Mendel Newsletter letterhead

Table of contents
  n.s. 13 (February 2004)

Descended from Darwin: insights into American evolutionary studies, 1925-1950

Dr Levitt asked me to update readers on the historian’s conference to be held under the sponsorship of the Frederick H. Burkhardt Resident Fellowship in Evolutionary Biology. Preliminary information was provided in the last issue of Mendel Newsletter.

The conference will be held 22–23 October 2004 at the APS Library. We’ll focus on evolutionary studies in America, 1925–1950. This is the famous “synthesis” period, when developments occured which still affect biology. Our meeting will include two parts. Most important, Professor Michael Ruse (Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University) has agreed to deliver a evening lecture to highlight themes in the meeting. This will be open to Friends of the APS, scholars in the area, and the general public. Professor Ruse has longstanding interests in the subject and has written extensively on the history of evolutionary studies. He’s a charismatic speaker, too. We’re lucky to have him.

Second, we’ve organized a workshop. The synthesis period has been the focus of substantial new research and important new thinking. We’ll bring together a dozen specialists to discuss these developments. How does this change our vision of this period? How does it alter our sense of connection across the generations? We’ll have six sessions:

The Library is dedicated to promoting research opportunities for graduate students and has asked me to hold a few places open for those with interests in the period. Supervisors with suitable students should ask them to write me at the first opportunity. Updates will be available on

Finally, let me give special thanks to Professor Frederick H. Burkhardt for his generous support.

Joe Cain is Senior Lecturer in History and Philosophy of Biology at University College London.


The Situation in Genetics II: Dunn’s 1927 European Tour

Jenny Marie
University College London


In the February 2003 edition of Mendel Newsletter Joe Cain and Iona Layland reprinted a letter from Leslie Clarence Dunn recounting his tour of Russian experimental biology centers. This article follows on from that one, reprinting Dunn's account of the European genetic centers he visited in 1927.1

The letter includes Dunn's evaluation of the following genetic centers:

In Great Britain:Cambridge
John Innes
Rowett Institute
In Denmark:Royal Veterinary College
Carlsberg Laboratory
A number of breeding centers
In Norway:University of Oslo
In Germany:KWI für Biologie
Institut für Vererbungsforschung of the Landwirtschaftliche

More details about specific locations can be gained from the letters Dunn wrote throughout 1927 to his colleague at Storrs Agricultural Experimental College, Walter Landauer.2

Dunn's letter is addressed to the International Education Board's Director of Agricultural Education, C.B. Hutchison. The Board used travelling scholars to inform them of the current state of science at different centers. The information such scholars provided was very valuable to the Board because they had a policy of funding the best scientific centers. Dunn, himself, was an American geneticist who worked mainly with poultry while at Storrs Agricultural Experimental College (1920-1928). The combination of the International Education Board's interest in university science and Dunn's particular interest in poultry genetics appears to have affected Dunn's choice of centers to visit. In Britain, for example, Dunn did not visit a number of important plant breeding centers where genetics research was undertaken, such as the Welsh Plant Breeding Station, the Scottish Plant Breeding Station and the South East Agricultural College at Wye.3

Dunn's letter

Storrs, Connecticut / Jan 26, 1928

Dr. C. B. Hutchison, / International Education Board / 20, Rue de la Baume / Paris, France.

Dear Dr. Hutchison:

Here follows the second part of the report of my visit to centers of genetic research in Europe. The report on the Russian part of my trip already has been submitted.

In Great Britain I visited the Universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen including the Rowett Institute, Manchester, Cambridge, Oxford, Dublin, Belfast, Sheffield and Leeds, the Harper Adams Agricultural College, the John Innes Horticultural Institution at Merton, and the Rothamsted Experimental Station. If one considers genetics very broadly and includes, as is the rule in Europe, experimental embryology, physiology of reproduction and similar related subjects, then the most important center of genetic research would seem to me to be Cambridge, with Edinburgh and the John Innes Institution following. Except for some work at London and Newcastle (which I was unable to see), little work in genetics is under way at institutions other than those named. In England, however, amateurs, or men of independent means who hold no university appointment always have figured in research, and in genetics Hurst and Salamon are representatives of this type and are accomplishing a great deal.

I think the situation and the work in progress at Edinburgh needs little additional comment [to Dunn's letter to Hutchison of April 6, 19274]. The work of the Animal Breeding Department has been chiefly in the physiology of sex, but this is changing, and actual breeding experiments were begun during the past year. The present experiments are chiefly with rabbits (hereditary and nutritional factors affecting wool characters in Angora rabbits), inheritance of several traits in mice, and most recently, genetic experiments with Drosophila. Several people are studying interaction of endocrine and sex glands in fowls. Some good observational and experimental work with sheep is made possible by the cooperation of agricultural colleges and farmers.

There are several promising young men at Eding[b]5urgh. The work of Greenwood on sexual and endocrine interaction in fowls and of Roberts on inheritance in sheep seemed to me the best. As I wrote previously, the scientific growth of the men in Crew's department is hindered by lack of contact with other scientific departments.

This together with inadequate library and facilities for either breeding or laboratory experiments at present are the chief disadvantages for students going to Edinburgh for genetics.

At the other Scottish Universities there apparently is little activity in subjects related to genetics. At Aberdeen there is an excellent medical school and a good department of Natural History on the old model presided over by Professor J. Arthur Thomson. I [1/2] talked at some length with Professor Thomson, and found him a most interesting man and interested in all phases of biology. The newer tendencies in experimental biology, however, have not as yet found entrance or encouragement at Aberdeen. One very promising new development is the Rowett Institute near Aberdeen, where I spent an afternoon. This is a modern nutrition institute, very reminiscent of an American experiment station in organization and aims. It is studying problems in the chemistry of the nutrition of farm animals -- especially swine, sheep, cattle, and fowls -- and is excellently equipped with a quite complete library and a new field plant in which the conclusions from laboratory studies are tested under practical conditions. I found it much the most energetic and progressive of any research institution I visited, and one from which I judge much work of practical importance will come and in fact already has come. I could not avoid the impression, however, that its efficiency and organization are maintained at the cost of some sacrifice of individual freedom and originality on the part of the investigators. It will, I think, develop rather as a "testing" institute than as a "discovery" institute, although this is not to belittle its valuable contribution to the nutrition of poultry and swine. I make these comments because it already has become a center of a good type of agricultural research for Great Britain and for the Empire, because it eventually will become a part of Aberdeen University, and because its activities show at present a tendency to expand into other phases of agricultural research which may embrace some phases of animal breeding. It already is attracting many colonial and some foreign students, and should provide an excellent training ground for nutrition chemists who will work in laboratories of the same type.

I visited also some of the farms in Aberdeenshire which have for long specialized in the breeding of Shorthorn and Angus cattle and Clydesdale horses. I had an excellent impression of the intelligence and knowledge of the breeders, and felt that with their support Scotland should offer special advantages for animal breeding research as it has for the development of practical breeding methods.

