Embryology History - Simon Henry Gage

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Simon Henry Gage

Simon Henry Gage (1851 - 1944)}
Simon Henry Gage (1851 - 1944)}

Prof. Simon Henry Gage (1851 - 1944) entered Cornell University as an undergraduate (1873) graduating in 1877 (B.Sc. Natural History). Anatomy Professor in 1895 (Anatomy, Histology and Embryology), he retired in 1908 in 1918 returning to teaching due to the shortage of instructors during the war.


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1931 - Professor Simon Henry Gage - An Appreciation

by B. F. Kingsbury

J Anat. 48, No. 1 MAY, 1931

This volume is affectionately dedicated by the Editors of The American Journal of Anatomy and the Members of the Advisory Board of The Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology

TO SIMON HENRY GAGE

Professor of Histology and Embryology, Emeritus, Cornell University

On The Occasion Of His Eightieth Birthday May 20, 1931

The present volume of The American Journal of Anatomy is dedicated to Simon Henry Gage upon his eightieth birthday. It expresses the affectionate regard of the Editorial Board, and a heartfelt appreciation of many services to the Journal, to the advancement of anatomy in America, and his ever-ready help to The Wistar Institute, the responsible publisher.

Such a dedication is in every way appropriate. Professor Gage was one of the original members of the American Association of Anatomists when it was established in 1888, and ever since has taken an active part in its proceedings. When, in 1901, the Journal was established as an adequate vehicle for the publication of American anatomical work, Professor Gage became a member of its editorial staff. When, finally, The Wistar Institute was reorganized in 1905 and became the strong support for American biology that it now is, Professor Gage was chosen a member of its original Advisory Board, and through the intervening years has been a staunch supporter of its policies, in whose formulation he has had an active part. Thus a threefold bond has linked him with the anatomical work of the country.

The colleagues of Professor Gage at Cornell University most heartily concur in such an expression of esteem. Fifteen years ago, on the day which this volume commemorates—May 20th—a goodly company of Professor Gage’s friends and colleagues in Ithaca met at dinner in his honor. The occasion was the presentation to Cornell University of a fund for the establishment of a graduate fellowship to be known as the ‘‘Simon Henry Gage Fellowship in Animal Biology.’’? It was Professor Gage’s sixty-fifth birthday, and, as guest of honor, he was compelled to listen to many laudatory discourses upon his earlier life and activities, which doubtless caused him some embarrassment. The brief addresses of that evening were subsequently published’—a slim little pamphlet as compared with the volume now dedicated to him.

IT have ventured in this connection to refer to an earlier appreciation of his unique qualities, since both the sentiment expressed on that occasion as well as its more lasting and practical embodiment—the Fellowship—had as its pervading motif the recognition of Professor Gage’s dominant characteristic as a scientist and a man—the keen desire to promote research and the welfare of his fellow beings in any way he eould. This desire has found expression in varied forms during his life. It became apparent soon after his entrance into Cornell University as a rather serious-minded freshman in 1873, and matured as he successively passed through the phases of assistant, instructor in microscopy and practical physiology; assistant professor of physiology and lecturer on microscopic technology; associate professor; associate professor of anatomy, histology, and embryology, to the rank of professor of microscopy, histology, and embryology (1896) and, finally, professor of histology and embryology. With the founding of the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell University in 1896, he became the head of a separate department, and in 1901, three years after the establishment of the Cornell University Medical College, he removed to the newly erected Stimson Hall, where he has had his scientific home ever since. In 1908, in order that he might devote his entire time to research, he gave up active teaching. When he became really emeritus (1916), his retirement saw no appreciable difference in his status, for he has remained a ‘research professor’ ever since.

+ The Gage Memorial. Official Publications of Cornell University, vol. VII, no. F. July 15, 1916. 32 pp.


