Embryology History - Alphonse Burdi

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Alphonse Burdi
Alphonse R. Burdi (1935 - 2015)

Alphonse R. Burdi (1935 - 2015) studied and researched in the Human Anatomy Department, University of Michigan. His area of research focussed upon craniofacial development and associated abnormalities, publishing more than 70 papers on this topic. He also maintained and developed the historic Patten human embryo collection before it was transferred to the Human Developmental Anatomy Center in 2014.

Links: head | palate | adipose | Patten-Burdi Collection

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Related Histology Researchers  
Santiago Ramón y Cajal | Camillo Golgi

Patten-Burdi Collection

The Embryology Research Collection at Michigan was established by embryologists George Streeter and G. Carl Huber in the early 1900s with a mission to collect and describe the morphogenesis of human embryos at critical stages in prenatal life. For about twenty years up to 1957, the Collection grew in numbers under the leadership of Professor Bradley M. Patten whose primary interests were in heart and cardiovascular development. After 1957 the collection, under Professor Alphonse Burdi, grew with a focus on the embryology of craniofacial regions and related birth defect syndromes. In 2004 the Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Collection was deeded by the University of Michigan to the Human Developmental Anatomy Center (HDAC) at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, DC.

George Linius Streeter G. Carl Huber.jpg Bradley M. Patten
George Streeter G. Carl Huber Bradley Patten

Links: George Streeter | G. Carl Huber | Bradley Patten | Patten Embryology Research Collection (1999)

Burdi AR. (1985). The Patten Embryology Research collection. Cleft Palate J , 22, 135-6. PMID: 3859388

Note - this was prepared as a letter to the journal, not as a full research article. A short excerpt from the full letter is shown below.

"The purpose of this letter is to bring to the attention of The Cleft Palate Journal audience throughout the world that there is available for its use a large collection of human and non-human prenatal specimens. This message should be especially timely to those who are planning to investigate problems of human prenatal morphogenesis, but who find themselves in a position where human embryos and fetuses of sufficient types and numbers are in need.
Historical Background
"The Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology of the University of Michigan Medical school has long been recognized as a center of embryological research. J. P. McMurrich (l894—1907) was best known for his book on The Development of the Human Body. G. Streeter (1907—1914) was primarily a research-oriented embryologist, who went on to an outstanding career as director of the Carnegie Embryological Institute after he left Michigan. G. C. Huber (l914—l934) was active in embryological studies in the early years of his tenure before he became deeply involved in neuroanatomy. It was Huber who secured and serially sectioned the first of the young human embryos that are still available in the department. B. Patten (1935—1958) had already made a reputation as an embryologist before coming to Michigan. He undertook the development of the embryological collection of the Department of Anatomy as one of his major concerns. Fortunately, Huber left notes on most of his more valuable specimens so that they could be effectively included in the system of cataloging and documenting embryological research material which was established by Patten. Under Patten’s leadership, and through his collaboration with Alexander Barry, the collection grew from the nucleus of some 50 serially sectioned embryos prepared by Dr. Huber to over 1000 specimens. In recognition of his work, the executive officers of the, University and Medical school in July, .1969, formally designated the embryological collection of the Department of Anatomy as the Patten Embryology Research collection. Today, this Collection contains more than 2000 specimens available for study and is one of the largest collections of human embryos and fetuses in the world."
In general, the available human specimens fall into three categories:
  1. Group one includes histologically prepared serial Sections for studies with the light microscope.
  2. Group two includes specimens which have been preserved intact for macroscopic study and dissection.
  3. Group three represents either embryos or their parts that are available in paraffin blocks. This last group has been set up to allow as much flexibility as possible in histologic preparation as new staining and histochemical methods become available.

Vastardis H, Spyropoulos MN & Burdi AR. (2012). Re-visiting the embryogenesis of the human lower lip: an overlooked paradigm. Front Physiol , 3, 333. PMID: 22934080 DOI.

"The rare opportunity to study a human fetus showing bilateral clefting of the lower lip along with other associated anomalies resembling those of the equally rare Pena-Shokeir phenotype prompts this report. The scarcity of reports on bilateral clefts of the lower lip has strengthened the conventional understanding or, perhaps even dogma that the lower lip and jaw develop from the progressive midline merging of just two mandibular prominences in the embryo. On the basis of observations stemming from this case report, it is proposed that yet another developmental event or process (in addition to the midline merging of the mandibular prominences) may be operable in the normal morphogenesis of the lower lip and anterior mandibular region. The bilateral paramedian clefting observed provides evidence that another distinct developmental region, a small medial process complements mandibular morphogenesis." Fetal mandible and lower lip 01.jpg

Poissonnet CM, LaVelle M & Burdi AR. (1988). Growth and development of adipose tissue. J. Pediatr. , 113, 1-9. PMID: 3290412

Adipose Tissue Timeline
Anatomical Region Specific Location Start
CRL (mm) Complete
CRL (mm)
Head Buccal pad 14 100 17 153
Cheek 14.5 103 17 150
Chin 14.5 103 17 150
Ocular pad 15 113 19.5 170
Neck Neck 15 113 19.5 170
Thorax Anterior wall 16 135 19.5 170
Posterior wall 15 113 20.5 190
Mammary 14.5 106 17.5 156
Abdomen Abdominal wall 14.5 106 20.5 190
Perirenal 15 113 20.5 190
Upper limb Shoulder 15 113 23.5 216
Forearm 16 131 20.5 190
Arm 16 131 20.5 190
Hand 16 131 l9.5 172
Lower limb Gluteal 16 131 20.5 190
Thigh 16.5 141 22.5 212
Leg 16 131 22.5 212
Foot 16 131 19.5 170
Table Notes - weeks are fertilization age (FA), not GA, both male and female data are combined.