I also had an opportunity to meet poultrymen, to visit one large poultry farm and several smaller ones. The large farm was one of the best managed and most successful poultry farms I have yet seen. A most commendable feature was the presence of a number of student apprentices who after completion of a short course at a Poultry Institute connected with one of the Colleges of Agriculture, are assigned to approved farms to complete their training. Certain farms thus become adjuncts of the agricultural colleges, and mutual advantages accrue, not the least of which is the continued supply of well-trained young people for work either on the farms or in the schools.

Animal breeding in Scotland (as is true also of other branches of Scottish agriculture) is conducted on a relatively small, intensive scale, which depends rather on the quality and value of the individual unit than on mass production. It is carried on with great care, honesty, and intelligence, and it seemed to me should in the future supply scientifically trained animal breeders as it has in the past supplied superior breeding stock -- and in this the farms will play a part not inferior to that of the universities -- although a [2/3] coordinating agency is greatly to be desired. Americans, especially those from the Northestern [sic] states where conditions are very similar to those in Scotland, may well be recommended to visit the Scottish animal breeding centers.

In England the most important center for genetics or animal breeding undoubtedly is Cambridge. I was impressed here more than anywhere else by the close and almost ideal relationship between university research and practical agriculture. Various persons and departments in Cambridge have been selected by the government and by agricultural associations as recipients of aid for research. Research is conducted as pure rather than applied science, but frequently employs agricultural animals and plants and considers actual agricultural problems, although these do not dictate the research methods or direction.

The most interesting work in animal breeding at Cambridge seems to me to center in the laboratory of physiology of the School of Agriculture under the direction of Professor F.H.A. Marshall, although the activating figure is Mr. John Hammond. Although most of the work is on the physiology of reproduction in animals, the present tendency of the work of this laboratory is to study in addition the problems of growth, fertility, and fecundity which have not yet yielded to ordinary genetic methods, and which seem to me to constitute at present the most important group of problems in animal breeding. There is at present in the School of Agriculture an excellent combination of men and environment for the study of such problems. The necessary departments of chemistry and physiology are well developed and coordinated; ample statistical resources under Professor Yule are at hand; the field and laboratory facilities for small animals, while not adequate, apparently are favorable and improving, and a large pathology and veterinary department under Professor Buxton is connected with the field laboratory. I was greatly interested in the fundamental techniques for dealing with breeding problems developed by Marshall, Hammond and their associates. Using the rabbit as material, the details of ovulation, fertilization, lactation, and fetal growth have been worked out; a considerable measure of control over some phases of reproduction has been obtained as a result of this knowledge, and by means of methods for obtaining and storing sperm, artificial insemmination [sic],etc., [sic] it is now possible to fix within limits such variables as number and size of young per litter. Similar techniques have also been applied to similar problems in the larger animals, especially in cattle, and work of considerable interest is now going forward with sheep and horses. The next step after obtaining some information and control over normal processes, is to study the genetic variables involved in fecundity, fertility, and growth, and these problems now are occupying more and more of the attention ot [sic] this department.

In addition to this group, Cambridge also is the oldest center of strictly genetic work in the narrower sense. Professor Punnett continues his genetic analysis of fowls, rabbits, and sweet peas while his assistant, Mr. Pease, is actively at work upon similar problems in rabbits, fowls, and the cabbage plant. Punnett himself confines his work rather narrowly to Mendelian analysis, and in this I include his study of linkage groups in the sweetpea and his present study of the linkage between fecundity and color genes in the fowl. Pease, on the other hand, shows a greater tendency to extend his work into the physiological field, and has the active cooperation of workers in [3/4] physiology and biochemistry.

One of the most promising developments at Cambridge, and one which bids fair to benefit the whole university community, is the splendid school of biochemistry, built up under Sir Gowland Hopkins. This now is housed in a fine new building, with ample facilities for work in biochemistry and physiology. The work which interested me most in this school is that of Dr. Joseph Needham and his wife, who are making very thorough and fundamental studies of the chemistry of development in the chick embryo. Needham is developing the new subject of chemical embryology, and has results which will be of great significance in interpreting the facts of growth and differentiation, and already has a bearing on the genetics of embryonic growth and mortality. At this institute also is J.B.S. Haldane, a chemist by training, but a geneticist in his interests. He is working on the chemistry of some mammalian colour patterns, and spends about half of his time at the John Innes institution, where he acts as consultant in genetics in succession to Bateson.

Other work going on at Cambridge of particular interest to geneticists is of course that of Biffen in plant breeding experiments, which I was unable to see in detail, of Herrst in genetical and cytological studies in the genus Rosa, and of Gray's laboratory on growth and development in fish. The general impression of Cambridge was one of great and stimulating scientific activity, especially in the phases of biology fundamental to genetics. With its combination of strong scientific departments unified by the University, an active research atmosphere, excellent library facilities, and nearness to London, Cambridge seems to me the best place for students in most biological subjects. It does lack adequate accomodations [sic] for breeding experiments with animals, although this is less serious than the absence of active encouragement of graduate study in genetics. I suspect Punnett is responsible for this, although I believe that if some facilities were provided, Punnett would welcome workers to Cambridge provided he did not feel himself responsible for them. He is essentially a lone worker, although a most cordial and genial man, and I judge a good teacher. It seemed to me time and again that a great deal of good could be done by the introduction of a geneticist of the newer type as a link between Punnett's department on the one hand and Marshall's and Biffen's on the other, with sufficient facilities and energy to start a graduate group in pure genetics. This would take advantage of an almost ideal background, and provide a cog in British genetics of which one feels the lack at present.

Oxford seemed to offer little of interest in genetics. I was unable to find there Professor J.A. Scott Watson, who apparently is interested in but not actively engaged in genetic research.

I spent one afternoon with Haldane and Miss Pellew, at the John Innes Horticultural Institution at Merton, on the outskirts of Metropolitan London. Although ostensible for horticultural research, the most active work is in pure genetics, with special emphasis on the cytology of plant hybrids. Here is gathered an excellent group of trained cytologists, headed by Newton, and including Huskins, Darlington, and several others. Genetic analysis is chiefly in the hands of [4/5] Miss Pellew and Miss De Winton, and has centered, because of the influence of Bateson, on problems of segregation, bud mutation, etc. I had the impression that the cytological studies had got ahead of the genetic ones, and that the Institute was much bet-ter for plant cytology (offering certainly the best opportunities in Britain in this subject) than for genetics. The Director, Sir Daniel Hall, who succeeded Bateson, is interested but not particularly trained or informed in the specialties under investigation, and it is to fill this lack that Haldane has been appointed to act as adviser, critic, and virtual director in the genetic phases. Under this arrangement the Institute should be an excellent place for advanced research, particularly since there now is an arrangement with the University of London whereby students may do research at Merton.

