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Thomas Hunt Morgan

Thomas Hunt Morgan: Pioneer of Genetics

Foreword by George W. Beadle
Copyright Date: 1976
Edition: 1
Pages: 188
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    Thomas Hunt Morgan
    Book Description:

    For most of his fellow Kentuckians, the accomplishments of Thomas Hunt Morgan have been overshadowed by the Civil War exploits of his uncle, the Confederate raider.Thomas Hunt Morgan: Pioneer of Geneticsshows that feats performed on the frontiers of science can be as exciting as battlefield heroics, and that the "other Morgan" was as colorful a man as the general.

    Thomas Hunt Morgan's most noted work, done between 1910 and 1920 at Columbia University, revealed many of the secrets if genetics. Studying hundreds of generations of the fruit flyDrosophilia melanogaster, he and the other scientists in the laboratory called the Fly Room made basic discoveries about chromosomes and the mechanism of inheritance. For these discoveries, which profoundly affected biological theory, Morgan was awarded a Nobel Prize -- the first ever given for research in genetics.

    Morgan was interested in many other problems in biology as well. His embryological and regeneration studies were of fundamental importance, and they too bear the mark of a scientist convinced that nature herself will provide answers to the fundamental questions of life, provided that a suitable experimental approach can be devised. Yet, despite his deep-rooted connections to Kentucky and his achievements as a Nobel prize-winning scientist, Thomas Hunt Morgan remains one of the least-known famous Kentucky sons.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5058-1
    Subjects: History, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    George W. Beadle

    Shine and Wrobel’s masterly work will surely long stand as the definitive biography of Thomas Hunt Morgan the man, citizen, scientist, teacher, collaborator, administrator, husband, parent, and friend. But it is far more than that, for it also chronicles the early history of this century’s most significant research achievement in the biological sciences. Morgan, during the more than five decades of his academic career, not only himself contributed notably to that achievement but also provided opportunity for others to further the work.

    My own association with him began when he was in his mid-sixties—retirement age for most people, but...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    (pp. 1-15)

    In 1933, at the climax of a life full of awards and honors, Thomas Hunt Morgan was given the Nobel Prize in “Medicine or Physiology” for his contributions to the chromosome theory of inheritance. He and his coworkers in the “Fly Room” at Columbia University had established the foundations of a new science called genetics, which was to revolutionize modern biology.

    Morgan took this latest honor with the same nonchalance as he took the honorary degrees stuffed in desk drawers and the elaborately inked awards fallen behind bureaus. His colleagues at the California Institute of Technology (where he had gone...

  6. 2 HOPKINS
    (pp. 16-30)

    While waiting for Johns Hopkins University’s fall semester to begin in 1886, nineteen-year-old Tom Morgan began his study of marine biology at a small summer school located on an inlet of Ipswich Bay, Massachusetts. Individual instruction, at a dollar a week, was keyed to the teaching or research interests of the thirteen men and thirteen women enrolled. Since the school at Annisquam was to become the nucleus of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole the following year, and since the MBL was a cooperative effort that involved Hopkins biology faculty, Morgan may well have been steered to Annisquam to...

  7. 3 BRYN MAWR
    (pp. 31-45)

    Bryn mawr college had been founded by Quakers in 1885 to offer advanced education for women comparable to that “so freely offered to young men.” And though Morgan was leaving the totally male Hopkins for the totally female (except for the faculty) Bryn Mawr, he should have felt at home. Not only did he succeed his fellow Hopkins alumnus, Wilson, but so many Hopkins men were among the school’s first trustees and teachers that it was aptly labeled “the Miss Johns Hopkins” or “Janes Hopkins.” Its academic program was closely modeled after Hopkins’s. Certainly Bryn Mawr was as close as...

    (pp. 46-62)

    The twentieth century began explosively. For almost 2,000 years Christianity had been the main source of creativity; in the eighteenth century it was supplemented by the observation of nature. And then along came chemistry and physics and genetics. Radium, a new element that emitted unknown rays, was discovered; atoms were found to be made up of smaller bits; even energy was found to be made up of bits; and light became pliable. In 1839 it had been discovered that all living things were made up of bits, called cells, all of which had been begotten by other cells and so...

    (pp. 63-80)

    Bateson’s oft-quoted dictum Treasure Your Exceptions is difficult advice. Exceptions are easy to treasure once recognized; the trick is to recognize them. Without knowing what to expect, perhaps expecting large mutations of the type DeVries found in Lamarck’s primroses,Drosophilaworkers found it hard to recognize tiny changes in wing shape or eye color as mutations. To get an idea of how hard it is to spot mutations in a fly a quarter of an inch long, try to see how many you can spot on the greatly magnifiedDrosophilagynandromorph in Figure 3.¹ Certainly Woodward, who bredDrosophilafor...

  10. 6 THE FLY ROOM
    (pp. 81-92)

    The name thomas Hunt Morgan appeared likely to live in history, his father’s wish. And when family regretted the absence of descendants bearing the name (since Morgan’s only son’s children were daughters), they recalled the remark of Morgan’s step-grandson James Mountain: “Praise the name and pass the genes along.” What is more important than either, however, is the cultural heritage that Morgan passed on to scores of young geneticists.

    He had gathered around him a group of students remarkable for their intelligence and ability to work both individually and as part of the team. Morgan could have had his pick...

    (pp. 93-111)

    The first fifteen years at Columbia were the most fruitful of Morgan’s professional career, and the most obsessive. He had always been an extremely hardworking man, with a clear perception of priorities, but once he saw the white-eyed fly his life calcified into even more unrelenting patterns. His first and best, and sometimes last, energies went to his work.

    And yet this same period encompassed the first years of his marriage, the birth and childhood of four lively children with as vast a collection of pets as could be expected from the offspring of two naturalists, the buying of one...

  12. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. 8 CALTECH
    (pp. 112-130)

    In 1928, at a reception given for him as the new head of the biology division at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Morgan explained, “Of course I expected to go to California when I died, but the call to come to the Institute arrived a few years earlier, and I took advantage of the opportunity to see what my future life would be like.”

    The call was to organize and direct a completely new school of biology. California Institute of Technology had grown out of the nineteenth-century Throop Polytechnic Institute, a manual training school. During the years after...

    (pp. 131-136)

    Biographies inevitably concentrate on one individual’s genius, while the development of ideas is vastly more complex and interwoven. The following list of achievements really belongs to the team of which Morgan was the undisputed Boss. Through a series of fascinating, audacious, yet simple experiments, the team:

    1) demonstrated the physical reality of the gene as part of the chromosome;

    2) confirmed Mendel’s laws;

    3) rediscovered ‘linkage,’ an exception to Mendel’s laws, and crossing over, and double crossing over, exceptions to linkage;

    4) discovered the linear order of genes whose relative position could be fixed and the distance between them measured...

  15. Chronology
    (pp. 137-140)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 141-146)
  17. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 147-156)
  18. Index
    (pp. 157-160)