History - Embryologists

From Embryology
Embryology - 22 Jun 2024    Facebook link Pinterest link Twitter link  Expand to Translate  
Google Translate - select your language from the list shown below (this will open a new external page)

العربية | català | 中文 | 中國傳統的 | français | Deutsche | עִברִית | हिंदी | bahasa Indonesia | italiano | 日本語 | 한국어 | မြန်မာ | Pilipino | Polskie | português | ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਦੇ | Română | русский | Español | Swahili | Svensk | ไทย | Türkçe | اردو | ייִדיש | Tiếng Việt    These external translations are automated and may not be accurate. (More? About Translations)


Mark Hill.jpg

This page is a brief introduction to just some of the historic embryologists who have contributed to our understanding of development today. The embryologists have been listed in a rough timeline and their names can often be found associated with embryological structures. There are of course too many to list all here, and those appearing elsewhere on this current site are included below (Please contact me if you would like your favourite historic embryologist added to the list on this page). This page does not cover modern embryologists, who can be found as the authors of articles and reviews in many different journals and books today.

See also Meyer's 1932 series of essays on this topic.

Meyer AW. 1932 - Essays on the History of Embryology: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Arthur Meyer | Historic Embryology Papers

For information related to early embryologists in the United States see the book The Emergence of Experimental Embryology in the United States by S. Robert Hilfer, Ph.D. 1990.

Much of the early history of embryology was European based and in the 19th Century mainly German researchers began the detailed description of human development. Later this included United Kingdom and then USA based researchers.

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
Related Histology Researchers  
Santiago Ramón y Cajal | Camillo Golgi

History Links: Historic Embryology Papers | Historic Embryology Textbooks | Embryologists | Historic Vignette | Historic Periods | Historic Terminology | Human Embryo Collections | Carnegie Contributions | 17-18th C Anatomies | Embryology Models | Category:Historic Embryology
Historic Papers: 1800's | 1900's | 1910's | 1920's | 1930's | 1940's | 1950's | 1960's | 1970's | 1980's

Francesco Redi (1626 - 1698)

Francesco Redi was a natural philosopher at the Medici court and physician to two Grand Dukes of Tuscany. His experiments disproved the "spontaneous generation" theory, showing that insects do not spontaneously generate from decaying matter.

See Meyer's 1931 essay[1] on the Idea of Spontaneous Generation.

Francesco Redi

Reinier de Graaf (1641 - 1673)

A Dutch embryologist who published works on female genital organs. He was first to describe the "Graafian follicle" in the ovary of mammals, but erroneously believed the entire follicle to be the mammalian oocyte (egg).

Meyer1932history3 fig02.jpg

After Table 15 of de Graaf: A, a. testlculus secundum Iongitudlnlm apertus

Links: Reinier de Graaf | ovary | oocyte Category:Reinier De Graaf
Nelsen1953 fig001.jpg

Giovanni Battista Morgagni (1668-1771)

An Italian anatomist and Professor of Anatomy at the University of Padua. Giovanni Battista Morgagni.jpg

Caspar Friedrich Wolff (1733 - 1794)

Wolff was a German embryologist and anatomist best known today for the Wolffian duct (mesonephric duct), Wolffian body (mesonephros) and Wolffian cyst (mesonephric origin uterine broad ligament cyst) that bear his name. Thought also to be a founder of the germ layer theory. His doctorate dissertation Theoria generationis (1774) discarded the developmental theory of preformation.

Later in his career, his teaching in Berlin was opposed by the professors of the Medical-Surgical College, who had guild privileges to teach medicine.

Blyakher1955 fig02.jpg

Caspar Friedrich Wolff (1734-1794)

Links: Caspar Friedrich Wolff | Renal System Development | Genital System Development | Theoria generationis | Germ Layer Theory

Karl von Baer (1792-1876)

Professor at the University of Königsberg published Über Entwickelungsgeschichte der Thiere (On the Developmental History of Animals) 1828.

