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women of science
Julia Platt
Julia Platt
Julia Platt about the time she ran for Mayor, from Zottoli and Seyfarth, 1994.

Reprint from Brain, Behavior and Evolution
Julia Barlow Platt (1857-1935)

Julia B. Platt received her early training at the University of Vermont, and in 1887 she began graduate studies at Harvard. She continued her graduate work over a period of nine years, both in the United States and abroad, and was among the first women to matriculate at a German university. In 1898 she received her Ph.D. from the University of Freiburg.

A comparative embryologist and neuroscientist, she identified neural crest cells as the precursors to head cartilage and dentine, thus challenging the germ layer doctrine. Her findings caused a storm of controversy at the time of their publication, but the experimental studies of subsequent researchers confirmed her work.

Platt conducted her studies at the MBL under the guidance of Charles Otis Whitman during the summers of 1889, 1890, and 1893. Two of her publications, The Anterior Head Cavities of Acanthias (1890) and A Contribution to the Morphology of the Vertebrate Head, Based on a Study of Acanthias Vulgaris (1891), resulted from her work at the MBL. In 1893, as a summer Investigator, she prepared a preliminary notice on her ongoing study of the ectodermic origin of head cartilage: The Ontogenetic Differentiation of the Ectoderm in Necturus. Platt was also listed as a Member of the MBL Corporation in 1890, 1891, and 1893.

Despite her scientific credentials, Platt was unable to secure a teaching position at the university level. Instead, she became active in civic affairs in Pacific Grove, California, and-at the age of 74-was elected its mayor in 1931.*

*Zottoli, Steven J. and Ernst-August Seyfarth. "Julia B. Platt (1857-1935): Pioneer Comparative Embryologist and Neuroscientist." 43: 92-106, 1994.

Partial Bibliography

Platt, J. B. (1889) Studies on the primitive axial segmentation of the chick. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool., 17:171-190.

Platt, J. B. (1890) The anterior head-cavities of Acanthias. (Preliminary Notice.) Zool. Anz., 13:239.

Platt, J. B. (1891a) A contribution to the morphology of the vertebrate head, based on a study of Acanthias vulgaris. J. Morphol., 5: 79-112.

Platt, J. B. (1891b) Further contribution to the morphology of the vertebrate head. Anat. Anz., 6: 251-265.

Platt, J. B. (1892) Fibres connecting the central nervous system and chorda in Amphioxus. Anat. Anz., 7: 282-284.

Platt, J. B. (1893) Ectodermic origin of the cartilages of the head. Anat. Anz., 8: 506-509.

Platt, J. B. (1894a) Ontogenetic differentiations of the ectoderm in Necturus. (Preliminary Notice.) Anat. Anz., 9: 51-56.

Platt, J. B. (1894b) Ontogenetische Differenzirung des Ektoderms in Necturus. I. Studie. Arch. Mikr. Anat., 43: 911-966.

Platt, J. B. (1896a) Ontogenetic differentiations of the ectoderm in Necturus. Study II. On the development of the peripheral nervous system. Q. J. Microsc. Sci., 38: 485-547.

Platt, J. B. (1896b) The development of the thyroid gland and of the suprapericardial bodies of Necturus. Anat. Anz., 11: 557-567.

Platt, J. B. (1898) The development of the cartilaginous skull and of the branchial and hypoglossal musculature in Necturus. Morphol. Jahrb., 25:377-464.

Platt, J. B. (1899) On the specific gravity of Spitostomum, Paramaecium, and the tadpole in relation to the problem of geotaxis. Am. Nat., 33: 31-38.