Envisioning the MBL: Whitman’s Efforts to Create an Independent Institution - Securing Publications

Since it opened,he MBL has offered interactive, research-based summer courses in the life sciences to students and young professionals. Such a unique learning experience attracted both students and lecturers from all over the country and abroad. With its innovative teaching style, MBL summer courses in embryology and morphology quickly became  renowned. Additionally, due to the abundance and richness of marine life in Woods Hole and to the ease of access to fresh organisms,scientists flocked to the MBL, and the institution welcomed them. The wide range of students and investigators who came to the MBL during the summers, as well as the diversity of fresh organisms on which to work,  made the MBL a rich, vibrant, and exceptional community that helped shape biological disciplines at the turn of the twentieth century.

As biologists conducted their research at the MBL, Whitman faced the need for a platform where scientists could publish their results and make them available to the scientific community. Such a platform already existed, as Whitman himself had founded the Journal of Morphology while he worked at the Allis Lake LaboratoryL. However, the Journal of Morphology published only long articles, which according to Whitman allowed for clarity and therefore quality of the publication. This requirement resulted in high publishing costs as well as a slow turn around. To address such an issue, Whitman had established a second journal, the Zoological Bulletin, which published shorter articles with a quicker turn around. In 1899, the journal transferred editorship to the MBL and changed its name to Biological Bulletin. Ever since this transfer, the Bulletin has remained  a constant platform for the publication of MBL and other marine-based research.

With the acquisition of editorship, the MBL and thus Whitman, became responsible for the support of the Bulletin. In a 1900 letter to cell biologist Edwin Conklin, Whitman wrote: “As matters now stand, all one can do is to get as much as sympathy and support for the Bulletin.” With two journals on their side, Whitman and the MBL became increasingly influential in the biological community.