Table Data source[1]   Links: adipose | Second Trimester


Burdi, Alphonse R. Age 79, of Ann Arbor passed away peacefully on Wednesday, February 4, 2015.

Al was born on August 28, 1935 in Chicago to Alfonso and Anna Burdi. Al graduated from Austin High in Chicago and went on to earn his undergraduate degree from Northern Illinois University in 1957, a Master's Degree from the University of Illinois in 1959 and his Ph.D. in Human Anatomy from the University of Michigan in 1963, receiving full professorship in 1974. Professor Burdi was proud to receive the University's AMOCO Outstanding Teaching Award and be appointed the Medical Director of the University's Integrated Premedical-Medical Degrees Program (Inteflex), however he was humble about his many achievements, and felt that they were never as important as his students and mentees. Known for his enthusiasm, energy and resourcefulness by athletes, medical, dental and undergraduate students, his deep commitment to students awarded him appointments to SACUA, the Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Medical Center Alumni Association.

He proudly received the honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Athens, Greece in 2000, the University's Distinguished Faculty Governance Award in 2002, the Medical Center Alumni Society's Distinguished Service Award in 2003; honorary membership in the Michigan Women's Athletic Association in 2001; and a honorary "M" letter in recognition of his love and passion for Michigan athletics. Dr. Burdi was past president of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association, the Craniofacial Biology Group of the International Association for Dental Research and the combined BA/MD programs of the Association of American Medical Schools.

His success brought him appointments to NIH grant review panels, national scientific planning task forces, and the university's Institutional Research Board. He authored more than 275 books, scientific papers and chapters in his field of craniofacial abnormalities and embryonic development.

Al was passionate about his involvement in the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor in which he proudly served as president in 2007-2008. Al was a genuine and caring man, a wonderful husband, a loving father, a fun "Papa" and great friend to many. Even with his successes, Al firmly held that the three best gifts ever in his life were his wife, daughters and grandchildren. Al is survived by his wife of 45 years, Sandy; his daughters, Beth (Mike) Jurczak of Canton and Sarah (Steven) Brandt of Hong Kong. He leaves behind his 5 adoring grandchildren, Grace, Christopher and Nicholas Jurczak and Owen and Cooper Brandt, who will greatly miss their "Papa". He will also be missed by his many extended family members and friends.

Selected References

Full Reference List

Burdi AR. (1985). The Patten Embryology Research collection. Cleft Palate J , 22, 135-6. PMID: 3859388

Poissonnet CM, LaVelle M & Burdi AR. (1988). Growth and development of adipose tissue. J. Pediatr. , 113, 1-9. PMID: 3290412

Vastardis H, Spyropoulos MN & Burdi AR. (2012). Re-visiting the embryogenesis of the human lower lip: an overlooked paradigm. Front Physiol , 3, 333. PMID: 22934080 DOI.

Cohen SR, Corrigan ML, Bookstein FL, Trotman CA, Burdi A & Barr M. (1995). Log-linear allometry of normal fetal craniofacial growth. J Craniofac Surg , 6, 190-4. PMID: 9020688

Cohen SR, Corrigan ML, Bookstein FL, Trotman CA, Burdi A & Barr M. (1995). Log-linear allometry of fetal craniofacial growth in Down's syndrome. J Craniofac Surg , 6, 184-9. PMID: 9020687

Spyropoulos MN & Burdi AR. (2001). Patterns of body and visceral growth in human prenates with clefts of the lip and palate. Cleft Palate Craniofac. J. , 38, 341-5. PMID: 11420014 DOI.

Smith TD, Siegel MI, Burrows AM, Mooney MP, Burdi AR, Fabrizio PA & Clemente FR. (1998). Searching for the vomeronasal organ of adult humans: preliminary findings on location, structure, and size. Microsc. Res. Tech. , 41, 483-91. PMID: 9712196 <483::AID-JEMT4>3.0.CO;2-O DOI.

Trotman CA, Hou D, Burdi AR, Cohen SR & Carlson DS. (1995). Histomorphologic analysis of the soft palate musculature in prenatal cleft and noncleft A/Jax mice. Cleft Palate Craniofac. J. , 32, 455-62. PMID: 8547284 DOI.


Glenn FB, Glenn WD & Burdi AR. (1997). Prenatal fluoride for growth and development: Part X. ASDC J Dent Child , 64, 317-21. PMID: 9391707

Poissonnet CM, LaVelle M & Burdi AR. (1988). Growth and development of adipose tissue. J. Pediatr. , 113, 1-9. PMID: 3290412

Burdi AR. (1977). Cleft lip and palate research: an updated state of the art. Section I. Epidemiology, etiology, and pathogenesis of cleft lip and palate. Cleft Palate J , 14, 261-9. PMID: 332412

Burdi A, Feingold M, Larsson KS, Leck I, Zimmerman EF & Fraser FC. (1972). Etiology and pathogenesis of congenital cleft lip and cleft palate, an NIDR state of the art report. Teratology , 6, 255-70. PMID: 4566159 DOI.

Search PubMed: Author - Burdi A

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, March 2) Embryology Embryology History - Alphonse Burdi. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Embryology_History_-_Alphonse_Burdi

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  1. Poissonnet CM, LaVelle M & Burdi AR. (1988). Growth and development of adipose tissue. J. Pediatr. , 113, 1-9. PMID: 3290412