What Was Thomas Hunt Morgan’s Main Contribution to Science

What Was Thomas Hunt Morgan’s Main Contribution to Science

Thomas Chase Morgan and his legacy

by Edward B. Lewis
1995 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine

Thomas Chase Morgan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933. The work for which the prize was awarded was completed over a 17-twelvemonth menstruum at Columbia Academy, commencing in 1910 with his discovery of the white-eyed mutation in the fruit fly,

Morgan received his Ph. D. degree in 1890 at Johns Hopkins University. He then went to Europe and is said to accept been much influenced by a stay at the Naples Marine Laboratory and contact in that location with A. Dohrn and H. Driesch. He learned the importance of pursuing an experimental, as opposed to descriptive, approach to studying biology and in particular embryology, which was his main interest early in his career. A useful account of Morgan’s life and works has been given by G. Allen (ref. 1).

Thomas Hunt Morgan

Thomas Hunt Morgan with wing drawings.

Courtesy of the Caltech Archives. © California Institute of Technology. All rights reserved. Commercial utilize or modification of this material is prohibited.

In 1928 he moved with several of his group to Pasadena, where he joined the faculty of the California Constitute of Technology (or Caltech) and became the offset chairman of its Biological science Segmentation. What factors were responsible for the successes that Morgan and his students achieved at Columbia University and how did these factors carry over to the Caltech era first nether Morgan’due south, and later G.W. Beadle’s leadership? It is convenient to consider 3 fourth dimension periods:

Morgan and the Columbia Period (1910 to 1928)

Morgan attracted extremely gifted students, in particular, A.H. Sturtevant, C.B. Bridges, and H.J. Muller (Nobel Laureate, 1946). They were to detect a host of new laws of genetics, while working in the “Fly Room,” in the Zoology Department at Columbia.

Throughout their careers Morgan and these students worked at the bench. The investigator must be on top of the enquiry if he or she is to recognize unexpected findings when they occur. Sturtevant has stated that Morgan would often comment virtually experiments that led to quite unexpected results: “they [the flies] will fool yous every time.”

Morgan attracted funding for his enquiry from the Carnegie Establishment of Washington. That organization recognized the bones research graphic symbol of Morgan’southward work and supported inquiry staff members in Morgan’southward group, such as C.B. Bridges and Morgan’s artist, Edith Wallace, who was also curator of stocks. The Carnegie grants required nothing more than an annual report from the investigators. Federal support had not nevertheless started and although universities were able to finance costs associated with pedagogy they were usually unable to support basic research.

Bridges, Reed, Morgan, Sturtevant, Wallace

C. Bridges, P. Reed, T.H. Morgan, A.H. Sturtevant, E.M. Wallace.

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During the Columbia period Morgan was clearly in his prime. His style of doing science must have been of paramount importance. He was non agape to challenge existing dogma. He had go dissatisfied, even skeptical, of the formalistic treatment that genetics had taken in the period between the rediscovery of Mendelism in 1901 and 1909. He ridiculed explanations of breeding results that postulated more and more than hereditary factors without any way of determining what those factors were. He wanted to know what the physical basis of such factors might exist. At that time it was generally assumed that chromosomes could not be the carriers of the genetic information. He wanted a suitable creature and chose
because of its short life cycle, ease of culturing and high fecundity. Also, big numbers of flies could exist reared inexpensively — an of import factor during this period when there were very few funds available to support basic research. Morgan was very thrifty when it came to purchasing laboratory equipment and supplies — merely, according to Sturtevant, generous in providing financial help to his students. At the offset of the piece of work hand lenses were used. Only later did Bridges introduce stereoscopic microscopes. Bridges likewise devised a standard agar-based culture medium. Prior to that, flies were merely reared on bananas. In addition, Bridges built the basic drove of mutant stocks, mapped virtually all of the genes and later, at Caltech, drew the definitive maps of the salivary gland chromosomes. His enormous research output may in role be attributed to his being a staff member of the Carnegie Foundation with consequent liberty from teaching and other academic obligations.

