Book - Vertebrate Embryology - A Text-book for Students and Practitioners (1893)

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A personal message from Dr Mark Hill (May 2020)  
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I have decided to take early retirement in September 2020. During the many years online I have received wonderful feedback from many readers, researchers and students interested in human embryology. I especially thank my research collaborators and contributors to the site. The good news is Embryology will remain online and I will continue my association with UNSW Australia. I look forward to updating and including the many exciting new discoveries in Embryology!

Marshall AM. Vertebrate Embryology: A Text-book for Students and Practitioners. (1893) Elder Smith & Co., London.

Marshall (1893): 1 Introduction | 2 Amphioxus | 3 Frog | 4 Chick | 5 The Rabbit | 6 Human Embryo | Illustrations
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This is the historic 1893 embryology textbook by Marshall.

Note that Historic Embryology Textbooks reflect the understanding of development "at that time" and are provided as background to our current understanding of embryology.

Internet Archive: version 1 | version 2

Arthur Milnes Marshall (1852–1893) followed the reforms of Francis Balfour, and took the classes of Michael Foster. In 1874 he graduated B.A. and was appointed in the early part of 1875 by Cambridge University to their table at the new Stazione Zoologica, Naples. He was appointed in 1879 at the age of 27 to the newly-established professorship of zoology at Owens College, Manchester.

Between 1878 and 1882 Marshall published in the Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science "The Development of the Cranial Nerves in the Chick", 1878; "The Morphology of the Vertebrate Olfactory Organ", 1879; "Observations on the Cranial Nerves of Scyllium", 1881 (with W. Baldwin Spencer); "On the Head-cavities and associated Nerves of Elasmobranchs", 1881. In 1882 he published a memoir on "The Segmental Value of the Cranial Nerves" in the Journal of Anatomy and Physiology.

Marshall wrote three text-books, The Frog (1882, 7th edit. 1900), Practical Zoology (with Charles Herbert Hurst) (1887, 5th edit. 1899), and Vertebrate Embryology (1893). Other works were Biological Essays and Addresses (1894), and The Darwinian Theory (1894).

Marshall, like his teacher Francis Balfour on Mont Blanc, was killed 31 December 1893 while mountain climbing Deep Ghyll on Scafell.

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Pages where the terms "Historic" (textbooks, papers, people, recommendations) appear on this site, and sections within pages where this disclaimer appears, indicate that the content and scientific understanding are specific to the time of publication. This means that while some scientific descriptions are still accurate, the terminology and interpretation of the developmental mechanisms reflect the understanding at the time of original publication and those of the preceding periods, these terms, interpretations and recommendations may not reflect our current scientific understanding.     (More? Embryology History | Historic Embryology Papers)

Vertebrate Embryology

A Text-book for Students and Practitioners

Arthur Milnes Marshall
Arthur Milnes Marshall


A. Milne Marshall, M.D., D.Sc., M.A., F.R.S.

Professor In The Victoria University ; Beyer Professor Of Zoology In Owens College ; Late Fellow Of St John's College, Cambridge

New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons London : Smith, Elder, & Co. 1893


Great attention has of recent years been given to the study of Embryology, and yet it is curiously difficult to find straightforward accounts of the development even of the commonest animals. The special memoirs and monographs are usually limited to particular phases in the life-history of the forms with which they are concerned ; while the text-books of embryology aim rather at explaining the general progress of development within the several groups than at supplying complete descriptions of individual examples.

Up to the present time there has been no reasonably complete account of the development of the common frog, or of the rabbit, in our own or in any other language ; while in works professing to deal with human embryology it is more common than not to find that the descriptions, and the figures given in illustration of them, are really taken, not from human embryos at all, but from rabbits, pigs, chicken, or even dogfish.

This latter practice is a most unfortunate one, and has been the cause of much confusion. The student is led to suppose that our knowledge is more complete than is really the case, while at the same time he finds the greatest difficulty in obtaining definite information on any particular point in which he is interested. Moreover, the implication that the details of development are identical in members of the same or of allied groups is directly opposed to the results of recent investigations, which are showing more and more clearly that marked differences, both in the earlier and later stages of development, may occur between allied genera and species, or even amongst individual members of the same species.

The present book is an attempt to fill the gap, thus indicated, so far as the elements of Vertebrate Embryology are concerned. In it a few selected types are alone dealt with, and to each of these a separate chapter is devoted.

In the choice of types I have been mainly guided by the following considerations. Amphioxus is taken first, partly on account of its great morphological importance, and partly because of the extreme simplicity of its earlier developmental history, and of the clue which this affords to the more complicated conditions obtaining in the higher vertebrates. The next three chapters deal with the frog, the chick, and the rabbit respectively ; these have been selected as good representatives of the classes to which they belong, and as being the most easily obtained and the most suitable forms for laboratory purposes. The final chapter, and the longest in the book, is devoted to the development of the Human Embryo ; this has been included on account of its great intrinsic interest, and of the difficulty the student experiences, owing to the scattered and comparatively inaccessible nature of the original memoirs, in obtaining a reliable account of the present state of our knowledge. I have taken much pains to make this chapter as complete as our knowledge will allow, and venture to hope that it will be found useful not only by students of science and of medicine, but also by those engaged in medical practice.

