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Contact: Diana Kenney, MBL, 508-289-7139; dkenney@mbl.edu

Pioneer of Modern Genetics, Thomas Hunt Morgan, to be Honored at Marine Biological Laboratory Symposium


Symposium Agenda and Abstracts


T.H. Morgan in 1920

T.H. Morgan in 1920. Credit: A.F. Huettner, courtesy of MBL Archives. Full size image

T.H. Morgan and family

(From left) T.H. Morgan, Lilian Morgan, and their daughter, Dr. Isabel Morgan Mountain, in Norway in the mid-1930s during a Scandinavian trip to collect T.H. Morgan’s Nobel Prize. Also pictured are children of Drs. Otto and Tove Mohr, who were close friends of the Morgans. Courtesy MBL Archives. Full size image

WOODS HOLE, MA—One century ago this year, Thomas Hunt Morgan carried out experiments that would revolutionize biology and set off the “century of the gene,” which triumphed with the mapping of the human genome in 2000.

Morgan, a longtime investigator and trustee at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and a professor at Columbia University and later CalTech, was the first scientist to prove that the hereditary material was located on the chromosomes. Working both in Woods Hole and New York, Morgan and his colleagues constructed the first maps of gene location on fruit-fly chromosomes in the 1910s. For this groundbreaking work, Morgan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933.

Yet Morgan’s accomplishments go far beyond this justly famous work. To commemorate his outstanding contributions to science and to the MBL, and to get a rare glimpse of the personal side of a scientific pioneer, the Thomas Hunt Morgan Commemorative Symposium will be held on Wednesday, July 21, 2:00-4:30 PM, in the MBL’s Rowe Laboratory (Speck Auditorium), 10 MBL Street, Woods Hole. The event is free and open to the public.

The event will celebrate not only Morgan’s triumphs in experimental genetics, but also his significant impact on the fields of embryology and regenerative biology; and his legacy to the MBL as a student, and later a researcher and trustee, for more than 50 years (1890-1942). It will also offer a unique perspective on the personalities of T.H. and Lilian Morgan through the attendance of three of the couple’s grandchildren.

Speakers at the commemoration, which is hosted by MBL Director and CEO Gary Borisy, include:
  • Garland Allen, T.H. Morgan’s biographer and historian of biology (Washington University)
  • Barbara Morgan Roberts, granddaughter of T.H. Morgan and his wife Lilian Vaughan Morgan (who co-founded the Children’s School of Science in Woods Hole)
  • Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, expert in regenerative biology (Howard Hughes Medical Institute/University of Utah)
  • Jane Maienschein, historian of biology and of the MBL (Arizona State University)


The MBL is a leading international, independent, nonprofit institution dedicated to discovery and to improving the human condition through creative research and education in the biological, biomedical and environmental sciences. Founded in 1888 as the Marine Biological Laboratory, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the Americas.