Embryology History - Herbert Evans

From Embryology


Herbert McLean Evans
Herbert McLean Evans {1882—1971)

Herbert Mclean Evans September 23, 1882-March 6, 1971

Herbert McLean Evans (1882-1971), anatomist, endocrinologist, and bibliophile, was born in Modesto, California, September 23, 1882.

  • Anatomical Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University.
  • Chair of Anatomy at UC in 1915.

Embryologists: William Hunter | Wilhelm Roux | Caspar Wolff | Wilhelm His | Oscar Hertwig | Julius Kollmann | Hans Spemann | Francis Balfour | Charles Minot | Ambrosius Hubrecht | Charles Bardeen | Franz Keibel | Franklin Mall | Florence Sabin | George Streeter | George Corner | James Hill | Jan Florian | Thomas Bryce | Thomas Morgan | Ernest Frazer | Francisco Orts-Llorca | José Doménech Mateu | Frederic Lewis | Arthur Meyer | Robert Meyer | Erich Blechschmidt | Klaus Hinrichsen | Hideo Nishimura | Arthur Hertig | John Rock | Viktor Hamburger | Mary Lyon | Nicole Le Douarin | Robert Winston | Fabiola Müller | Ronan O'Rahilly | Robert Edwards | John Gurdon | Shinya Yamanaka | Embryology History | Category:People
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Biography - excerpts

"While Evans was thus exhibiting his remarkable talent for anatomical investigation, Franklin Mall missed no occasion to foster his training for a professional career. He not only encouraged EVans’s research, but had him write book reviews for the Anatomical Record, then being published from Mall’s laboratory, and finally gave him a quite extraordinary opportunity for so young a man. In 1907, Mall was organizing, jointly with Franz Keibel of Freiburg, Baden, Germany, their great Manual of Human Embryology (1910, Philadelphia and Leipzig), to be written by leading investigators of Germany and America. When a European embryologist who was to contribute a section on the blood—vascular system was unable to do so, Mall entrusted the task to Evans. Too ambitious merely to compile what was already known, Evans prepared himself for the assignment not only by studying the literature and then examining well-understood human embryos in Mall’s collection but also by making original observations on the little-known earliest development of the aorta and the other great vessels. By extremely skillful injection of chick embryos, working under the microscope, he proved—against the supposition of Hochstetter and others—that these ultimately large channels begin, as do the peripheral arteries and veins, as a network of capillaries. This fundamental observation was the basis of Evans’s authoritative contribution to the Keibel-Mall Manual, Chapter XVIII, Section III. From the first, Evans felt little interest in the clinical courses at Johns Hopkins, particularly when they took his time from such exciting activities as injecting embryonic blood vessels. He cut classes without regard to consequences. A preposterous story got abroad that he was granted his medical diploma only on his promise that he would never practice medicine. He himself contributed to the persistence of such legends by his own, equally apocryphal statement* that he was expelled from the medical school at the end of his third year for incompetence in surgical bandaging, obstetrical manikin exercises, and prescription-writing and was only restored to academic status with the help and advice of Dr. William H. Howell, then dean of the school. No doubt he did neglect such practical routines, but in sober fact the records of the medical school do not mention any disciplinary action ever taken with respect to H. M. Evans,* and he was graduated in medicine in 1908."

"As a member of Mall’s staff, Evans was busy with teaching, with his work on vital staining, and with studying the blood vessels of pig and chick embryos as well as of human embryos on the rare occasion when one was received in a sufficiently fresh state to be injected with india ink. In 1913, on obtaining funds from the Carnegie Institution of Washington for the support of his large collection of human embryos and to develop research in that field, Mall created the department of embryology of the Carnegie Institution. This was first housed in the johns Hopkins anatomical laboratory and later in part of an adjacent new building. Evans, who was given a Carnegie appointment concurrently with his johns Hopkins post, then devoted a good deal of his time to the sectioning of early human embryos and to reconstructing them in wax from the sections—“A wearisome thing to do,” he said, “compared with making the living embryo pump india ink as though it were blood to show the multitudinous vascular channels.

This strong inclination to experimental rather than purely morphological research was a partial cause of Evans’s dropping a major project that Mall had suggested, a descriptive study of the human embryo during the period of somite formation. Another reason was that when Evans finally left Baltimore, Mall was unwilling to let him take along, even for his temporary use, the rare and precious serially sectioned embryos necessary for the study — one or two of which, at least, Evans had himself collected and laboriously sectioned during Mall’s summer absences. Evans was disappointed and hurt by what he regarded as his chief’s ungenerosity. However, a few years later when Mall died in the prime of life with the rift between them still unhealed, Evans was deeply grieved. As a kind of penance for his part in the disagreement, he proposed to write a biography of Mall, hinting that this would be a profound analysis of a distinguished scientific mind (as indeed it might well have been), but in time the plan was forgotten. Evans’s work on the embryos, however, was not lost. Several years later G. W. Bartelmez of the University of Chicago took up the study of the somite stage of human devel_opmerit, first studying the Carnegie embryos in Baltimore, then going to Berkeley to secure Evans’s collaboration and the use of his notes and drawings. The result was an important monograph in the Carnegie Contflbutions to Embryology (1926) under their joint authorship."

(Above excerpts from 1974 biography)[1]


  1. Corner GW. Herbert Mclean Evans (1974) Biogr Mem Natl Acad Sci. 1974;45:153-92. PubMed 11615647

Saunders JB. (1972). Herbert McLean Evans M.D., Sc. D. (1882-1971). An appreciation. J. Anat. , 111, 187-9. PMID: 4552756

Raacke ID. (1983). Herbert Mclean Evans (1882-1971). A biographical sketch. J. Nutr. , 113, 929-43. PMID: 6341518 DOI.

Grumbach MM. (1982). Herbert McLean Evans, revolutionary in modern endocrinology: a tale of great expectations. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. , 55, 1240-7. PMID: 6752173 DOI.

Raacke ID. (1976). "The die is cast"--"I am going home": the appointment of Herbert McLean Evans as head of anatomy at Berkeley. J Hist Biol , 9, 301-22. PMID: 11610070 DOI.

Selected References

Evans HM. On an instance of two subclavian arteries of the early arm bud of man and its fundamental significance. (1908) Anat. Rec.

Evans HM. On the development of the aortae, cardinal and umbilical veins, and the other blood vessels of vertebrate embryos from capillaries. (1909) Anat. Rec. 3: 498-518.

Evans HM. On the earliest blood-vessels in the anterior limb-buds of birds and their relation to the primary subclavian artery. (1909) Amer. J Anat. 9: 281-319.

Evans HM. The development of the vascular system. In Keibel F. and Mall FP. Manual of Human Embryology II. (1912) J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia. pp570-708.

Evans HM. and Bartelmez GW. A human embryo of seven to eight somites. (1917) Anat. Rec. 11: 355.

Bartelmez GW. and Evans HM. Development of the human embryo during the period of somite formation, including embryos with 2 to 16 pairs of somites. (1926) Contrib. Embryol., Vol. 17, Carn. Inst. Wash. Pub. No. 85, pp. 1-67.

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, May 25) Embryology Embryology History - Herbert Evans. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Embryology_History_-_Herbert_Evans

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