From Thomas Henry Huxley translation in Scientific Memoirs:[2]

  1. More general characters of a large group appear earlier in the embryo than the more special characters.
  2. From the most general forms the less general are developed, and so on, until finally the most special arises.
  3. Every embryo of a given animal form, instead of passing through the other forms, rather becomes separated from them.
  4. Fundamentally, therefore, the embryo of a higher form never resembles any other form, but only its embryo.
Karl von Baer.jpg

Martin Heinrich Rathke (1793 - 1860)

Rathke was a German embryologist and anatomist best known today for identifying "Rathke's pouch" (1839), a transient folding surface ectoderm from roof of the oral cavity that will form the anterior pituitary (hypophysis). in later development the connection with the oral cavity is lost. Rathke's fold refers to the transient lateral components formed during development of the urogenital septum, dividing the rectum from the urinary bladder.

Rathke studied medicine at the University of Göttingen and later in Berlin, where he received his doctorate in medicine (1818).

Embryonic and fetal pituitary.jpg Urogenital septum 001 icon.jpg
Rathke's pouch Rathke's fold
Links: pituitary | Historic Terminology | Embryology History
Martin Rathke.jpg

Martin Rathke

Jones Quain (1796 - 1865)

Jones Quain (1796 – 1865) was an Irish anatomist and professor of Anatomy and Physiology at the University of London. His textbook "Elements of Anatomy" was first published in 1828.

1878 Elements of Anatomy: The Ovum | The Blastoderm | Fetal Membranes | Placenta | Musculoskeletal | Neural | Gastrointesinal | Respiratory | Cardiovascular | Urogenital

Johannes Peter Müller (1801 - 1858)

The German medical scientist Johannes Peter Müller (1801-1858) made important contributions to several branches of medicine, including anatomy, physiology, embryology, and pathology. He was the first to describe the duct that contributes the female internal genital tract and named after him, the "Müllerian duct". The historic terminology is still used, though the current descriptive terminology is the "paramesonephric duct".

Note the other paired male genital ducts, historically called Wolffian ducts, named after Caspar Friedrich Wolff (1735 – 1794) a German embryologist. The current descriptive terminology is the "mesonephric duct".

Links: uterus | genital | 1850 Educational History of the Genitalia | Embryology History

Johannes Muller.jpg

Johannes Peter Müller

Robert Remak (1815 - 1865)

Remak was a Polish-German embryologist, physiologist, and neurologist credited with many contributions to embryology. Discovered (1838) the non-medullated nerve fibres, named (1842) the three embryo germ layers (ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm) and (1844) identified the nerve cells of the heart, called Remak's ganglia.
Links: Cardiovascular System Development
Robert Remak.jpg

Robert Remak

Rudolph Albert von Kölliker (1817 - 1905)

Albert von Kölliker (1817 - 1905) (Rudolf Albert Kölliker) was a Swiss anatomist, physiologist, and histologist. Rudolf Albert Von Kölliker.jpg

Julius Kollmann (1834 - 1918)

Kollmann was a German embryologist and Professor extraordinarius, Munich University, 1870–8; professor of anatomy, Basel University, 1878 – 1913. Images from Kollmann's 2 volume Atlas of the Development of Man (Handatlas der entwicklungsgeschichte des menschen) were extensively reused in other embryology textbooks and are also the basis of many modern drawings.

Links: Atlas (Volume 1) | Atlas (Volume 2) | Category:Kollmann | Julius Kollmann

Julius kollmann.jpg

Julius Kollmann

Carl Ludwig (1816 - 1895)

Carl Ludwig

Wilhelm Roux (1850 – 1924)

Roux was a German zoologist and pioneer of experimental embryology. Described "Entwicklungsmechanik" (mechanisms) a physiological approach to embryology. One experiment used a heated needle to kill at the frog 2 cell stage one of the blastomeres. Doctoral thesis - On the bifurcation of blood vessels. A morphological study.

