Embryology History - Ambrosius Hubrecht

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Ambrosius Arnold Willem Hubrecht (1853 – 1915)

Hubrecht Collection | Embryo Collections | Hill Collection | Human Embryo Collections | The Trophoblast - A Rejoinder (1904)

The Trophoblast - A Rejoinder (1904)[1]

"The name Trophoblast was used for the first time by me in the meeting of the Anatomical Congress at Wiirzburg in 1888, and its earliest definition is found in the report of that meeting in Nos. 17 and 18 of the Anatomischer Anzeiger, Bd. III. "We there read, concerning a very early stage of the hedgehog (p. 510) : Die aussere Wand der Keimblase ist verdickt (drei bis vierschichtig) und besitzt wabige Lacunen. Fur diese aussere (epiblastische) Schicht sei der. Name Trophoblast gewahlt."

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Brief Biography

(2 March 1853, Rotterdam – 21 March 1915, Utrecht) was a Dutch zoölogist who received his Ph.D. under Halting on a study of the anatomy, histology and development of the worm group Nemerteans.

Hubrecht was bom in Rotterdam on 2 March 1853, die son oftlie secretaiy-general of the Department of the Interior. His father came from an old patrician family, while his mother was related to the professorial family Van der Hoeven. From 1865 to 1869 Hubrecht attended the local HBS. In 1869 he enrolled at the Delft Polytechnic School, but a year later he transferred to the University of Utrecht to study biology. Among his teachers were F.C. Donders and P. Harting. In the academic year 1873-1874 Hubrecht studied at Leiden under E. Selenka, and later in Heidelberg under C. Gegenbaur.

Hubrecht received his Ph.D. under Halting on a study of the anatomy, histology and development of the worm group Nemerteans {Aanteekeningen over de anatomic, histologie en ontivikkelingsgeschiedenis van eenige Nemertinen [Utrecht, 1874]), based on collections at the Zoological Station in Naples, where he was the first Dutch student. Later studies on the anatomy and development of these worms (1875-1889) led him — as a convinced Darwinian — to speculate on die phylogenetic relationship between the Nemerteans and vertebrates. From 1875 to 1882 Hubrecht was curator of fishes at the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden. In 1878 he manied Johanna Maria Molewater with whom he had two sons.

In 1882 Hubrecht succeeded Harting as professor of zoology and comparative anatomy at the University of Utrecht. Although he recognized his obligation to cover comparative physiology, Hubrecht had little interest in this area. Instead, he now began a series of studies on comparative embiyology with the aim of seeking evidence for phylogenetic relationships between various organisms. In 1890 and 1891 Hubrecht traveled through the Dutch East Indies and built a large embiyological collection, especially of insectivores (which were considered to be the most promising mammals for the study of mammalian phylogenesis) and lemuroid primates. Although Hu- brecht's skills as embryologist were highly esteemed, his rather speculative theory of the phylogenetic derivation of mammals direcdy from amphibians met criticism in his later years. Hubrecht summarized his ideas in the Princeton lectures published as Tlie Descent of the Pimates (New York: Scribner, 1897) and Die Sdugestierontogenese in Hirer Bedeutung fir die Phylogenie der Wirbeltiere (Jena: Fischer, 1909).

Hubrecht resigned his chair in 1910 (and was succeeded by H.F. Nierstrasz) in favor of a specially created extraordinary professorship in comparative embryology that he held until his death in 1915. The Institut Inteniational d'Embryologie was founded by him in 1911. In 1912 and 1914 Hubrecht traveled in Algeria and the rest of Africa respectively, to collect embryos.

Hubrecht was active in many other fields of education and science. He was one of the moving forces in the Nederlandsche Dierkundige Vereeniging (Dutch Zoological Society) and established a permanent Zoological Station in Den Helder that was opened in 1890 (now NIOZ, Texel; Dutch Institute for Marine Research). Hubrecht had a life-long uiterest in fisheiy. He showed his interest in colonial science by his membership of the Maatschappij ter Bevordering van het Natuurkundig Onderzoek der Nederlandsche Kolonien (Society for the promotion of natural scientific research in the Dutch colonies, commonly known as the 'Treub Maatschappij') and by his share in the preparation of the Siboga expedition, and expeditions to Bomeo and New Guinea. Hubrecht was involved in the improvement of secondary education and the introduction of Middle European Time in the Netherlands. He wrote many articles in De Gids, a leading cultural and literary journal of which he was one of the editors.

Hubrecht was a member of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (elected in 1883) and of many foreign scientific societies and academies. Hubrecht founded the Institut Internationale d'Embryologie, today known as the International Society of Developmental Biologists. In recognition of his embryological work, he received six doctorates honoris causa. He died on 21 March 1915 in Utrecht.

(Text Source: PDF | Biographies from A History of Science in the Netherlands © Huygens ING (KNAW) 2008-2012. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)


  1. Hubrecht AA. The Trophoblast: A Rejoinder. (1904) Science. 1904 Sep 16;20(507): 367-70. PMID 17734040

Hubrecht AA. (1897). RELATIONS OF TARSIUS TO THE LEMURS AND APES. Science , 5, 550-1. PMID: 17751062 DOI.

Hubrecht AA. (1904). THE TROPHOBLAST: A REJOINDER. Science , 20, 367-70. PMID: 17734040 DOI.

Lippens G, Najib J, Wodak SJ & Tartar A. (1995). NMR sequential assignments and solution structure of chlorotoxin, a small scorpion toxin that blocks chloride channels. Biochemistry , 34, 13-21. PMID: 7819188

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