Richard Y. Morita Papers, 1949-2005  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Morita, R. Y. (Richard Y.)
Richard Y. Morita Papers
1949-2005 (inclusive)
1.60 cubic feet, including 75 photographs, (3 boxes)
Collection Number
MSS Morita
The Morita Papers document the academic and research career of Richard Yukio Morita, a marine microbiologist who conducted extensive research on the effects of pressure, low temperature, and available energy on the physiology of marine bacteria.  Richard Y. Morita was a faculty member in microbiology and oceanography at Oregon State University from 1962 through 1988 and pursued an active research program as a Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Oceanography from 1989 through the 2000s.
Oregon State University Libraries, Special Collections and Archives Research Center
Special Collections and Archives Research Center
121 The Valley Library
Oregon State University
Corvallis OR
Telephone: 541-737-2075
Fax: 541-737-8674
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Richard Y. Morita was a faculty member in microbiology and oceanography at Oregon State University from 1962 through 1988 and pursued an active research program as a Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Oceanography from 1989 through the early 2000s.

Richard Yukio Morita was born on March 27, 1923 in Pasadena, California. He graduated from Pasadena High School in 1941. In 1942 the Morita family was forced to enter an internment camp; they were first sent to Tulare Assembly Center in southern California, and then to the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona. Richard Morita left the camp later in 1942 to attend the University of Nebraska, but was drafted into and served in the U. S. Army 442nd Regiment Combat Team in 1944-1946. Afterwards, he earned a B.S. in Bacteriology-Chemistry from the University of Nebraska in 1947, an M.S. in Bacteriology from the University of Southern California in 1949, and a Ph. D. in Microbiology-Oceanography from the University of California, Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1954, where he was the first Nisei (second-generation Japanese American) to graduate. He held several assistant professorships before coming to OSU, where he was an Associate Professor of Microbiology and Oceanography in 1962-1964. In 1964 he became a full Professor at OSU, a post he held until 1988. OSU granted him Professor Emeritus status in 1989. He also served as program director for biochemistry at the National Science Foundation in 1968-1969. Morita married Toshiko Nishihara on March 14, 1953 and they had three children: Sally Jean, Ellen Jane, and Peter Wayne. He was the likely the first Nisei in biological oceanography, and one of the first Nisei with academic rank in microbiology.

During his career, Morita was part of several large research expeditions. He was a microbiologist for three of them: the Mid-Pacific Expedition of 1950 (where he was the first microbiologist to study the deep sea), the 1952 Royal Danish Navy Galathea Deep Sea Expedition, and the Trans-Pacific Expedition of 1953. In 1962 he was an invited investigator for Expedition Dodo. Morita studied microbiology in extreme earth environments, including the polar regions and the deep sea. Some of his important contributions to the field include: the discovery of barophiles (pressure loving bacteria) with his mentor Dr. Claude ZoBell; demonstrating that enzyme reactions can occur over 100°C; the discovery of psychrophiles (cold-loving bacteria); the concept of starvation-survival in bacteria; and with Francisco Torrella, the discovery that the marine environment has many phage particles. The genus Moritella was named after him to honor his work in marine microbiology. Several significant awards he received include the Fisher Scientific Company Award from the American Society of Microbiology in 1988; a Queen Elizabeth II Senior Fellowship from the Australian Government, 1973-1974; a King Fredericus IX Medal and Ribbon for participating in the Galathea Expedition; a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship 1978, and an honorary membership in the American Society of Microbiology, 1990

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Richard Y. Morita Papers document the academic career and professional activities of Richard Yukio Morita, primarily his research in marine microbiology and marine ecology.  The Papers consist primarily of correspondence and also include biographical information, grant records, publication contracts, and photographs.  The correspondence includes extensive correspondence between Morita and his mentor and graduate advisor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Claude E. ZoBell, as well as other collaborators and scientific colleagues.  Correspondence and related materials document Morita’s numerous publications of journal articles, book chapters, and monographs.  Morita participated in some of the first expeditions to study the deep sea in the 1950s and 1960s.  These expeditions and the resulting scientific outcomes are extensively documented in this collection.

Materials documenting Morita’s research on the interaction of pressure and temperature on marine bacteria, microorganisms in extreme environments, and bacteria in oligotrophic (nutrient poor) environments form the bulk of this collection.

The biographical materials include an in-depth autobiographical essay in which Morita describes his childhood in southern California; his internment as a Japanese American during World War II and subsequent military service; and his education and career.  Morita’s numerous awards and recognitions are documented in the collection as well as his roles in the scientific community as a reviewer, consultant, journal editor, and organizer of symposia.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

Richard Y. Morita Papers (MSS Morita), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Series 1:  Biographical Information, 1953-2000Return to Top

Container(s): Box-folder 1.01

Series 1 consists of a complete Curriculum Vitae for Dr. Morita that lists all of the professional positions he held, his publications, honors received, awarded grants, and other aspects of his career; an autobiographical essay written in 1995 and updated in 2000; and a U.S. Government form “Statement of Personal History" completed in 1953. The autobiographical essay is of special note as Morita describes his experiences as a child and youth in southern California; his internment and later military service during World War II; and his education and career.