Links: Wilhelm Roux
Wilhelm Roux.jpg

Wilhelm Roux

Wilhelm His (1831 - 1904)

His was a noted Swiss anatomist and embryologist educated in Basel and Bern, in Berlin. His teachers in Würzburg were Johannes Peter Müller (1801-1858) and Robert Remak (1815-1865) and in Prague and Vienna with Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902). All three of these researchers were major 19th century embryologists.

Wilhelm His was a Swiss anatomist and embryologist.

Links: Category:Wilhelm His | Embryology History | The Elements of Embryology by Foster, Balfour, Sedgwick and Heape (1883) | The Early Embryology of the Chick by Patten (1920) | Text-Book of Embryology by Bailey and Miller (1921) | Ziegler Models

Wilhelm His.jpg

Wilhelm His

Ambrosius Hubrecht (1853 – 1915)

A Dutch zoölogist who received his Ph.D. under Halting on a study of the anatomy, histology and development of the worm group Nemerteans. He created the Institut International d'Embryologie (International Institute of Embryology) in Utrecht, The Netherlands, in 1911. He supported Charles Darwin's work, and collected specimens of embryos from around the world to demonstrate evolutionary connections between animals.

Links: Ambrosius Hubrecht | Hubrecht Collection | Hill Collection
Ambrosius Hubrecht.jpg

Ambrosius Arnold Willem Hubrecht

Charles Sedgwick Minot (1852–1914)

Charles Sedgwick Minot (1852–1914) was an American anatomist and embryologist. In 1883 he was appointed instructor in histology and embryology in the Harvard Medical School. His embryological collection, The Harvard Embryological Collection (the Minot Collection) now forms part of the Carnegie collection.

Links: Charles Minot | The Harvard Embryological Collection
Charles minot.jpg

Charles Sedgwick Minot (1852–1914)

Oskar Hertwig (1849 – 1922)

Oskar Hertwig was a German embryologist, Professor extraordinarius of Anatomy and Comparative Anatomy, Director of the II. Anatomical Institute of the University of Berlin. In 1875 identified ((fertilisation}} in the egg of the sea-urchin (Toxopneustes lividus) occurred when the nucleus belonging to the egg fuse together with the nucleus derived from the spermatozoon.

Links: Oskar Hertwig | Text-Book of the Embryology of Man and Mammals
Oskar Hertwig.jpg

Oskar Hertwig

Historic Embryology
Oscar Hertwig (1849-1922)

Oscar Hertwig (1849-1922) was a German embryologist and anatomist who first identified in amphibia tooth development, and was subsequently named Hertwig's epithelial root sheath (HERS). In amphibia, this is a permanent structure. In mammals, this is a transient structure, assembled during early tooth root formation and elongation. Later the HERS becomes fenestrated and reduced to the epithelial rests of Malassez (ERM).[3]

Theodor Heinrich Boveri (1862 – 1915)

Theodor Heinrich Boveri (1862 – 1915) was a German biologist at the Institute of Zoology in Würzburg. In 1902 using the sea urchin model, identified the role of nuclear chromosomes in development.[4] Theodor Heinrich Boveri.jpg

Franz Keibel (1861 - 1929)

Franz Keibel (1861 - 1929) was a German anatomist and embryologist. Beginning in 1897 he was the editor of the series "vertebrate embryological standard panels" (Normentafeln zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Wirbeltiere), published in German, each volume covered a specific vertebrate species. This included human embryos (Homo sapiens). These standard tables form the basis of the modern embryological staging systems.

Links: Franz Keibel | 1908 Normal Plates of the Development of the Human Embryo | 1910 Manual of Human Embryology 1 | 1912 Manual of Human Embryology 2 | Category:Franz Keibel
Franz Keibel.jpg

Franz Keibel

Franklin P. Mall (1862 - 1917)

Mall is most remembered for his work done at the Department of Embryology at the Carnegie Institute of Washington. He began collecting human embryos while a postgraduate student in Lepzig with Wilhelm His, but didn't receive the first Carnegie specimen until his position at Johns Hopkins University.