There are, of course, many ways of promoting research—intensive individual application to the problem in hand with the exclusion of all else—or in various ways helping others to carry out their programs of work. Professor Gage has done his full share of personal investigation, but I venture to say that the aid he has given others, in the way of actual help, counsel, or encouragement, far outweighs the former. Where no greater opportunity presented itself, a word of commendation or of kindly criticism was always given. Many biologists will recall his sympathetic discussion of their papers at scientific meetings. Only a worker in Stimson Hall can appreciate how constantly he has been appealed to for advice in many fields of endeavor. A chemist or a physicist will be encountered in his room almost as frequently as some devotee of biology, pure or applied. Indeed, so great have been such demands on his time and energy that it is surprising that he has had time for work of his own; nevertheless, in some way he has found it. At the time of his retirement there were some 160 books, papers, and reviews from his pen. Since then twenty-five articles have appeared, and more work is always in progress. Such an attitude of kindly helpfulness is of the heart as well as of the mind; hence it is no wonder he has a host of friends.

Professor Gage has always been a man of action, and this characterizes his scientific work. He has always preferred to work a thing out rather than simply think a thing out. Theoretic speculation has. never appealed to him. He has keenly recognized that science strides forward over the corpses of men’s ideas; that theories are ephemeral, but facts eternal, and hence for him the fact is the most important thing. Every effort should be made to insure the accuracy of their determination. Instruments of precision have always had for him a peculiar fascination, and the working out of technical devices to facilitate and simplify scientific procedures, for himself and others, has been a pleasure. Thus it is that he early gained an interest in the microscope as a scientific instrument, and an appreciation of the importance of its perfection as well as the improvement of all technical procedures in its use. This interest in all its implications has ever been dominant with him. Thirty of his scientific papers are in this field, while his book, ‘‘The Microscope,’’ which is the consummation of this interest, is now in the fourteenth edition. Sympathetic contact with the American microscope makers has always been maintained and a number of his suggestions have been embodied in their apparatus.

Nothing that has been written above concerning Professor Gage’s regard for facts should be construed as implying that he has lacked an appreciation that underlying all is an orderly arrangement into which every fact must fit in accordance with fundamental principles or laws. I believe he would say that most theories were premature. The method of work followed by Charles Darwin has his highest admiration. His appreciation of the complexity of broad biological problems and the remoteness of sound comprehensive interpretations of life has led him, very naturally, into the group of the Neovitalists. He is well satisfied, however, to leave all ‘ultimate’ interpretations to the future. In the meantime, he conceives that every fact, however trivial, must have its niche in the general scheme of things, and into this it must fit.

Any scientist may look for some degree of appreciation of his work, at least from a small coterie of his immediate associates. To few is it given to receive, combined with recognition of his work, so much love and good will. All who know Professor Gage will welcome the appreciation which this volume carries, and share a wish that he may be granted, in the future, years of happy service.

B. F. Kinessury,

Cornell University, Ithaca, N. Y.


1945 - Proceedings Of The American Association Of Anatomists

Memoir of deceased members of the American Association of Anatomists were prepared by committees appointed by Acting President J. P. Schaeffer.

Simon Henry Gage 1851-1944

In the death of Professor Gage, October 20, 1944, at his home in Interlaken, New York, the Association lost one of its oldest members and an enthusiastic supporter.

Simon Henry Gage was born May 20, 1851, on a farm in Otsego County, New York, getting his early education in the rural schools of the district. He early began an independent career and for several years was an itinerant photographer, thereby gaining experience in dealing with people and mastery of a technique which served his needs in the subsequent years. He entered Cornell University in 1873 and very soon became a student assistant in the department of zoology. He had planned to prepare himself for a medical career. He was dissuaded by his chief Dr. Burt Green Wilder, who, recognizing his abilities, urged him to devote his life to teaching and research. The department with which he became associated had, however, a distinctly ‘“medical’’ atmosphere and early established a medical preparatory course.

Professor Gage soon developed an interest in anatomy, particularly microscopic anatomy. His devotion to the microscope and its use is expressed in his book, ‘‘The Microscope’’ which had its beginning in 1881, the last revised edition (the 17th) appearing in 1941.

Upon graduation his advance was rapid, through successive grades to professor (of Histology and Embryology). With the founding at Cornell University of the New York State Veterinary College in 1896, Professor Gage became the head of a separate department. In 1901, 3 years after the establishment of the Cornell University Medical College, of whose faculty he became a member, his department was transferred to the newly erected Stimson Hall which has been his scientific home ever since.