In the west of England I paid two calls especially in the interest of research in poultry breeding. The professor of zoology at Manchester, Professor Dunkerly, is much interested in poultry breeding, as chairman of a committee administering the Cheshire Poultry Station. Some work on inbreeding in fowls has been begun, not yet in a very serious way. The station is isolated, small, and has no resident scientific direction. I visited also the Harper Adams Agricultural College, near Newport, Shropshire, [in]6 which is located the National Poultry Institute and the oldest egg-laying contest in Britain. Due to some misunderstanding, none of the persons connected with this work were at the College when I called, so my impressions had to be gained from personal inspection and from helpers. The Institute has an excellent investigational plant for poultry, built and organized by Professor Thompson while on leave from the New Jersey Experiment Station, but there seems to be as yet no definite program of research. Students get practice in practical husbandry, but there is as yet no opportunity for advanced research. It is probable that this Institute will develop in its present direction, since the college is small, predominantly agricultural, and isolated. A new director now has been appointed -- Professor R.J. Parkhurst, of Idaho -- and it remains to be seen whether or not he will create at Newport the center for poultry breeding research for which the physical plant is ready.

At the few provincial universities which I visited (Leeds, Sheffield, Dublin, and Belfast), there is little active work in genetics. Dry at Leeds is doing some interesting morphological work on hair characters in mammals, and Cannon at Sheffield apparently is an excellent teacher and has a group of students interested in genetics without opportunities for research. At belfast [sic], Professor J.A. Scott Robertson is doing some good work on nutritional problems in poultry, and now is establishing an experimental plant for poultry research. In general, however, it probably is true to say that animal breeding research is confined to Cambridge and Edinburgh.

I was unable to see very much of the experimental work at Rothamsted, but I did gain an excellent impression of the work of Professor R.A. Fisher's department in biometry. Fisher seems to me the outstanding English worker in biometry as it relates to genetics, and is himself studying some purely genetic problems in mice. He is able to take an occasional student, and this would seem to me to be an excellent place for a graduate student interested in biometry.

I realize that this is a very incomplete picture of the situation [5/6] in Britain with respect to animal genetics. Although the centers of genetic research appear from this report to be limited in number, one should not overlook the fact that there is a very generally distributed interest in the subject, as evidenced by the large membership of the Genetical Society, and the large number of biologists who are actually involved in work bearing indirectly on genetics. This indirect interest has, I believe, a greater influence on the science than in America, for in Britain one notes fewer specialists and possibly a wider diffusion of knowledge and interest in genetics among men who remain biologists rather than genetists [sic]. I still feel that foreigners interested in genetics may very profitably spend long periods in Britain, and that those with almost any kind of special interest can be accommodated somewhere.

From England I went via France to Denmark, where my time was divided between Winge's laboratories and fields at the Royal Veterinary College, and a cursory inspection of poultry farms and breeding centers. At Copenhagen Winge and Clausen (now on leave in U.S.A.) have been very active in a wide variety of genetic and cytological work both on plant and animal material. I was interested chiefly in Winge's work on inheritance in the fish Lebistes, in which the peculiar type of X-chromosome inheritance is found, and in Clausen's excellent study of chromosome irregularities in viola species and hybrids. Winge now is beginning some very extensive breeding work with the inheritance of flower color in verbena, in addition to continuing his work on Melandrium, in which the x-y type of sex chromosome behaviour has been identified, as well as a character inherited through the Y-chromosome. His interests, however, are extremely diverse, including inheritance studies with many plants, as well as cytological studies of mouse tumors. He seems to have excellent facilities for work both with plants and with animals, and confines his attention to pure genetics, having little or no contact with problems of animal or plant breeding as such. Since Johannsen's death, Winge apparently is the chief geneticist in Denmark. Facilities are available for a few students, although I had the impression that Winge is not particularly eager to have them. I judge that Winge has a great ability in discovering problems of all kinds, and that his interests are extensive rather than intensive; and could utilize to good advantage students who would study intensively some of the many problems with which he is working. Copenhagen should be an excellent center for genetics, although on account of the natural limitations of a small country and a small university, it cannot be expected to compete in amount of work with larger centers. In Copenhagen also is the Carlsberg Laboratory, where Professor Johannes Schmidt has worked for many years on problems in physiology and general biology, including genetics. It appears to be a completely equipped biological institute, liberally supported by the socialized Carlsberg Brewery, but in the absence of Professor Schmidt, I could not get detailed impressions of it.

Thanks to Mr. Hans Folden, a leading poultry breeder and editor, I had an opportunity to visit a number of poultry farms and breeding centers. I found poultry-keeping very widely distributed and highly developed -- usually in small, carefully managed units. The breeding centers maintained by the cooperative societies are [6/7] used as centers for the distribution of pedigreed stock, as well as for demonstration. Two research stations have been established with the cooperation of the government. These were concerned chiefly with testing methods of feeding and management, and include as yet little serious research work.

In Norway I visited Professor Otto Mohr, of the University of Oslo, and Dr. Christian Wriedt, who then was government consultant in animal breeding, but now has gone to Stockholm to establish a research station in animal breeding for a private foundation. There is no provision for genetics as such in Norway. Dr. Mohr is professor of anatomy in the University, but devotes most of his time to research on Drosophila. He has cooperated also with Wriedt in genetic studies on dogs, sheep, and cattle, which have been made possible by the help of farmers and breeders. It is too bad that Mohr is unable to take students in genetics, for he is an outstanding investigator, and the first and chief Drosophila worker in Eastern Europe. Wriedt is a man of tremendous energy, and has been able to carry out important work with pigeons and farm animals only because he has been able to secure the cooperation of farmers and breeders all over Norway. He left Norway because the government itself would make no provision for work in animal breeding or genetics. In his new station near Stockholm he is to be associated with Dr. Gert Bonnier, who will work chiefly with fowls, while Dr. Wriedt will work with the larger animals. This promises to be a new center of animal breeding research. As yet I believe the new station has no university affiliation.

Finally I spent three months in Berlin-Dahlem, at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut für Biologie. The work of this institute and of the Institut für Vererbungsforschung of the Landwirtschaftliche, also at Berlin-Dahlem, is so well-known as to require little further description. I found conditions for work in genetics at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut almost ideal, the best I believe of any institute that I visited. Berlin and Dahlem represent the greatest concentration in men and facilities for work in genetics of any place in Europe – Cow[TT]7ens, Goldschmidt, Bann[ur]8, Nachtsheim, Hertwig, Schiemann, Brieger, Stern, Belar all are very active in a variety of genetic problems, and facilities both as to laboratories, animal and plant breeding space, libraries, etc., are excellent. I found the workers at both institutes most hospitable and agreeable, and appreciated especially the nearness of specialists in all fields of botany, zoology, and other sciences.

One disadvantage at Dahlem is the absence of a really complete library for genetics at either of the research institutes. The library at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut is much the better of the two, but the files of foreign journals for genetics are incomplete, and there are practically no books on the subject at all. This is more of an inconvenience than a real handicap, because in one of the other of the great libraries in Berlin one is able to find nearly everything necessary.

