Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Embryologists then and now

International Institute of Embryology London 2-5 August 1938

The photos in this post are separated by three quarters of a century. We know the identities of the 1938 embryologists because an annotated copy was sent by Fritz Strauss to Harland W. Mossman and is curated in the latter's collection in Madison, Wisconsin.

Top row (left to right): T. Thomson Flynn (Belfast); H. M. W. Woerdeman (Amsterdam); Hans Bluntschli (Bern); Jan Florian (Brno).

Middle row: G.L. Streeter (Carnegie Institution); Karl Peter (Greifswald); Mrs. Katherine Jones Hill (London); E.S. Goodrich (Oxford); Miss E. G. Fraser (London); Warren H. Lewis (Carnegie Institution); A. Celestino da Costa (Lisbon); Paul G√©rard (Brussels); H. Woollard (London). 

Bottom row: Otto Grosser (Prague); J.T. Wilson (Cambridge); J. Boeke (Utrecht); Honor B. Fell (Cambridge); Dan de Lange (Utrecht); J. P. Hill (London).


It was my pleasure to attend a recent meeting in Göttingen and find that embryology is still going strong. As in the 1938 Group there are some eminent biologists here. But the most striking difference between the two photos is the inclusion of many postdocs and graduate students with the promise it brings for the future of the field.

Some curiosa

Together with Elliott Smith, J. T. Wilson and J. P. Hill were part of the Fraternity of the Duckmaloi that pioneered research in monotreme and marsupial embryology. Their heirs are Marilyn Renfree (front row fourth from left) and Karen Lychau Hansen (front row third from right).

Theodore Thomson Flynn also worked on marsupials but later turned to fish. He named one species Gibbonsia erroli after his son, who later achieved fame as the swashbuckling film star Errol Flynn.  

One of the few women in the 1938 Photo is Katherine Jones Hill. The daughter of J. P. Hill, she was an embryologist in her own right. She catalogued the Hill Collection now housed in Berlin.