To his colleagues and students at Cornell there was granted a privilege less commonly available to friends away from Ithaca, the hospitality of his home, for invitations were frequent and cordial. He married December 15, 1881 Susanna Phelps who had graduated from Cornell in 1880. Mrs. Gage thoroughly shared her husband’s interest in student and science, cooperating as co-author in a number of his scientific articles and providing the illustration in others, for she was an able artist. Mrs. Gage was, however, a scientist of ability in her own right, gaining a special interest in the vertebrate brain and publishing papers of recognized merit.1 To them was born a son, Henry Phelps Gage, who, after graduate work in physics at Cornell, joined the staff of the Corning Glass Works. There, in charge of the optical laboratory, he contributed to the perfection of several forms of special glass. Mrs. Gage died October 5, 1915. On April 14, 19383 Professor Gage and Clara Covert Starrett were married in Interlaken, New York. They were granted 11 years of happy companionship during which Professor Gage thus had devoted assistance in all phases of his many activities.

Professor Gage early joined the American Society of Microscopists of which he was twice president, and also the American Association for the Advancement of Science, twice serving as chairman of the section for zoology. In 1888 he joined the newly established Association of American Anatomists and with this organization his affiliation was most close. In 1901, through the efforts primarily of Prof. Franklin P. Mall of Johns Hopkins, Charles 8. Minot of Harvard and George S. Huntington of Columbia, the American Journal of Anatomy was established. Professor Gage was chosen a member of the original board of the Journal and served for many years. When in 1905 The Wistar Institute was reorganized and became the strong support for American biology that it now is, Professor Gage was made a member of its Advisory Board. In 1931 on his eightieth birthday and in appreciation of his services, the fory-eighth volume of the American Journal of Anatomy was dedicated to him. Subsequently Professor Gage was selected by the nominating committee for President of the anatomical association, but he declined the nomination.

  • The twenty-seventh volume of the Journal of Comparative Neurology was dedicated to the Memory of Susanna Phelps Gage, and there was included a biography and a bibliography.


The references mentioned above to honors bestowed upon Professor Gage outside his own university reflect the general appreciation of the sterling qualities which characterized him as a man and a scientist and also as a teacher and counsellor of students. As a teacher he was thorough and exceptionally careful that his statements, illustrations and demonstrations were clear and pertinent. Throughout his life he exhibited for his work the enthusiasm of youth and dominant in all his efforts was a keen desire to promote research and the welfare of his fellow beings in any way he could. His advice and counsel were freely given to students, colleagues and fellow scientists. Doubtless many will recall his words of commendation, friendly criticism or his sympathetic discussion of a paper read at a scientific meeting, especially if it were a first paper of a young scientist. This attitude of kindly helpfulness won for him the affection of many and was early acquired. As a student assistant and after graduation in 1877 as assistant, his teaching activities brought him close friendship with many whose subsequent careers in biology or medicine proved distinguished, most notably perhaps Dr. Theobald Smith.

Perhaps the most concrete expression of appreciation was the establishment at Cornell University of a graduate fellowship in his honor. The fund for the Simon Henry Gage Fellowship in Animal Biology was first presented to the University at a dinner in honor of Professor Gage on his sixty-fifth birthday and effectively completed by the ninetieth birthday when he was again feted as a dinner guest by his friends and colleagues.

Professor Gage relinquished his teaching in 1908 to devote himself exclusively to research work-——in progress or in prospect. He returned to teaching, however, in 1917-1918 when World War I depleted the Department of younger members of its staff; thus again graduate and undergraduate students could experience his clear and forceful exposition.

When in 1916 he became ‘‘Professor Emeritus’’ his technical retirement altered in no way his devotion to the problems in hand and he remained active in his Stimson Hall laboratory until the end of his long life. The publications of Professor Gage, books, scientific and other articles, reviews, exceed two hundred. During the early years scientific and technical papers predominate. With the broadening of his interests with the years articles of more general significance are interspersed; after his official retirement, as friends of long standing pass away, biographies and memoirs appear more frequently, but always the published results of his own scientific work. His last published paper bears the date of 1942 and at the time of his death a book was written, the manuscript for another largely completed. Aside from his interest in science, in this last epoch of his life, Professor Gage remained as always eager to help others by suggestion or with advice, or with more concrete aid.


R. R. Bensitey B. F. Kinessury Grorce L. Streeter




Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2019, November 22) Embryology Embryology History - Simon Henry Gage. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Embryology_History_-_Simon_Henry_Gage

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