The Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, began in 1888 as a haven for research and teaching in laboratory biology. It complemented the natural history work at the U.S. Fish Commission next door. The first director, Charles Otis Whitman, had taught biology in Japan and then at Clark University before moving permanently to the University of Chicago. Whitman supported Conklin’s work, publishing his dissertation in the Journal of Morphology that Whitman edited. In fact, the 226 page study of Crepidula cell lineage, complete with 9 beautiful plates, reportedly cost over $2000 and according to Conklin probably helped bankrupt the journal. Conklin loved telling stories about those times, and recounts the episode in his interview recorded just days before his death.
At the MBL, Conklin began as an investigator, then helped teach the Embryology Course for many years. He became a member of the Corporation and a long-time Trustee, returning each summer, bringing his family and many students to enjoy life in their house in Woods Hole. John Tyler Bonner fondly recalls the summer he spent in Conklin’s MBL office writing his own book about Morphogenesis and being introduced to the wonderful life of science and community in Woods Hole. Conklin loved this independent laboratory for scientists and loved to tell stories about his time there.