Series 2:  Correspondence, 1949-2005Return to Top

Series 2 comprises the bulk of this collection and consists of correspondence sent and received by Morita and associated documents and materials. The correspondence is arranged by project, publication, or correspondent and documents Morita’s research and publishing, scientific expeditions, and the long-term relationships he developed with his collaborators and colleagues. The series includes substantial correspondence with Claude E. ZoBell, Morita’s mentor and graduate advisor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Rita Colwell at the University of Maryland; and Francisco Torrella. The ZoBell and Colwell correspondence files also include extensive biographical information about those two scientists. The general correspondence pertains to publications, patents, and Morita’s research and also includes award nominations and tributes to Morita made at his retirement. Materials documenting his teaching and service at Oregon State University are also included in the general correspondence. This series includes 15 photographs, primarily photomicrographs.

Container(s) Description Dates
Bacteria in Oligotrophic Environments - General
Bacteria in Oligotrophic Environments - Permission to Reprint
Bacteria in Oligotrophic Environments Project
Biodiversity of Psychrofiles Project
Brochures and Certificates
1966 - circa 1995
Rita Colwell
Rita Colwell
Dodo Research Expedition on the Vessel Argo
Ian Dundas
Encyclopedia of Life Sciences Project
Galathea Deep Sea Expedition
General Correspondence
General Correspondence
General Correspondence
General Correspondence
General Correspondence
General - Publications of Articles and Book Chapters
Newspaper Clippings
Office of Naval Research
Proposal review process controversy.
Patent for Microbial Methane Production
Patent for Microbial Methane Production
Publications and Clippings
Task Force on the Forward Contamination of Europa: Space Studies Board
Task Force on the Forward Contamination of Europa: Space Studies Board
Task Force on the Forward Contamination of Europa: Space Studies Board
Francisco Torrella
Includes 14 photographs of specimens (photomicrographs).
Francisco Torrella
Trans-Pacific Research Expedition
U.S. vs. Milstein
Expert witness testimony.
Claude E. ZoBell
Includes 1 photograph.
Claude E. ZoBell
Claude E. ZoBell
Claude E. ZoBell

Series 3:  Grant Projects, 1964-1988Return to Top

Series 3 consists primarily of correspondence between Morita and agencies that funded his research – primarily the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The series also includes award notifications and grant accounting information from the Oregon State University Research Accounting Office. A few grant applications and revised budgets are also part of this series.

Container(s) Description Dates
Grant Projects
Grant Projects

Series 4:  Publication Contracts and Financial Records, 1962-1997Return to Top

Container(s): Box-folder 3.4

Series 4 consists of publication contracts and agreements, royalty payment statements, and related documentation and correspondence for book chapters and journal articles written by Morita. The series also includes requests to reproduce illustrations published by Morita.

Series 5:  Photographs, 1949-1972Return to Top

Series 5 consist of photographic prints assembled by Morita depicting himself, his scientific colleagues; and research activities at sea and in tropical settings, including Pago Pago. The series includes 60 photographic prints. All of the photographs (with the exception of 1 color print) are b/w. Some of the images are formal portraits and professional photographs; others are informal snapshots.

Container(s) Description Dates
Research Activities
Images depicting fieldwork in a tropical setting and a close-up of laboratory set-up on the Mid-Pacific Expedition in 1950 that includes S.C. Rittenberg and Morita; 3 prints.
circa 1950s
Morita and others
Includes a 1949 portrait photo of Morita; snapshots and other photos of Morita working in the laboratory; photographs of Morita with groups of colleagues, including Claude E. ZoBell; a portrait photograph of Claude E. ZoBell; and photographs of a research vessel and research being conducted at sea. 22 prints
1949 - circa 1970
Pago Pago
Snapshots of Morita and others at sea and in Pago Pago. 28 prints (1 color; 27 b/w).
U.S. - Japan Conference at University of Maryland
Morita was the principal organizer and a participant in the 2nd U.S.-Japan Cooperative Conference on Marine Microbiology in College Park, Maryland.  Photographs depict participants at the conference including Morita and scientists from the United States and Japan.  7 prints.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Marine ecology--Research.
  • Marine microbial ecology.
  • Microbiology--Research--Oregon.
  • Oceanography--Research--Oregon.
  • Psychrophilic bacteria.
  • Scientific expeditions.
  • Personal Names :
  • Colwell, Rita R., 1934-
  • Morita, R. Y. (Richard Y.)
  • ZoBell, Claude E., 1904-1989.
  • Corporate Names :
  • Oregon State University. Department of Microbiology.
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photographic prints.
  • Photomicrographs.
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Colwell, Rita R., 1934- (creator)
    • ZoBell, Claude E., 1904-1989. (creator)