Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Rolf Bolin

Main content start

Area: fish

Years: 1934-1968

In 1928, Rolf Ling Bolin entered Stanford University as a graduate student with a keen interest in biology. Under the direction of Professor Tage Skogsberg, Bolin began his research on the embryology of fish.  In 1929, he completed a Masters (M. A.) thesis titled The Gross Embryology of Orthonopias Triacis and Engraulis Mordax: A Comparative Study of Demersal and Pelagic Fish Eggs. That same year, Bolin began his Ph. D. research focusing on the taxonomy, spawning habits, early embryology and ecology of the Cottoids of California. Financial support was limited, as this was the period of the Great Depression, so Bolin supported his years as a Ph. D. student working as an assistant for the Hydrographic Survey of Monterey Bay and helping to instruct the marine zoology course.

 In 1934, Bolin completed his Ph. D. studies with a dissertation titled Studies on the California Cottidae: An Analysis of the Principles of Systematic Ichthyology.  Upon receiving his doctorate, Bolin came to the faculty of Stanford University, first serving as acting instructor in marine biology and oceanography.  Bolin was next appointed to full instructor in 1935, assistant professor in 1937, associate professor in 1940, and full professor in 1949.   For a time Bolin served as assistant and associate director of Hopkins Marine Station, and served as chief scientist for the Te Vega program.

At Hopkins Marine Station, Bolin instructed courses in ichthyology and the ecology of marine animals, while at the main campus in Palo Alto he taught comparative anatomy. According to Stanley Weitzman:  He was a man of maturity and fairness who also had a great sense of humor...Bolin's interests encompassed ecology, systematics, and morphology. He was particularly interested in deep-sea fishes and open-ocean ecology. Monterey Bay was ideally suited for such studies, with deep water located close to shore. A wide variety of habitats were thus available for study in a relatively small area. Bolin was a yachtsman at heart and loved to travel on the open ocean. He obtained oceanographic grants from various agencies, which allowed him to do just that. Much of this work was done on Stanford's research vessel, the Te Vega.

Quoting from David G. Smith (2007) article about ichthyologists Stanley and Marilyn Weitzman.: "Stan points out an interesting facet of Bolin's work that has been largely overlooked. In his thinking about the use of data in studying relationships among fishes, Bolin foreshadowed the cladistic revolution that lay in the future. He published a paper on marine cottids (Bolin, 1944), in which he used generic categories different from those traditionally accepted. In response to criticism, he published another paper (Bolin, 1947) explaining his reasoning. Here, he emphasized the value of specialized characters over primitive characters in assessing relationships. He did not pursue these ideas further, and no one at the time seemed to grasp their significance. It demonstrates, however, that new scientific theories seldom appear fully formed out of nothing. Although Willi Hennig is rightly given credit as the “father” of phylogenetic systematics, some of these ideas were already circulating and only needed someone to put them all together."


Bolin, R. L., Donal P. Abbott 1963 Studies on the marine climate and phytoplankton of the central coastal area of California, 1954-1960. Calcofi Reports: IX

Bolin, R. L. 1954 Notes: Report on a fatal sttack by a shark. Pacific Science, v.8, no.1

Bolin, R. L. 1952 Tweo usunual record of marine fishes at Monterey, California. Cal.Fish & Game: v.38, pp.209-210

Bolin, R. L. 1952 Description of a new genus and species of Cottid fish from the Tasman Sea, with a discussion of its derivation. Videnak. Medd. fra Dansk maturh. Foren. v.114

Bolin, R. L. 1950 Remarks on Cottid Fishes Occasioned by the Capture of Two Species New to California. Copeia, no.3

Bolin, R. L. 1949 The linear distribution of intertidal organisms and its effect on their evolutionary potential. XIIe Congress International de Zoologie, Communications 6e section, p.459-60

Bolin, R. L. 1947 The Evolution of the Marine Cottidae of California with the Discussion of the Genus as a Systematic Category. Stanford Ichthyological Bull. v. 3, no.3

Bolin, R. L. 1946 Lantern Fishes from "Investigator" Station 670, Indian Ocean. Stanford Ichthyological Bull. v. 3, no.2

Bolin, R. L. 1944 A review odf the marine cottid fishes of California. Stanford Ichthyological Bull. 3, 1-135

Bolin, R. L. 1940 A Redescription of Luvarus Imperialis Refinesque Based upon a Specimen from Monterey, California. California Fish and Game v.26, no.3

Bolin, R. L. 1940 Brown Ragfish taken at Monterey. California Fish and Game v.26, no.3

Bolin, R. L. 1939 A Review of the Myctophid Fishes of the Pacific Coast of the United States and Lower California. Stanford Ichthyological Bulletin, v.1, no.4

Bolin, R. L. 1939 A New Stomiatoid Fish From California. Copeia, no.1

Bolin, R. L. 1938 Reappearance of the Southern Sea Otter Along the California Coast. Journal of Mammalogy, v.19, no.3

Bolin, R. L. 1938 Bathylagus Wesethi, a New Argentinid Fish From California. Calif. Fish and Game, v.24:1, pp.66-28

Bolin, R. L. 1937 Ichthyological Notes: Notes on California Fishes. Copeia, no.1

Bolin, R. L. 1936 The systematic position of the Indostomus paradoxus Prashad and Mukerji, a fresh water fish from Burma. Jour.Wash.Acad.Sci. v.26:10 pp.420-423

Bolin, R. L. 1936 Two New Cottid Fishes From the Western Pacific, with a Revision of the Genus Stlengis Jordan and Starks. Proc.U.S.Nat.Mus. v.83:2987

Bolin, R. L. 1936 A Revision of the Genus Icelinus Jordan. Copeia, no.3

Bolin, R. L. 1936 New Cottid Fishes From Japan and Bering Sea. Proc.U.S.Nat.Mus. v.84:3000

Bolin, R. L. 1936 A Jack Smelt (Antherinopsis Californiensis Girard) with a Rubber Band Encircling its Body. California Fish and Game, v.22, no.1

Bolin, R. L. 1936 Embryonic and Early Larval Stages of the California Anchovy (Engraulis Mordax Girard). California Fish and Game, v.22, no.4

Bolin, R. L. 1935 A Method of Preparing Skeletons of Small Vertebrates. Science. v.82:2132, pp.446

Bolin, R. L. 1933 New Fish Recods From Southern California. Copeia. No.1, pp.35-36


Rolf Bolin's Reprint Collection - Index Cards

A - F  (Abe, T. - Fowler, H. W.)

F - I  (Fowler, H. W. - Ino, T.)

I - Z (Iverson, T. - Zugmayer, E.)


Memorial Resolution:

Rolf L. Bolin 1901 - 1973



Below Drawing by Rolf Bolin