The Marine Biological Laboratory - Select Scientific Notables (1888 through 1950)

Over the years, thousands of scientists have conducted research at the MBL. From ecology to zoology, from gene regulation to population dynamics, cutting-edge researchers have spanned the life breadth of the life sciences within MBL laboratories. Too many leading investigators to list have been a part of the MBL community. The following is a small fraction of the great minds who have passed through MBL.

Charles Otis Whitman (1842-1910)

Charles Otis Whitman served as the first director of the MBL from 1888-1907. Known for his pioneering work in cell-lineage studies, Whitman attracted young and vibrant investigators like Thomas Hunt Morgan, Edmund Beecher Wilson, Edwin Grant Conklin, and Frank Rattray Lillie, to join him at the MBL. These individuals not only became directors and trustees of the MBL, they also pioneered American cell biology and embryology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945)

Thomas Hunt Morgan won the Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine in 1933 for his discoveries of the roles that chromosomes play in heredity. Although his most famous research is on the genetics of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, early-on in his career, Morgan conducted experiments on all sorts of marine species he found around the MBL, asking questions about inter-species hybridization, regeneration, and self-fertilization.

Cell Lineage: Edward Beecher Wilson (1856-1939) & Edwin Grant Conklin (1863-1952)

Following Whitman's example of studying the development of organisms from their earliest stages, Edmund Beecher Wilson and Edwin Grant Conklin pioneered cell and developmental biology in the U.S. Wilson authored one of the most famous modern textbooks, called The Cell, and co-discovered the chromosomal basis for sex determination in 1905 (Nettie Stevens independently discovered the basis of sex determination that same year). Conklin, on the other hand, was honored by the Society for Developmental Biology with an annual medal given in his name to "recognise a member of the society who has carried out distinguished and sustained research in developmental biology."

Jacques Loeb (1859-1924)

Jacques Loeb is a noted physiologist and biologist. He worked in the newly-founded Biology Department at the University of Chicago, under Charles Otis Whitman, from 1892 to 1902. Throughout much of his career, Loeb spent his summers at the MBL, where he conducted some of his most famous experiments on artificial parthenogenesis--the ability of eggs to begin embryonic development within fertilization by sperm.

Neurobiologists: John Z. Young (1907-1997) & Haldan Keffer Hartline (1903-1983)

In the 1930s, John Z. Young worked on understanding signal transmission in the nervous system. Throughout the course of his research, he rediscovered the squid giant axon (it was actually discovered by L.W. Williams at the MBL in 1909, but was promptly forgotten after he died shortly thereafter in an elevator accident at Harvard). Young's work on the signal transmission and nerve fiber structure of the squid giant axon inspired the work of Andrew Huxley and Alan Hodgkin for which they received a Nobel prize in 1963. Haldan Keffer Hartline worked at the MBL, using marine invertebrates to investigate the neurophysiological mechanisms of vision. While at the MBL one day in 1933, Hartline hooked up his recording rig to a young Limulus (horseshoe crab) and became the fisrt person to record the electrical impluses from a single optic nerve fiber when it was stimulated by light. His research on the neurophysiology of vision earned him a Nobel prize in 1967. The squid and the horseshoe crab have remained highly important and influential species for neurobiological research throughout the intervening years.

Viktor Hamburger (1900-2001)

Viktor Hamburger trained in embryology under Nobel prize winner Hans Spemann at the University of Freiburg. Beginning in 1937, Hamburger worked as an instructor in the MBL's embryology course (he acted as the course's director from 1942-1945) for nine years. Hamburger was a notable embryologist, who developing laboratory training manuals, normal stages (for chicks), and contributed to the discovery of Nerve Growth Factor, for which his collaborators, Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen, won a Nobel prize in 1956.

Shinya Inoué (1921-present)

Shinya Inoué is a biophyscist and microscopist who developed one of the first microscopes capable of live-imaging cellular processes, using polarized light, and showed that the mitotic spindles are composed of aligned protein fibers.

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1948-1988)

Albert Szent-Gyorgi founded the Institute for Muscle Research in 1947. In 1937 he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovery of Vitamine C. In addition to science work was politically active and active in the resistance in Hungary during WWII. A Very important national hero of Hungary.Was offered the presidency of Hungary before he moved to the United States after WWII (Nobel Prize ND).