I was unable to visit other centers in Germany, except Halle, and here the work in animal breeding is of an old-fashioned almost pre-Darwinian sort, concerned chiefly with the phylogeny of domesticated mammals. There is, however, a fine collection of skeletal [7/8] material of domestic animals, and a small "Haustiergarten" where various pure races and hybrids of domestic animals are maintained. There is little actual experimental work at this institute, and I don't think that it will contribute much to genetics.

The two other places I had hoped to visit were Hannover (Dr. Krons[a] 9cher) and Hohenheim (Dr. Walther), where there seems to be considerable activity in animal breeding research, chiefly with farm animals.

As a summary, then, research in animal genetics is growing rather rapidly in Europe, although in numbers of persons engaged and in facilities it undoubtedly is still behind the United States. The chief centers seem to me to be Cambridge, Edinburgh, Berlin, and Moscow. It is difficult to rank these centers, but all things considered, Berlin seems at present the most important, with Moscow close behind.

If I were to choose again a place for graduate study in genetics, I think I should settle on Berlin, with Cambridge as second choice. The great advantage of Berlin, especially for an American, lies in the balanced biological group, in the somewhat different and broader conception of genetics that obtains there, and especially in the presence of such men as Correns and Baur.

This has been a long time in preparation, and I'm afraid I have lost sight of some of the chief facts which should have been included. If there are details which should be filled in, I hope you will let me know.

With best regards, / Sincerely yours, / L. C. Dunn / LCD:MWS


1. Dunn to Hutchison, January 26, 1928, folder: "Hutchison, CB [white folder]," Dunn papers, APS Library.

2. See the Landauer, Walter 1927 folders, Dunn papers, APS Library.

3. A survey of British sites for genetics research, 1900-1940 is given in Marie, Jennifer. 2004. The Importance of Place: A History of Genetics in 1930s Britain. PhD thesis. University College London.

5. Dunn to Hutchison, April 6, 1927, folder: "Hutchison, CB [manila folder]," Dunn papers, APS Library.

5. Added by Dunn.

6. Added by Dunn.

7. Added by Dunn.

9. Added by Dunn.

9. Added by Dunn.


Providing a Home(page) for Biological Sciences Researchers

Tom Beck, Director
Center for Biological Sciences Archives
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Inadequate provision for the records of the sciences is historic in the United States, but the new Center for Biological Sciences Archives (CBSA) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) has now become one of the few organizations dedicated to providing an overarching access to biological sciences materials. In addition, the CBSA intends to increase public understanding of the biological sciences through public programs and other forms of outreach.

In 1983, Understanding Progress as Process, the report of the Joint Committee on Archives of Science and Technology, declared that finding the location of scientific records was a very serious problem, but more difficult was that many records of long-term interest were not kept at all. The records had been disposed of either through neglect or through short-sighted policies.1 The report stated that: "The total situation is dangerous, for unless we can achieve a good, scholarly, and accurate understanding of how our society has evolved, we will be in poor shape to plan our future." Although the situation was considered discouraging, the report also stated that it was not hopeless if immediate and practical steps were taken. In 1990, a U.S. General Accounting Office report revealed that hundreds of thousands of magnetic tapes containing NASA space science data were deteriorating due to "deplorable" storage conditions.2 In the absence of an inventory, NASA did not know which data were preserved or lost. These two reports suggest that there has been awareness of the lack of adequate archiving and access to scientific records.

Two important organizations that have been devoted to preserving and providing access to records of science are the American Institute of Physics (AIP) and the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF). The AIP and its Center for History of Physics are legendary, and have served as models for other science and history of science organizations. Founded in 1931, the AIP evolved its Center for History of Physics during the 1960s to include a library that now holds more than 10,000 volumes, approximately 200 archival collections, more than 2,500 oral history interviews, and 25,000 photographs. The Center's mission is to preserve and make known the history of physics and allied sciences. It serves as a repository of last resort for some at -- risk archival collections, however, its primary focus is to work with other institutions to preserve physics related collections in the most appropriate repository. To this end, the Center provides grants for preservation and access to physics collections, and maintains a union catalog of primary source materials in the history of physics all over the world (the International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics and Allied Sciences -- ICOS). The Center's website provides access to their catalogs, photographs, archival finding aids, newsletters, physics history exhibits, and links to other physics related resources.

Similar in some respects to the AIP is the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Founded in 1982, the CHF was launched as the Center for the History of Chemistry in cooperation with the University of Pennsylvania and the American Chemical Society. It grew during the 1980s to include the American Institute of Chemical Engineers as an additional sponsor, and incorporated as a not-for-profit foundation. Its vast collections of books, journals, instruments, photographs, artifacts, and fine art took shape as The Othmar Library and The Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry. The Othmar Library holds 100,000 books and journals from the mid-sixteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries, and papers of such important chemists as Paul Flory, Carl Marvel, and Donald Othmar. The Beckman Center holds a vast and unique collection of chemical instruments and artifacts, fine art, photographic images, personal papers, oral histories and organizational archives. These collections form the foundation of the planned Roy Eddleman Research Museum at the CHF's current location in Center City, Philadelphia. The CHF Web site (3 One effort to provide access to biological sciences records was the partnership between the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society to survey and publish a 1980 report describing archival sources for researching the history of biochemistry and molecular biology.4 The project was intended to create a research tool, not a collection for historical research, since historians did not need more records, the project authors believed, but better access to existing records. Approximately 1,500 scientists and representatives of numerous institutions holding biological sciences archives were surveyed. The bulk of the report was an alphabetical listing of scientists and where their papers were held along with a subject index to the archival records. Because modern science is so largely institutionalized, most of the records were noted as being housed at universities, corporations, foundations, government agencies, professional societies, hospitals, and museums. While a valuable resource, it is available only in print, and no effort has been made to update this valuable records survey.

The Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) has a long history of preserving and providing access to biological sciences archives. An agreement signed in 1977 with the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) established the ASM Archives Book Collection as a separate special collection, and led to the establishment of the ASM Archives at UMBC in 1985.5 Other archives were added, including International Union of Microbiological Societies,6 Tissue Culture Association (now called Society for Invitro Biology), American Society for Cell Biology, International Union of Immunological Societies, American Type Culture Collection, Society for Developmental Biology, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, American Association of Immunologists, Society of Protozoologists, R.D. Allen Archive, Keith R. Porter Archive, Biophysical Society, Society for Industrial Microbiology, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI), and the Rita Colwell Archive.7 These seventeen archives represent a substantial basis for establishing the Center for Biological Sciences Archives at UMBC. Seven of these collections are fully processed, and finding aids are available from the Special Collections pages of UMBC's Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery at Processing of the others is ongoing while full funding for the CBSA is being sought.