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Morgan’south first attempts to find tractable mutations to report were quite disappointing. Fortunately, he persevered and constitute the white-eyed flyane. This led to his discovery of sexual practice-linked inheritance and soon with the discovery of a 2d sexual practice-linked mutant,
he discovered crossing over.

H. Sturtevant in the Drosophila stock room

H. Sturtevant in the
stock room of the Kerckhoff Laboratories.

Courtesy of the Caltech Athenaeum. © California Institute of Engineering science. All rights reserved. Commercial use or modification of this textile is prohibited.

Sturtevant (ref. 2) has described how chromosomes finally came to exist identified as the carriers of the hereditary material. In a chat with Morgan in 1911 almost the spatial relations of genes in the nucleus, Sturtevant, who was still an undergraduate, realized that the sex-linked factors might be bundled in a linear gild. He writes that he went home and spent the night amalgam a genetic map based on five sexual activity-linked mutations that past then had been discovered. In 1912 Bridges and Sturtevant identified and mapped two groups of autosomal (not sex-linked) factors and a third such grouping was identified by Muller in 1914. The 4 linkage groups correlated nicely with the iv pairs of chromosomes that
was known to possess. Proof that this correlation was not accidental came when Bridges used the results of irregular segregation of the sex chromosomes (or not-disjunction) to provide an elegant proof that the chromosomes are indeed the bearers of the hereditary factors or genes equally they are at present known. Bridges published this proof in 1916 in the beginning paper of book I of the periodical

Sturtevant often commented on Morgan’s remarkable intuitive powers. Thus, Sturtevant describes how afterward explaining some puzzling results to Morgan, Morgan replied that information technology sounded like an inversion2. Sturtevant went on to provide critical evidence, purely from breeding results, that inversions practice occur; it was only later that inversions were observed cytologically.

It seems clear that Morgan was not only a stimulating person but one who recognized practiced students, gave them freedom and space to piece of work, and inspired them to brand the leaps of imagination that are and so important in advancing science.

Morgan and the Caltech Period (1928 to 1942)

Robert A. Millikan with cosmic ray equipment.

Robert A. Millikan with cosmic ray equipment.

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Morgan was invited past the astronomer, G.Eastward. Hale, to chair a Biology Division at the California Establish of Technology (Caltech). Hale had conceived the thought of creating Caltech some years earlier and had already recruited R.A. Millikan (Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1923) and A.A. Noyes to head the Physics and Chemistry Divisions, respectively. Co-ordinate to Sturtevant, Morgan told his group at Columbia of Unhurt’southward invitation and of how it was not possible to say no to Hale. Morgan accepted and came to Caltech in 1928. He brought with him Sturtevant, who came equally a total professor, Bridges, and T. Dobzhansky, who later became a full professor. In addition to Sturtevant and Dobzhansky, the genetics faculty consisted of E.Thou. Anderson and Southward. Emerson. J. Schultz, who similar Bridges was a staff fellow member of the Carnegie Establishment of Washington, participated in the pedagogy of an advanced laboratory course in genetics.

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During this second period, many geneticists visited the Biology Division for varying periods of time. Those from foreign countries included D. Catcheside, B. Ephrussi, Grand. Mather, and J. Monod (1965 Nobel Laureate). Visiting professors included Muller and L.J. Stadler. B. McClintock (1983 Nobel Laureate) came as a National Research Fellow in the early on 1930s.

Morgan was well known exterior of the scientific community and attracted interesting people. Professor Norman Horowitz, who was a graduate student in the Biology Division during this period, tells me that he remembers Morgan giving a tour of the Biology Sectionalization to the well-known author, H.1000. Wells.

Colleagues of Morgan

Back (left to correct): Wildman, Beadle, Lewis, Wiersma; standing: Keighley, Sturtevant, Went, Haagen-Smit, Mitchell, Van Harreveld, Alles, Anderson; seated (back row): Borsook, Emerson; (front row): Dubnoff, Bonner, Tyler, Horowitz.