I have not attempted to write a series of complete monographs ; my purpose has been to give consecutive and straightforward accounts which shall contain, in a form convenient for reference, the main facts known to us concerning the development of the animals I have selected as types. Many points of detail have been purposely omitted, as have also some of the more recent statements which appear to me to require confirmation. Science is better served by clearly stating in what points our knowledge is defective than by ignoring or evading difficulties ; and I have purposely emphasised the more important of these gaps in the hope of drawing to them the attention of those who may have opportunity of filling up the deficiencies. The bibliographical lists at the ends of the several chapters have been deliberately curtailed, and include only those books and papers which appear to me of real importance : my object in this, as indeed in all respects, has been to produce a book which shall be useful rather than encyclopedic.

I have, in the text, made no attempt to assign the several statements to their original authors : to do so would have burdened the book unduly. It will be well, however, to give here the main sources from which the facts are gathered, in order that I should not receive credit which is really due to others.

In the chapter on Amphioxus I have had to rely entirely on the work of other observers. The descriptions of the earlier stages are from the well-known accounts by Kowalevsky and by Hatschek : for the later stages I have depended mainly on the recent researches of Professor Lankester and Mr. Willey.

Except as regards the processes of maturation and fertilisation of the egg, which are described from Oskar Schultze's papers, the chapter on the Frog is based almost entirely on my own observations, supplemented by the work of some of my pupils.

The development of the chick has been described more often than that of any other animal. I have, however, worked over the greater part of the ground again, with special reference to this book. I have derived much assistance from the researches of Duval, especially in regard to the earlier stages of development.

I have not myself studied the. processes of segmentation, and formation of the blastodermic vesicle in the rabbit ; but I have had the advantage of examining a very excellent series of preparations by my friend Mr. Assheton. In my descriptions of these earlier stages I have relied mainly on the accounts of E. van Beneden, and of Kolliker. The later stages, from the first appearance of the embryo onwards, I have studied in considerable detail, and the descriptions are mainly from my own observations. In the study of the placenta, especially in its earlier stages, I have been greatly helped by Duval's careful investigations.

In the chapter dealing with the Human Embryo I have been compelled to obtain my material almost entirely from the observations of others ; and notably from the splendid and longcontinued work of Professor His, to whom it is due that our knowledge of human embryology is in so many respects more precise than that of any other mammal. It is a source of great regret to me that my friend Professor Minot's important treatise on Human Embryology only came into my hands while the last sheets of my own book were passing through the press, and that I have been unable to avail myself of the rich store of facts, and of the numerous suggestive explanations which his work contains.

A large proportion of the figures are new, and have been made expressly for this book from my own drawings. In the new figures, as well as in a large number of those which I have copied from the works of others, I have adopted, so far as practicable, a uniform mode of treatment and of lettering, which will, I hope, facilitate comparison of the figures of the several types with one another. I am under great obligations to the publishers of the works from which figures have been borrowed, for permission to reproduce these ; and more especially to Messrs. Vogel, of Leipzig, for their ready consent to supply electrotypes, and to allow a large number of figures to be copied from Professor His' great monograph on the development of the Human Embryo ; a courteous liberality that is not always to be met with in this country.

I wish also to record my indebtedness to my friends Dr. Robinson and Mr. Assheton for many valuable suggestions and criticisms in the course of the work, and for much kind assistance in the correction of the proofs. To Mr. P. Hundley and Mr. G. Pearson, by whom the drawings on the wood were made, and the blocks engraved, my thanks are due for the great care they have bestowed on what, in my judgment, is one of the most important parts of the book.

I shall be very grateful for corrections or suggestions from those who use the book. I would further venture to make an earnest appeal for assistance to those who have opportunity of obtaining human embryos, and who do not require them for their own purposes. Our knowledge of the early stages of development of the human embryo is still very imperfect, and it is of the utmost importance that any opportunities that may occur of extending it should not be lost. Embryos of any age, but more particularly those of the first month or six weeks, would be of the greatest service to myself : they should be put into strong spirit as quickly as possible, a little cotton-wool being placed in the bottle to support the embryos, and to prevent them from shaking about, during transit ; and any facts, such as the date of the last occuri'ing menstruation, which would aid in determining the age, should be carefully recorded.

A. M. M.

Owens College : March 1893.


Chapter I Introduction

  • General account of the development of animals Structure of the egg Maturation or ripening ot the egg- Fertilisation of the egg The early stages of development of the embryo Theoiy of fertilisation Segmentation of the egg The germinal layers The general history of development The recapitulation theory The origin of sex Bibliography

Chapter II Amphioxus

  • Structure of the adult Amphioxus Morphological importance of Amphioxus General account of the development of Amphioxus The early embryonic development The condition at the time of hatching The later embryonic development The condition at the close of the embryonic period The larval period The adolescent period Bibliography

Chapter III The Frog

  • General account of the development of the frog The egg The early stages of development The nervous system The sense organs The alimentary canal The gill-clefts and the gills The heart and bloodvessels The urinary and reproductive organs The skeleton and teeth Bibliography

Chapter IV The Chick

  • General account of the development of the chick The egg The early stages of development The nervous system The sense organs The alimentary canal The heart and blood-vessels The urinary organs The body cavity and the muscular system The skeleton The feathers Bibliography

Chapter V The Rabbit

  • Preliminary account of the development of the rabbit The egg The early stages of development General history of the embryo The nervous system The sense organs The digestive system The heart and blood-vessels The urinary organs The coelom The muscular system The skeleton The skin The placenta Bibliography

Chapter VI The Human Embryo

  • Preliminary account of the development of the human embryo The human ovum General history of the human embryo The nervous system The sense organs The digestive system The heart and blood-vessels The urinary organs The reproductive organs The foetal membranes and the placenta Bibliography

List of Illustrations


Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2020, July 6) Embryology Book - Vertebrate Embryology - A Text-book for Students and Practitioners (1893). Retrieved from

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