History - The Early Years

As first Director of the MBL and editor of the specialized Journal of Morphology, C.O. Whitman recognized the need for a more general zoological journal--specifically, one published in the United States which might eventually compete with the prestigious European journals of the day. He felt that an outlet was needed for brief, primarily descriptive scientific papers--one that would attract authors by offering them rapid publication of their work.

Word spread quickly about the new journal, and within a year the first issue of the Zöological Bulletin had been published with Whitman and Prof. W.M. Wheeler as co-editors. Five more numbers were published, and by the late spring of 1898 Volume I was complete. A second volume was published the following year. The papers included in these volumes were relatively short, descriptive works. Some very brief methods papers, consisting of a paragraph or two, were also included.

Although Whitman was the director of the MBL at the time, no official relationship existed between the MBL and the Zöological Bulletin. Apparently Whitman and others felt that both the journal and the MBL would benefit by a closer association between the two. In 1899 a new publication appeared in place of the Zöological Bulletin. The new title--The Biological Bulletin--placed the journal in an even more general market, and the statement, "Edited by the director and members of the staff of the Marine Biological Laboratory," clearly indicated the new journal's tie to the MBL.

Unfortunately, problems arose after the appearance of the first two volumes of The Biological Bulletin. Negotiations with Ginn & Company, the printer Whitman used for both the Bulletin and the Journal of Morphology, ended with Whitman's decision to contract with another printing company. Time was needed to regroup and reorganize the journal.

After almost two years of inactivity, publication of the Bulletin resumed in June, 1902, with the New Era Publishing Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania (now Lancaster Press) as the printer. The "new" Bulletin also had an appointed editorial board and a managing editor. The staff members comprised a very distinguished group: C.O. Whitman, E.G. Conklin, Jacques Loeb, T.H. Morgan, W.M. Wheeler, and E.B. Wilson--all notable scientists and founding fathers ofthe MBL. Heading the group as Managing Editor was Frank R. Lillie, whose term as editor lasted 25 years.

Upon resumption of publication, the Bulletin's editors made the following statement in a prospectus published in 1902:

"There is in America no journal that takes the place of the Biologisches Centralblatt or the Anatomischer Anzeiger in Germany, although there is an abundance of material to support such a publication. It is hoped that the Bulletin may occupy this field, and meet the need for rapid publication of results. . . the Bulletin will undoubtedly meet a real need; but the responsibility for its success rests with American biologists, and the editors, therefore confidently appeal to them fortheir support."

Eighty-six years later, it is apparent that the editors' appeal met with success. With the exception of minor printing delays--primarily occurring during World War Il--two volumes of The Biological Bulletin have been published yearly, with numbers appearing monthly to 1929 and bi-monthly thereafter. Through the years the tradition of quality publication has continued regardless of outside social or economic adversities. Each new editor--of which there have been six since Lillie--has brought his own expertise and dedication to the journal.

Following Carl R. Moore's brief term (1927-1930), Alfred C. Redfield became editor of the Bulletin in 1930. During his tenure, Redfield skillfully guided the Bulletin through the depression years. The country's economic climate had little effect on the journal, which remained financially sound and sometimes even showed a small profit. The number and quality of submitted manuscripts varied only slightly during that period. Redfield attributed much of the journal's success to the members ofthe MBL Corporation, who contributed forty percent ofthe original research articles published between 1930 and 1940.

Source: Clapp, Pamela L. 1988. "The History of The Biological Bulletin". Biological Bulletin 174 (1): 1-3.