The mission of the CBSA is:

to identify, preserve and provide access to manuscripts, personal papers, and archives generated by individuals and institutions involved in the biological sciences, including but not limited to cell biology, developmental biology, protozoology, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, tissue culture, immunology, ecology and evolutionary biology. In addition, the CBSA will encourage research, scholarship, and publication of writings on the history, policy implications, and social and cultural impact of the biological sciences. Programs concerning the archives aimed at students, faculty, and the public will be featured.

The CBSA is committed to providing of access to all materials that contribute to our knowledge of the history of the field from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries. To this end, the CBSA plans to work toward locating and identifying the important collections of biological sciences documents, and to work to insure that they are preserved at an appropriate institution and made available to researchers. In order to facilitate access to these scattered collections, CBSA proposes to create a national union catalogue or database. The CBSA will not only provide a home and access to the biological sciences archives at UMBC, but, more importantly, a homepage through which researchers may gain access to a great body of science records.

Additionally, the CBSA is profoundly committed to promoting the understanding of the substance of these archives through interdisciplinary programs and publications for undergraduate and graduate students as well as by faculty and off-campus scholars. Programs such as lectures, symposia, workshops, and research seminars will be offered. With the intent of bringing together scientists and non-scientists to reflect on the interstices of diverse disciplines and the biological sciences. The CBSA will serve as an intellectual center for considering from an interdisciplinary view the history, culture, and policy implications of the biological sciences. Web publication of papers presented, lectures given, and research reported would further enhance interdisciplinary instruction and research.


1. Clark A. Elliott, editor, Understanding Progress as Process: Documentation of the History of Post-War Science and Technology in the United States (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1983), p. 5. The joint committee was made up of members from the History of Science Society, Society for the History of Technology, the Society of American Archivists, and the Association of Records Managers and Administrators.

2. United States General Accounting Office, Space Operations: NASA Is Not Properly Safeguarding Valuable Data Mission from Past Missions: Report to the Chairman, Committee on Science, Space and Technology, House of Representatives (Washington, D.C.: General Accounting Office, 1990).

3. University of California, Berkeley's Bancroft Library established their Program in the History of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology in 1997, and lists several archival collections on their Web site (a href=""> They are committed "to serve as a national center for oral history and archival collections, and for research in the history of bioscience, bioengineering, and their far-reaching impact on society."

4. David Bearman and John T. Edsall, editors, Archival Sources for the History of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: A Reference Guide and Report (Boston and Philadelphia: American Academy of Arts and Sciences and The American Philosophical Society, 1980).

5. The ASM Archive is maintained and serviced by an archivist who is a full-time employee of the ASM. UMBC and ASM have a long-term agreement for holding the archive in the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery.

6. The archives of the International Union of Microbiological Societies are owned and maintained at UMBC by the ASM.

7. The Rita Colwell archive is split between the ASM and UMBC. ASM has her scientific and personal papers, while UMBC has her UMBI materials.


The Viktor Hamburger Papers and Reprint Collection in Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Garland E. Allen
Department of Biology
Washington University
The personal papers and reprint collection of noted developmental biologist Viktor Hamburger (1900-2001) were deposited in the summer of 2003 in the Special Collections division of the Marine Biological Laboratory/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (MBL-WHOI) Library in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The collection is catalogued and the list of correspondents, at least, is available for inspection on-line. With the Hamburger Papers being added to the already-existing collections of Charles Otis Whitman (1842-1910), founder and first Director of MBL, Frank R. Lillie (1870-1947), Whitman's successor at both MBL and University of Chicago, and the anticipated accession of the papers of Hamburger's close friend and colleague, Johannes Holtfreter (1901-1992) sometime in 2004, the MBL-WHOI Library is poised to become a major repository for archival material in the history of embryology.

Hamburger was born in 1900 in Landeshut, Lower Silesia, a German province that became part of Poland after World War II. On graduation from Gymnasium in June, 1918, he was drafted into the German army, and would have undoubtedly gone to the front had the Armistice not been signed in November. After attending the Universities of Breslau (now Wroclaw) and Heidelberg (where he took seminars with both Hans Driesch and Curt Herbst), he went to Freiburg to work with Hans Spemann (1869-1941), founder of the theory of embryonic induction and, specifically, of the capacity of the dorsal lip of the blastopore to induce the formation of the entire vertebrate axial system (what Spemann labeled the "organizer" theory). Hamburger received his Ph.D. in 1925, and after spending a summer at the Stazione Zoologica in Naples and a postdoctoral year in the laboratory of Alfred Kühn in Göttingen, he became a research associate in Otto Mangold's embryology department at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin-Dahlem (1926-27). The following year Spemann called him back to Freiburg as a Privatdozent in the Zoological Institute, where he was prepared to embark on a career in German academia. Other matters intervened, however. In 1932 he was offered a Rockefeller Fellowship to work in the laboratory of Frank R. Lillie at the University of Chicago, where he applied the tissue transplantation techniques developed in the Spemann lab with salamanders, to the chick embryo. While he was in Chicago the National Socialists came to power in Germany (January, 1933), and Viktor learned from the Rector of the University of Freiburg (the philosopher Martin Heidigger) that as a Jew he had been dismissed from his position. The Rockefeller extended his fellowship for an extra two years, and in 1935 he accepted a position (for an annual salary of $ 2,500) in the Zoology Department at Washington University in St. Louis, where he remained for the rest of his career. He received many honors, including election to the National Academy of Sciences and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was recipient in 1989 of the National Medal of Science. He received three honorary degrees, from Washington University, the University of Uppsala, and from Rockefeller University, along with numerous awards and prizes (see below).

In his research, Hamburger focused most of his career on developmental neurobiology, initially studying the effect of limb bud extirpations on the hypoplasia (decrease in size) of adjacent motor centers in the spinal cord. Follow-up experiments showed that transplantation of limb buds from one part of the embryo to another, produced hyperplasia (exaggerated increase in size) of motor centers near the transplant sites. It was this work that precipitated his invitation to a young Italian neuroembryologist, Rita Levi-Montalcini (b. 1909), to come to St. Louis to explore the problem with him. Out of this collaboration emerged the identification, and with the help of a young biochemist Stanley Cohen, molecular characterization of what later became known as nerve growth factor (NGF), for which Levi-Montalcini and Cohen were awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

The Hamburger Papers consist of a number of different types of holdings. There is, on the one hand, the originals of the many letters he wrote and received from colleagues all over the world, from his student days to the last year of his life (thus covering a period of about 75 years). Included in this group are letters to his family (principally his father and mother) during his time in World War I and immediately afterward, as well as during his years at the Universities of Heidelberg (1919 –1920), Freiburg (1922-1925), and a group of very interesting letters to his father after arriving at Lillie's lab in Chicago in 1932. For example, in one of the first from his new location, he describes American culture and experience:

It is interesting to witness here the further development of a middle-class world which has not been interrupted by an incisive war experience. All human affairs, social as well as private, are regulated by a belief in the rightness of liberal humanistic principles which WE have lost completely. One has arrived at a lack of prejudice in the matter of social standing, age, race and income which is really exemplary. It is the sound, reasonable basis of natural, informal relations between human beings. Life in the streets, in the family, in the work-place goes on in the smoothest possible way. . . . In all these months I have not heard a single unfriendly word! Along with this goes, of course, an innate pacifism and the notion — naive it seems to me — that among nations all differences in opinions and interests can also be regulated by compromise. I must admit that I sometimes miss in the life here a grain of salt, a bit of spice! But it is immensely gratifying to be surrounded by a social atmosphere which is free of intrigues and resentment. . . . I must admit that I sometimes miss in then life here a grain of salt, a bit of spice! But it is immensely gratifying to be surrounded by a social atmosphere which is free of intrigues and resentment. . . .It is clear that this well-displayed bourgeois atmosphere has its dark sides. The lack of intensity in all intellctual (spiritual—geistig) matters gets on my nerves. All complicated matters of the sciences, art and life are – with few exceptions – "solved" in a very superficial manner. Even intelligent people are satisfied with the most primitive conceptions imaginable. . . . The fait in reason is unlimited. They make so much use of it that they drive away all the good spirits which serve the muses. The parents rear their children according to psychological principles, after a psychological training. Marriage problems are clarified by statistical stock-taking. Hygiene, leisure, meals are regulated according to "scientific" research. In this way, the aura of the personal, original, conduct of life gets complete lost. But one is somewhat reconciled by the healthy, natural uncontrived naivité by which all this is handled.1

Even given the University of Chicago's special emphasis on the scientific study of social sciences, Hamburger could not have picked up on a more critical strain of progressivism in his characterization of how Americans go about their business.

There is also a revealing exchange of letters with his mentor, Hans Spemann (1869-1941), in one of which the latter explains why he (Hamburger) cannot come back to his faculty position at Freiburg because of the racial laws (as Hamburger noted, Spemann neither apologized for the action nor sayid he was sorry for the actions of the German government, but in the letter does offer to help Hamburger find a job abroad). Particularly valuable for modern English-speaking scholars, in his later years Hamburger translated many of these letters, often appending explanatory comments identifying individuals, places or events, and sometimes adding his own comments and reactions.

There are also extensive correspondence files with two of his closest friends and colleagues in the field of vertebrate development, Rita Levi-Montalcini and Johannes Holtfreter. The former range from letters in the late 1940s through Rita's sojourn to Rio de Janiero in 1952 to develop a tissue-culture-based assay for nerve growth factor (NGF), to the period of her receipt of the Nobel Prize and afterward. Hamburger's omission from the Prize, followed by what he felt were some rather insensitive remarks attributed to Levi-Montalcini in a widely-read Omni magazine article in 1987 (she claimed the remarks were distorted by the reporter), led to a strain in their relationship, though this was later partially repaired. What does emerge from the early exchange between them is the degree to which they collaborated and kept each other informed about the ongoing work on NGF. It was a true collaboration during the years 1947, when Rita first arrived at Washington University, through 1954 (the year of their last joint publication). After Cohen joined the project, Hamburger gradually withdrew from the day-to-day work, and moved on to investigate problems of neuronal death and the biogenesis of chick motility.

Particularly rich is the correspondence with Hotlfreter, which extends over a half-century, with the bulk coming from the time (early to mid-1950s) when they were collaborating on a chapter on amphibian development for the volume, Analysis of Development (edited by Benjamin Willier, Paul Weiss and Hamburger, Saunders, 1955). This correspondence is highly revealing of the very different styles and personalities of these two close friends (Holtfreter was more bold, imaginative and the romanticist, Hamburger the more reserved, logical, synthetic). Hamburger always claimed that Holtfreter, despite his erratic periods of feverish acitivity alternating with periods of Wanderlust and withdrawl from science, was the most innovative and brilliant experimental embryologist of the middle decades of the twentieth century.2 The exchange of letters concerning their joint publication provide a fascinating insight into the ups and downs of scientific collaboration!

A partial list of some of the other correspondents includes (with the number of letters in each folder provided in parentheses) Warden Clyde Allee (12), Fritz Baltzer (16), Karl von Frisch (26), Richard Goldschmidt (17), Ross Harrison (11), Walter Landauer (26), Rita Levi-Montalcini (92) F.R. Lillie (17),Jane Oppenheimer (145), Dorothea Rudnick (20),Francis O. Schmitt (30), H. Burr Steinbach (28), Curt Stern (15), Victor Twitty (24), Paul Weiss (22), Benjamin Willier (45).

In addition to correspondence, the Hamburger collection includes a variety of other sorts of materials that will be welcome to scholars concerned either with his own life, or with the lives of his German colleagues, both those who became émigrés and those who remained in Germany during the Nazi regime (such as his childhood friend and curator at the Berlin Museum of Natural History, Walter Arndt, who was executed by the Nazis for making unfavorable comments about the regime late in the war years), or the development of embryology in general, and neuroembryology in particular. Among other documents are a number of items from Hamburger's early life, including his passports and military papers, his university course records, lecture notes from courses he took at Freiburg, and his own lecture notes for courses he gave at Washington University and lectures outside the university (including radio talks and other popular presentations). There are also letters of commendation and plaques for the various awards he received from professional societies: The F. O. Schmitt Medal (1976), The Ross Harrison Prize (1981), The Horwitz Prize (1983), The Ralph Gerard Prize (1985), the Fidia-Georgetown Award(1987), and the Karl Lashley Award (1990).

Among the most interesting components of the collection are a series of autobiographical essays in which Hamburger traces the influence of his family background on his views of both nature and art, his friendships, his experiences in Chicago, the search for jobs in 1933; his ultimate decision to move to St. Louis, and especially his decade-long association with the Marine Biological Laboratory as an instructor, and later Director of the embryology course (1935-45). These notes also include a large number of recollections about his laboratory work, complete with references to his own and others' research.

A particularly revealing essay, "The Queen and I," traces in very candid terms, his long-standing relationship with Levi-Montalcini, their ups and downs, and the close friendship that characterized the early stages of their collaboration in St. Louis. She was as eager in 1947 to find a collaborator with whom she could discuss daily experimental results and ideas as was Viktor, who had no embryologist colleagues in his department with whom he could "talk shop." Their collaborative work on NGF began to reach its exhilarating point, in 1951, at a time when Hamburger's personal life was reaching a crisis: his wife, Martha, was beginning to suffer the first stages of what was later diagnosed as schizophrenia, so that, in Hamburger's words, "I needed support and distraction, and Rita provided both."3 The poignancy in the later pages of this essay, in which Hamburger details the way in which he felt Levi-Montalcini systematically eliminated discussion of his role in their collaboration on NGF, belies Hamburger's public statements that not being included in the Nobel Prize was of little concern to him. It was clearly a major concern, but from the archival sources it would seem that it bothered him more at a personal than professional level, more as a betrayal of friendship than as a lack of public recognition. But then there is, in the very recurrence of the topic throughout letters and the autobiographical accounts, a sense that the public aspect was nonetheless important, although consistently minimized. In such subtleties this archival collection abounds.

