Laurence Klauber, Citizen Scientist


Laurence M. Klauber was an amateur naturalist and world authority on rattlesnakes. When horned lizards outnumbered people in San Diego, the young Klauber explored the local world of reptiles. Driven by the pursuit of knowledge and the joy of discovery, he applied his passion for knowledge and analytical skills to his study of reptiles.

Born in San Diego in 1883, he was a Renaissance man. He loved books, theatre, music, and opera, wrote poetry, served in several civic and scientific organizations, and held seven U.S. patents for his electrical inventions. He rose through the ranks of San Diego Gas & Electric Company from an electric sign salesman to become president, then chairman and CEO.

Klauber was an outstanding scientist esteemed by his peers. He wrote 100 scientific papers and described 53 new species and subspecies of reptiles and amphibians. Klauber was honored by other scientists with 14 new genera, species, and subspecies named for him. Through the excellence of his work, he put San Diego on the map in the field of herpetology.

Laurence Klauber donated 36,000 reptile and amphibian specimens to the San Diego Natural History Museum, including the most comprehensive collection of rattlesnakes in the world. He amassed an extraordinary herpetological library: 1,462 books, 19,000 pamphlets, 20 drawers of hand-written catalog cards, and 198 looseleaf binders of scientific notes, all generously donated to our Museum. The Klauber Herpetological Library and specimens are available for researchers.

PHOTO CREDIT: Research Library, SDNHM