In 1928, Ernest Everett Just wrote a series of articles for the MBL’s summer circular the Collecting Net in which he detailed how to collect, care for, and manage the embryos of local marine fauna commonly used in embryological research. In this article, he noted the central importance of collecting work to the investigator:
The proper collecting and care of the animals after collecting are therefore essential for embryological work. The collector is as important as the investigator himself, and his importance increases with the number of investigators he supplies. The success of a marine laboratory in the greatest degree thus rests with the collecting staff.
Just followed up on his 1928 Collecting Net series with a book that shared similar methodological details (as he did in the 1928 series) titled Basic Methods for Experiments on Eggs of Marine Animals, published in 1939.
Methods for Obtaining and Handling Marine Eggs and Embryos, published in 1957, directly descended from Just’s sentiment about the importance of collecting work to the scientific investigator. The book started as a project in 1940 by Viktor Hamburger, who was noticing that much of the local knowledge base (older investigators like E.B. Wilson, E.G. Conklin, and C.M. Child) were beginning to dwindle in number. In 1930, the local Supply Department director and collector George Gray had retired. So, E.E. Just had started the conversation, but Hamburger continued it by garnering institutional support through the MBL Embryology course combined with the help of Supply Department workers like James McInnis, who had taken over as head of that department in 1933.
While Methods was a survey of the species available for research, it was also very commonly used as a reference guide by embryological researchers in the Woods Hole region. As a list or survey, it was similar to Verrill’s List and the 1913 survey published by Sumner, Osburn, and Cole. However, it differed dramatically from the first two by outlining methods of dealing with marine fauna in terms clearly relevant to MBL embryological investigators. While Sumner, Osburn, and Cole had systematized their survey to become useful for collectors, this volume combined information that was already in the species-specific index cards into short excerpts detailing where to find the animal, when it breeds, how to handle and care for it, and (probably most important for embryology) how its normal development proceeds.