Information on the Hamburger Papers can be obtained from Jean Monahan, Administrative Assistant and Special Collections manager, the MBL-WHOI Library, MBL Street, Woods Hole, MA 02543. The Special Collections url is:


1. Hamburger to his father Max, 2. Hamburger, Viktor. 1996. "Introduction: Johannes Holtfreter, Pioneer in Experimental Embryology," Developmental Dynamics 205: 214-216. 3. Hamburger, “The Queen and I,” typescript, p. 5.


2003 acquisitions of the American Philosophical Society

Rob Cox
American Philosophical Society

C. C. Li died in October 2003, one week before his 91st birthday. A pioneer in human genetics, Li maintained a fierce focus on his science despite a life that saw him cast into the midst of the major global currents of the twentieth century, from world war to revolution, Communism, and totalitarianism.

Born in Tianjin in northeastern China, in 1912, the third of four sons in a well to do mercantile family, Li was gained a complete command of English from early age through his education at a British missionary school. Because his two older brothers had fulfilled their obligations by assuming management of the family tung oil export business, the scholarly Li was given latitude in his career choice, choosing academia. At the University of Nanking where he received his bachelor’s degree in agronomy in 1936, he developed a passionate interest in genetics, and after a year working with farmers near Beijing developing strains of sorghum, he followed the example of his older brother and pursued graduate study in the United States. After completing his doctorate in plant genetics at Cornell in 1940, Li remained in the States for another year to enhance his skills in mathematics and statistics at the University of Chicago, Columbia, and North Carolina State. Although this postdoctoral year was brief, it was personally rewarding. At Chicago, Li met a young woman from Wisconsin, Clara Lem, and after a brief courtship the couple wed.

Although Lem was the daughter of immigrants, she had been raised in the only Chinese family in town, and spoke only English. The decision to leave for China must therefore have been a difficult one for her, and would prove to be more so, given the events that soon transpired. In October 1941, the Lis left San Diego on a ship bound for China, expecting to begin a life in academia. The war, however, intervened. Driven by the threat of Japanese submarines to Australia and then to Java, their two week crossing of the Pacific turned into a seven week ordeal before the Lis finally arrived in Hong Kong. There, they boarded another ship hoping to join Li's family in Shanghai, but although they managed to get under way, their ship was turned back as the Japanese occupied Shanghai. Returning to port, the couple was left destitute and stranded on the Kowloon Peninsula when the Japanese stormed in. By this time too, Li’s was pregnant.

Although they were able to take shelter with a relative, the Lis quite literally had no food, and with the situation growing ever direr, C.C. made contact with an underground organization who smuggled them beyond the lines. For 38 days the Lis walked westward to Guangxi Province, his wife carried in a sedan chair. Their son Jeffrey died from dysentery at age 14 months.

Despite the hardships, Li was able to continue with his work, his interests shifting gradually from plants to population genetics and human genetics. He taught agronomy at the National Kwangsi University in 1942-1943, after which he joined the University of Nanking, and then, in 1946, the prestigious National Peking University. Despite being only 34, his reputation as a skilled teacher and researcher earned him the distinction of becoming the youngest department head at the university. His first book, Introduction to Population Genetics, appeared in 1948 to instantaneous acclaim both inside China and out. Looking back on the book in 1976, C. A. B. Smith called it an "elegant, clear, and simple exposition," and it seems clear, if nothing else, that the book played a significant role in promoting the teaching of population genetics.

Yet still, the Lis’ hardships continued. When it appeared that the Communists would take control of the country in 1949, the Li family debated whether they should leave. Accepting Mao at his word that the new government would respect property, Li’s father and older brothers chose to remain in China rather than emigrate, and by the time they recognized that the promise was hollow, the Li family business was no more. For C.C., the Communist victory proved costly in other ways. When Lysenkoist thought began to enter Chinese genetics from Russia, Li, the Mendelian, was denounced as disloyal and forced from his position as department head. The pressure on Li to conform continued even after his demotion until, as he had done in Kowloon, he recognized the need to escape.

In 1950, the Lis slipped secretly into British Hong Kong and began to work to obtain a position in the United States. His greatest assistance came from Hermann Muller, a member of the Committee on Aid to Geneticists Abroad of the Genetics Society of America, the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, and the International Rescue Committee, who used the clout that accompanied his Nobel Prize to cut through red tape and secure a visa for the Lis. Muller also recommended Li to Thomas Parran, the dean of the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, who was seeking a human geneticist for his new department.

Li's work at Pittsburgh centered on biostatistics and statistical methods applied to topics in the genetics of human health and the likelihood of hereditary disease. He maintained a remarkably consistent level of productivity throughout his long career, following his 1948 Introduction with number of other important books, including Population Genetics (1955), Numbers from Experiments (1958), Human Genetics (1961), Introduction to Experimental Statistics (1964), Path Analysis (1975), and Analysis of Unbalanced Data (1982). Although Li became Professor emeritus in 1975, he continued in active research almost to the time of his death.

The Li Papers, which will arrive at the APS in March 2004, provide remarkably detailed documentation of the dramatic life of C. C. Li from the time of his emigration to his death. The approximately 40 linear feet of manuscripts include sets of research notes, publications, and a full and detailed run of correspondence between Li and such colleagues as H. J. Muller, James Crow, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Sewall Wright, C. C. Tan, and Arthur Jensen. The correspondence and research files provide insight into Li’s interest in quantitative methods in population genetics and his decided -- almost single minded -- dedication to his subject, but they also give hints of his wry sense of humor. The collection also includes a number of printed works in Chinese on Lysenkoism in China and on various aspects of eugenics. With the exception of his correspondence with a few Chinese colleagues, particularly late in his career, nearly all of the manuscripts in the collection are written in English. We expect that the collection will be arranged and made available, though not necessarily fully catalogued by the end of the year 2004.

The APS received three other collections of interest to historians of genetics in 2003. University Professor at NYU from 1988 until her death in 1983, Nelkin was a prolific writer and social critic of contemporary science who was deeply concerned with the bioethical issues and the issues surrounding the public perception of science and technology. Among the 26 books of which was writer or editor are Dangerous Diagnostics: The Social Power of Biological Information (1989) and The DNA Mystique: The Gene as a Cultural Icon (1995). Her most recent book, The Molecular Gaze (2004) appeared posthumously in January 2004. The collection includes approximately 30 linear feet of material, with the largest portion consisting of course materials, with some scattered correspondence.

