Born in Lexington, Ky., on September 25, 1866. Educator. Scientist. Winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, for biological research in 1933. University of Kentucky, B.S., 1886, M.S., 1888. Died, December 4, 1945.
A pioneer geneticist who discovered basic mechanisms of heredity, his experiments went on to the end of his long life, and many of the students he inspired continue the search. A winner of the Nobel Prize himself in 1933 for biological research, one of the most distinguished of his students, Dr. George W. Beadle, also went on to become a winner of the Nobel Prize.
When interest in Mendells long-forgotten discovery of inheritance patterns was beginning to stir early in this century, the Nobel winner already was deeply involved in embryological and developmental studies. When a white-eyed mutant appeared among his stock of laboratory Drosophila, he recognized that this tiny fruit fly might offer a chance to test Mendells findings and see how they might apply to organisms other than garden peas.
In his laboratory at Columbia University and at home on kitchen tables, he and his students classified and counted the hundreds of offspring that resulted from crossing flies with contrasting characteristics and pedigrees. Such as linkage, crossing over, and nondisjunction were coined to describe the mechanisms inferred from the results. Though less noted than his work in genetics, his embryological and regeneration studies also are considered important.
From 1910-20 at Columbia in a laboratory called the "Fly Room," he and his associates confirmed Mendells laws of heredity and established the physical reality of the gene as part of the chromosome.
He was a student at the University in the 1880s, earning both the B.S. (1886) and M.S. (1888) degrees, before moving on to Johns Hopkins University to earn the Ph.D. degree (1890). He then taught at Bryn Mawr and Columbia (15 years), where he organized a then-unique biological sciences department based on his own futuristic ideas. He also was professor of experimental zoology. He directed the Kerckoff Laboratories at Cal Tech from 1928 to 1945.
He was elected President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1930, and also was President of the American Morphological Society, the American Society of Naturalists, and the National Academy of Sciences. He presided at the Sixth International Genetics Congress. He was a member of the Royal Society of London.
He also received degrees in Scotland and in California. He was the recipient of many honors and awards, including the Darwin Medal and the Coply Medal of the Royal Society.
In 1916, the University awarded him the honorary Doctor of Laws degree and, in 1966, named its new Thomas Hunt Morgan School of Biological Sciences for him.
Thomas Hunt Morgan was named to the Hall of Distinguished Alumni in February, 1965.