The MBL Embryology Course 1939 - Who's Who? Course Instructors

Each MBL course has a director, set of instructors who help develop the syllabus and deliver the lectures, plus occasional lecturers.  In 1939 the set of instructors and lecturers remained a fairly small group, though the number has grown immensely in more recent decades as the field has become more and more complex. 

Hubert B. Goodrich from Wesleyan University, an expert in fish development, served as director in 1939. He had been an instructor since 1918 and continued his leadership role until 1942. In 1939, Goodrich departed on July 10 for Bermuda to investigate tropical fish there. One morning in late July, students arrived at their desks, each to find an individually addressed post card from Dr. Goodrich with different images that made them feel they were practically cycling around Bermuda themselves.

Viktor Hamburger and Oscar Schotté served as instructors.  They had each worked on amphibian neuron development and regeneration in Hans Spemann’s laboratory at the University of Freiburg before immigrating to the United States. In Spemann’s laboratory, they practiced the classical techniques of experimental embryology, such as extirpation and transplantation, and became immersed in the organizer concept and its experimentation, for which the laboratory became well known. The Woods Hole summers allowed Hamburger and Schotté to teach what they had learned in Freiburg, while also reconnecting with previous colleagues and friends and teaching wonderful students.

The other instructors were William W. Ballard, a fish embryologist, and Donald P. Costello, who worked on comparative invertebrate embryology and became director of the course in 1950.  Costello's 1957 text, Methods for obtaining and handling marine eggs and embryos, became a standard for marine embryological work for years. In addition, the prominent scientist and former director of the MBL, Frank R. Lillie, contributed a lecture about his own research on feather development.

Among the students were budding embryologists some of whom later contributed to the course as well as the field significantly. Charles B. Metz from Johns Hopkins University eventually spent many years in Woods Hole, including a long stretch as an instructor for the Embryology Course (1942-1943; 1948-1952). John Philip Trinkaus from Wesleyan University later became an instructor for the course (1953-1957), and left two wonderfully detailed notebooks from when he was a student in 1939.