Franklin Mall Links: Franklin Mall | 1891 26 Day Human Embryo | 1905 Blood-Vessels of the Brain | 1906 Human Ossification | 1910 Manual of Human Embryology 1 | 1912 Manual of Human Embryology 2 | 1911 Mall Human Embryo Collection | 1912 Heart Development | 1915 Tubal Pregnancy | 1916 Human Magma in Normal and Pathological Development | 1917 Frequency Human Abnormalities | 1917 Human Embryo Cyclopia | 1918 Embryo Age | 1918 Appreciation | 1934 Franklin Mall biography PDF | Mall photograph | Mall painting | Mall painting | Carnegie Stages | Carnegie Embryos | Carnegie Collection | Category:Franklin Mall
Franklin Mall 03.jpg

Franklin Mall

Florence Sabin (1871 - 1953)

Sabin generated a three-dimensional model of a newborn human brainstem, An Atlas of the Medulla and Midbrain (1901) and published on the embryological development of the lymphatic system while at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine under Franklin Mall.

Florence Sabin: No. 18 Origin And Development of the Primitive Vessels of the Chick and of the Pig | No. 36 Studies On The Origin Of Blood-Vessels And Of Red Blood-Corpuscles As Seen In The Living Blastoderm Of Chicks During The Second Day Of Incubation | No. 65 Direct growth of veins by sprouting | Contributions to Embryology
Florence Sabin 1938.jpg

Florence Rena Sabin

George L. Streeter (1873 – 1948)

Streeter was an American embryologist, holding many key positions during embryology discoveries in the early period of last century, and also associated with the establishment of the Carnegie Institution.

  Streeter Links: George Streeter | 1905 Cranial and Spinal Nerves | 1906 Membranous Labyrinth | 1908 Peripheral Nervous System 10mm Human | 1908 Cranial Nerves 10mm Human | 1912 Nervous System | 1917 Scala Tympani Scala Vestibuli and Perioticular Cistern | 1917 Ear Cartilaginous Capsule | 1918 Otic Capsule | 1919 Filum Terminale | 1920 Presomite Embryo | 1920 Human Embryo Growth | 1921 Brain Vascular | 1938 Early Primate Stages | 1941 Macaque embryo | 1945 Stage 13-14 | 1948 Stages 15-18 | 1949 Cartilage and Bone | 1951 Stages 19-23 | Contributions to Embryology | Historic Embryology Papers | Carnegie Stages | Category:George Streeter George Linius Streeter (1873-1948)
George L. Streeter.jpg

George Streeter

Santiago Ramón y Cahal (1852 - 1934)

Cahal was a Spanish pathologist and histologist and one of the early neuroscientists. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

From the 1990 Science book review.[5]

"The neuroanatomist Santiago Ramon y Cahal might be considered something of a pioneer in the autobiographical genre, his straightforwardly titled Recuerdos de Mi Vida having appeared, in two volumes, in 1901 and 1907. The work was translated into English in 1937 and published as volume 8 of the Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, itself now a long-standing sponsor of such works."
Links: Ramón y Cahal | 1899 Human Sensory Cortex | Neural System Development
Santiago Ramon y Cahal.jpg

Ramon y Cahal

Hans Spemann (1869 - 1941)

Spemann was a German embryologist who worked extensively on amphibian development and was the discoverer of the organiser region (or primitive node) the controller of gastrulation. Received the 1935 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for his discovery of the organizer effect in embryonic development".

Links: Embryology History - Hans Spemann | Frog Development | Gastrulation

Hans Spemann.jpg

Hans Spemann

Viktor Hamburger (1900 - 2001)

Founding researcher in the field of developmental neuroscience, establishing the role of neurotrophic factors for neuronal survival during development.
  • University of Freiburg with Hans Spemann.
  • 1933 - United States, first in Chicago and then at Washington University.
  • 1988 - published "The Foundations of Experimental Embryology: Hans Spemann and the Organizer".
  • The Viktor Hamburger Centenary Celebration PMID 11241837 Dev Dyn.

