collection for the Museum as a whole.

Kate and Frank Stephens played essential roles in the early years of the Museum. They were asked to survey the Colorado Desert in Arizona and California in 1902. By this time Frank Stephens was considered to be the foremost expert on natural history for southern California, and Kate’s reputation as a scientist and collector was growing. Kate Stephens was appointed the first curator of collections in 1910. She became an expert in marine invertebrates and fossils and was appointed curator of mollusks.

Learn more about Kate Stephen at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

PHOTO CREDIT: Research Library, SDNHM