Courtesy of the Caltech Athenaeum. © California Constitute of Applied science. All rights reserved. Commercial use or modification of this material is prohibited.

J.R. Goodstein (ref. 3) has described how the Rockefeller Foundation and private donors provided financial back up to the Biology and other Divisions during this period. Such assistance was essential at that time, since Caltech is a individual institution and received no support from the land or the federal regime.

Edward B. Lewis with Drosophila.

Edward B. Lewis with

Courtesy of the Caltech Archives. © California Institute of Technology. All rights reserved. Commercial use or modification of this material is prohibited.

In the latter half of this period, Morgan returned to his interest in marine organisms and did not follow the newer developments in genetics. Instead it was largely Sturtevant who carried on the Morgan legacy as far as genetics was concerned. Sturtevant also allowed his graduate students considerable freedom to cull their thesis projects and to consult with him on those projects or indeed on whatsoever affair. I was fortunate to have been 1 such student, commencing in 1939. Sturtevant’southward door was e’er open to students and faculty. I well think Morgan coming to Sturtevant’s office to hash out matters affecting the Sectionalization.

Sturtevant told us that the award of the Nobel Prize to Morgan in 1933 was an of import gene in elevating the prestige and status of the Biology Sectionalisation at the Institute. At the time, the but other Nobel Laureate at Caltech was Millikan. From 1942 to 1946, the Division was managed by a committee chaired by Sturtevant.

Beadle and the Caltech Period (1946 to 1961)

Beadle and Pauling with molecular model.

Beadle and Pauling with molecular model.

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In 1946, Sturtevant and Linus Pauling (who was awarded Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, 1954, and Peace, 1962) persuaded Beadle, who was and then Professor of Biological science at Stanford University, to get chairman of the Biological science Division. Beadle carried on the Morgan tradition of strongly supporting basic enquiry and maintaining a stimulating intellectual atmosphere. During the early 1930s Beadle had been a National Research Fellow in the Partition. He had collaborated with Sturtevant on a monumental study of inversions and together they wrote a textbook of genetics. He had collaborated also during that time with Sterling Emerson, and with E.G. Anderson. Beadle was clearly a part of the Morgan legacy.

Beadle in lab coat.

Beadle in lab glaze.

George Beadle and B. Ephrussi using microscopes.

George Beadle and B. Ephrussi using microscopes.

Both photos courtesy of the Caltech Athenaeum. © California Institute of Engineering. All rights reserved. Commercial use or modification of this fabric is prohibited.

Beadle received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1958 for work carried out at Stanford University on the biochemical genetics of the bread mold,
In his biographical memoir on Beadle, Horowitz (ref. 4) describes how, while postdoctoral fellows in the Biology Division, Beadle and Ephrussi decided to pursue an early discovery by Sturtevant; namely, that a diffusible substance must be involved in the synthesis of the brown eye pigment of
Sturtevant had shown that the
eye color mutation is not-autonomously expressed in flies that are mosaic for the
mutation and its wild-type allele. Beadle and Ephrussi designed at Caltech a set of experiments, involving transplantation of larval imaginal center discs, to study the
vermilion-plus hormone, as they chosen the diffusible substance. They carried out these experiments in Paris in Ephrussi’s laboratory. They were able to show that another eye color gene,
lacks a
cinnabar-plus substance and that the wild-blazon
genes command sequential steps in a biochemical pathway leading to the brown eye pigment. Beadle correctly realized that the fungus
would provide ameliorate genetic fabric for exploring such pathways. Beadle and E. Tatum (co-winner with Beadle of the Nobel Prize) and colleagues at Stanford were then successful in dissecting the biochemical pathways that are involved in the synthesis of vitamins and many amino acids in that organism. The
findings opened a new era, at present known as molecular genetics.

