MSC History

The Marine Science Center (MSC) is located a short distance from the former summer cottage and marine laboratory of Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz, the founder of American marine biology in the mid-19th century. Agassiz was a pioneer in marine science education and he promoted the formation of seaside laboratories where students could “Study nature, not books.”

From 1823 until it burned down in 1861, the Nahant Hotel existed on the MSC property. This world-class hotel at the time had 300 rooms and a dining room that held 1000 people.  Nahant was a popular summer residence for many Harvard faculty (e.g., Agassiz, Longfellow, Felton) many of whom gave public lectures at the Nahant Hotel. John E. Lodge (married to Anna Cabot) purchased the property and two houses were built for his children Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and Elizabeth Cabot Lodge (wife of George Abbot James).

In 1941 the site was used by the military for the construction of defensive fortifications for Boston Harbor. The fortifications consisted of a 5-inch cannon bunker as well as a larger 16-inch coastal defense cannon bunker and associated plotting room and triangulation towers. A magnetic loop station to detect submarines was housed in two smaller bunkers near the tip of East Point. In 1954 a Nike missile launcher site was constructed along the southeast rocky coast of the point that is now Lodge Park.

In 1967, Northeastern University acquired the property and Dr. Nathan “Doc” Riser was appointed the first Director of the Marine Science Institute (now Marine Science Center) in Nahant, a position he held until his retirement in 1985. After his retirement, Doc Riser continued to conduct his research at the MSC until his passing in 2006.  The MSC developed into a world-recognized center of marine organismal research and education following Agassiz’s belief in studying nature and not just books.