A Professor of Biology at Georgetown for 25 years, Otto Landman was an expert in microbial genetics. Born in Germany, Landman emigrated to the US in 1940, and after three years service in military intelligence late in the Second World War, studied at Queens College (BS) and Yale (PhD). After working in the Army Biological Labs as chief of the Microbial Genetics Branch for over a decade, Landman moved to Georgetown in 1963. Landman was mot widely recognized for his work on transfection and transduction in bacterial cells, the process by which genes, or viruses carrying genes, are introduced and effectively integrated into the bacterial genome. The collection is small and fairly incomplete, however it does include approximately two linear feet of grant reports, research notes, and selected correspondence, including a folder of correspondence with Joshua Lederberg.

Lastly, Joe Cain donated an extensive set of oral history interviews conducted by David Hull between 1973 and 1981 that formed the basis of his book Science as a Process. The subjects include some of the more prominent names in systematic biology and evolutionary theory at the time, including Walter Fitch, Alfred Emerson, Leigh Van Valen, Joel Cracraft. Gareth Nelson, Colin Patterson, Richard Lewontin, Bobb Schaeffer, George Gaylord Simpson, Sokal and Sneath, and Stephen Jay Gould.


Book review:

Lewis I. Held, Jr.
Imaginal Discs: The Genetic and Cellular Logic of Pattern Formation. Cambridge University Press, 2002 (xv+476 pp.)

Michael R. Dietrich
Dartmouth College

It may seem unusual to include a review of a new biology text in the Mendel Newsletter, but this is an unusual book with much to say to historians of genetics. Although this is a technical treatment of Drosophila development and genetics, Held is particularly sensitive to the history of his field. Held's readable and somewhat light-hearted approach to his topic weaves together the latest models of developmental genetics with surveys of past paradigms, puzzles, and paradoxes.

Imaginal discs are pockets of cells in Drosophila larva that will become the body wall and appendages of the adult fly. They have long been recognized as developmentally and genetically significant structures. Held structures his book around the adult structures determined by the discs; i.e., bristle patterns, legs, wings, and eyes. Each chapter provides a detailed overview of the contemporary science, which may put off the usually intrepid historian who is not accustomed to the jargon of molecular genetics. Embedded within each chapter, however, are lucid descriptions of the problems and models that characterized the preceding 90 years of research. Held's chapter on Bristle Patterns, for instance, includes a captivating chronology beginning with Calvin Bridges' initial description of scute mutations and ending with the contemporary work of Sean Carroll's lab. The intervening history includes H. J. Muller's well known work on scute mutants, but more significantly it traces the rise and fall of N. P. Dubinin's "Subgene Hypothesis" during the 1930s as well as Curt Stern's influential Prepattern Hypothesis from the 1950s. Held's chronology is not a well developed history nor is it intended to be. However, Held's chronology reveals the richness of the discussion in developmental genetics throughout the twentieth century. Indeed, Held's book discusses over 75 different models deployed in Drosophila developmental genetics and has an exhaustive bibliography with almost 5000 entries.

For the historian interested in developmental genetics, Held's book is an invitation to further research. Held's perspective on his field provides valuable insight into the formulation of spatial models of gene expression and regulation and into their eventual molecularization. As a student of Curt Stern's, Held does an admirable job of placing Stern's work in an historical trajectory. Despite the marvelously complete set of papers left by Stern in the APS archives, Held's account is the best we have of Stern's important work on developmental genetics and pattern formation. Indeed, Held's Imaginal Discs is reminiscent of Stern's historical and scientific overview, Genetic Mosaics and Other Essays, published in 1968. If nothing else, hopefully Held's account of his field will inspire historians to revisit Stern's ideas of genetic mosaics and the careful path he attempted to trace between the views of A. H. Sturtevant and Richard Goldschmidt.


Research Notices

This column provides a forum for researchers to post inquires regarding sources for on-going projects in the history of genetics and history of biology more generally. Please respond directly to individual notices. Notices may be contributed to the Editor of the Mendel Newsletter at

Representing Gene Project -- Online Survey

Paul Griffiths
University of Pittsburgh

This research project, funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh, aims to investigate how concepts of the gene and of gene action are evolving to fit current knowledge of the complexities of genomic structure, gene regulation, post-transcriptional processing, and development.

A major part of the project is an online survey of biological researchers designed to gather data on how researchers in different fields deal with a range of recently discovered and problematic genetic phenomenon. The survey is posted at

Although survey responses are anonymous there is an opportunity to request an information package of annotated bibliographies, and to request notification of the published results in due course.

Further information about the Representing Genes Project is available at

Johannes Holtfreter Correspondence

Michael Dietrich
Dartmouth College

I am seeking correspondence to, from, or about German biologist, Johannes Holtfretter. Holtfretter was a leading embryologist who trained with Hans Spemann at Freiburg. He left Germany during the Nazi Period and moved from England to Canada to Rochester, NY where he passed away in 1992. I am especially interested in Holtfretter's experience as an émigré and his work in the 1930s and 1940s. His papers from Germany are reported as lost. Any information regarding any correspondence would be greatly appreciated.

"Women in the Early History of Genetics"

Marsha Richmond, Associate Professor
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
Wayne State University

Readers of the Mendel Newsletter are well aware of the growing body of excellent studies highlighting the early history of genetics. Nonetheless there remains a significant gap in our understanding of the development of this discipline: knowledge about the women who contributed to the new field.

It would be wrong to assume that few women became "geneticists." The emergence of genetics occurred at a time when increasing numbers of women earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology. Hence, many were poised to undertake advanced research and even pursue a career in science. As the President of the University of Chicago stated in 1901, "The women now being graduated, with the Doctor's degree, from our strongest institutions, are, in almost every particular, as able and as strong as the men. If opportunity were offered, these women would show that they possess the qualifications demanded." In comparison to many scientific specializations, however, genetics offered several opportunities for women. At the Department of Genetics at Cold Spring Harbor, for example, a steady stream of women became assistants and collaborators (See photo.) Even the Morgan group at Columbia included women in the "outer," if not the "inner sanctum" of "the boss and the boys."

I am currently collaborating with Ida Stamhuis (Amsterdam) and Elena Aronova (Moscow) on a book project to provide an international perspective of women's participation in early genetics. I am working on the American and British women, while Dr. Stamhuis is studying the European and Scandinavian women and Dr. Aronova Russian women geneticists. Research at the APS genetics collection last August resulted in my identification of over 50 American women who, in one capacity or another, participated in genetics research between 1900 and 1935 -- some as assistants; others as Ph.D.s with significant records of publication. In Britain, in addition to the women who worked with William Bateson in Cambridge and at Merton, I have identified a small group of British women working in early genetics.

Because there is generally a meager "paper trail" associated with these women, finding information about their careers is difficult. Hence, I would greatly appreciate information from those who might have run across information about women through their archival work or research on a particular geneticist. Also helpful would be suggestions about possible sources for gleaning such information. Not only does this study promise to expand our knowledge of women in science, but also to provide a fuller picture of the entire working community -- not simply the leading figures -- that contributed to the rapid advances of early twentieth century genetics.