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During Beadle’s tenure as chairman, North.H. Horowitz, H.M. Mitchell, R.D. Owen, and R.S. Edgar were added to the faculty in genetics. [I had come as an teacher in 1946 before Beadle had arrived]. Horowitz and Mitchell had been associated with Beadle at Stanford and played major roles in developing the one-cistron one-enzyme hypothesis that led to the honor of the Nobel Prize to Beadle and Tatum.

Beadle was responsible for persuading Delbrück to return to Caltech equally a total professor. Delbrück had not been offered an appointment at Caltech after his tenure in the Division in the 1930s as a post-doctoral fellow and had taken a faculty position at Vanderbilt University. Other appointments during Beadle’southward chairmanship that added strength in animate being virology were R. Dulbecco (1975 Nobel Laureate), and M. Vogt. Howard Temin was one of Dulbecco’s graduate students and later a cowinner with Dulbecco of the Nobel Prize in 1975. R. Sperry (1981 Nobel Laureate) joined the faculty as a full professor in 1954 and continued his piece of work on split brains that he had begun at the University of Chicago.

Dulbecco, Beadle, Delbrück

R. Dulbecco, G. Beadle, M. Delbrück and H. Temin.

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Bones research gradually became well supported financially past Federal Agencies commencing with the Office of Naval Research, the Diminutive Energy Commission and finally past the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Such support was essential to obtain the personnel, equipment and supplies needed by the new fields of molecular and microbial genetics which flourished and indeed flowered during Beadle’s chairmanship.

During this tertiary period there were many postdoctoral research fellows in the Biology Division, including S. Benzer (Crafoord Prize in 1993), who was a mail-doctoral fellow in Delbrück’southward group from 1949 to 1951, and was later recruited in 1967 as full professor. J. Weigle was a visiting professor and a valuable member of the Delbrück group. There were visits by F. Jacob (Nobel Laureate, 1965) and J. Watson (Nobel Laureate, 1962). B. McClintock returned in 1946 for a short visit, working with one of the graduate students, Jessie Singleton, perfecting a method of analyzing the chromosomes of
Interestingly, R. Feynman, Caltech professor of physics (Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1965), spent part of an bookish twelvemonth working with R. Edgar and other members of the Delbrück grouping.

Beadle at blackboard

George Beadle at blackboard.

Courtesy of the Caltech Archives. © California Constitute of Engineering science. All rights reserved. Commercial utilize or modification of this material is prohibited.

Beadle had remarkably versatile skills. He early abased his research on
in order to devote total fourth dimension to beingness chairman. He was very successful in finding donors to endow postdoctoral fellowships and new buildings. The fellowships were often used to support visits past foreign scientists who otherwise would not have had been able to come up to the USA. As in the previous period, pedagogy loads were kept light and much teaching was conducted in the form of seminars and journal clubs. The biology faculty was past and large a harmonious group and students were allowed considerable freedom to choose their professors. Equally 1 of a number of measures of the success of this temper, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Professors Delbrück, Dulbecco and Sperry, as already noted, and in my case too, for work carried out in the Partition nether the leadership of Beadle.

Beadle and students

George Beadle and students.

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1. Mutant and Wild Fly

Mutant and wild fly
Photo kindly provided by Nils Ringertz.

two. Inversion


1. Allen, G., Thomas Hunt Morgan, pp. 1-447, Princeton Academy Printing, Princeton, N.J. (1978).
two. Sturtevant, A.H., A History of Genetics, pp. 1-165, Harper and Rowe, New York (1965).
iii. Goodstein, J.R., Millikan’s School, W. W. Norton and Co., New York. pp. ane-318 (1991).
four. Horowitz, N.H. Biographical Memoirs, vol. 59, pp. 26-52, National University Press, Washington, D. C. (1990).

First published 20 April 1998

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What Was Thomas Hunt Morgan’s Main Contribution to Science

Source: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/1933/morgan/article/