The MBL Embryology Course 1939 - Introduction

In 1893, the Embryology Course became the fourth summer course offered by the Marine Biological Laboratory (following zoology, botany, and physiology). Initially requiring students to bring their own microscopes, beginning in the 1920s the course was equipped with instruments and served as an introduction to basics in experimental techniques and cutting-edge theories. On June 20, 1939, when the long-time course director Hubert B. Goodrich started the course with a lecture on the historical phases of embryology, he encountered what a story in the Collecting Net reported as “eager faces and poised notebooks.”

Half of the students in the Embryology Course were women, seeking a haven for scientific exploration when many universities were still hostile to female researchers. The late 1930s was an important time for embryology with exciting new techniques and concepts. Yet the 1939 course faced unusual challenges because the MBL had survived a violent hurricane in late September of 1938, which had seriously damaged several buildings. Fortunately, support from the Carnegie Corporation allowed restoration of the labs, and everyone arriving in the summer of 1939 appreciated the value of the laboratory with a fresh perspective and appreciation