Links: Neural System Development | Chicken Development | The heritage of experimental embryology
Viktor Hamburger.jpg

Viktor Hamburger

Mary Lyon (1925 - 2014)

Mary Lyon was a UK geneticist who proposed in 1961 the theory of X chromosome inactivation, where one of the two X chromosomes in the cells of female mammals is randomly inactivated during early development. In deference to her, this process is also referred to as "Lyonisation". She also worked on other X-linkedgenetic diseases, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy and haemophilia.

Links: Mary Lyon | X Inactivation | Epigenetics | Mouse Development | Guardian 2015 obituary
Mary Lyon.jpg

Shinya Yamanaka (1962 - )

Professor Yamanaka has had a key role to play in identifying the specific 4 factors alone required to transform a cell from adult tissues into a stem cell. These 4 factors have also been called "Yamanaka Factors" and the stem cells formed, by their introduction or expression, are called "induced Pluriopotential Stem Cells" (iPS).

Links: Shinya Yamanaka | Induced Stem Cells | Stem Cells | The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012
Shinya Yamanaka.jpg

Shinya Yamanaka




  • John E. Sulston (6 March, 2018) Professor, British biologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine ( 2002) for worm development. Nature | [dev.biologists.org/content/145/9/dev166538 Development] Search Pubmed - Sulston J
  • John D. Biggers (April 7th, 2018) PhD, DSc Professor Emeritus, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts, USA. IVF Research Pioneer Search Pubmed - Biggers J
  • Ronan O'Rahilly (June 24, 2018) Professor, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, USA. Search Pubmed - O'Rahilly R
  • William McBride (27 June, 2018) Australian obstetrician who warned about the teratogenic effects of thalidomide. Search Pubmed - McBride W


  1. Meyer AW. Essays on the History of Embryology: Part I. Cal West Med. 1931 Dec;35(6):447-51. PMID 18741978
  2. Huxley TH. (1853). Scientific memoirs, selected from the transactions of foreign academies of science, and from foreign journals. (1853). Natural history. Henfrey, Arthur, ed. London (UK): Taylor and Francis. doi:10.5962/bhl.title.28029.
  3. Luan X, Ito Y & Diekwisch TG. (2006). Evolution and development of Hertwig's epithelial root sheath. Dev. Dyn. , 235, 1167-80. PMID: 16450392 DOI.
  4. Laubichler MD & Davidson EH. (2008). Boveri's long experiment: sea urchin merogones and the establishment of the role of nuclear chromosomes in development. Dev. Biol. , 314, 1-11. PMID: 18163986 DOI.
  5. Livingston K. (1990). Recollections of My Life. Santiago Ramon Y Cajal. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1989. xxvi, 638 pp., illus. Paper, $16.95. Translated from the third Spanish edition (1923). Reprint, 1937 edition; The Never-Ceasing Search. Francis O. Schmitt. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1990. xvi, 399 pp., illus. $30. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 188; Song Among the Ruins. William J. Schull. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1990. x, 305 pp. + plates. $25; Science, Churchill, and Me. Hermann Bondi. Pergamon, New York, 1990. x, 142 pp. + plates. $30; A Very Decided Preference. Life with Peter Medawar. Jean Medawar. Norton, New York, 1990. 256 pp., illus. $19.95; Landau. The Physicist and the Man. I. M. Khalatnikov, Ed. Pergamon, New York, 1989. viii, 323 pp., illus. $100. Translated from the Russian by J. B. Sykes; Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman. A. Jayaraman. Allied East-West Press, New Delhi, 1989 (available from the author, AT&T Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ 07974). xiv, 214 pp. + plates. $10; paper, $8. Science , 249, 571-2. PMID: 17735292 DOI.

Glossary Links

Glossary: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | Numbers | Symbols | Term Link

Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, June 22) Embryology History - Embryologists. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/History_-_Embryologists

What Links Here?
© Dr Mark Hill 2024, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G