Hilde Mangold, previously Hilde Proescholdt, was a German embryologist and physiologist who became well known for research completed with Hans Spemann in the 1920s. As a graduate student, Mangold assisted Spemann and together they discovered and coined the term the "organizer." The organizer discovery was a crucial contribution to embryology that led to further understanding of the pattern of embryo differentiation of amphibians. Mangold's dissertation was connected to Spemann's Nobel Prize, but Mangold died early in life and was unable to witness the impact her research had on experimental embryology.

The Spemann-Mangold organizer, also known as the Spemann organizer, is a cluster of cells in the developing embryo of an amphibian that induces development of the central nervous system. Hilde Mangold was a PhD candidate who conducted the organizer experiment in 1921 under the direction of her graduate advisor, Hans Spemann, at the University of Freiburg in Freiburg, German. The discovery of the Spemann-Mangold organizer introduced the concept of induction in embryonic development. Now integral to the field of developmental biology, induction is the process by which the identity of certain cells influences the developmental fate of surrounding cells. Spemann received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1935 for his work in describing the process of induction in amphibians. The Spemann-Mangold organizer drew the attention of embryologists, and it spurred numerous experiments on the nature of induction in many types of developing embryos.

Conrad Hal Waddington's Organisers and Genes, published in 1940, is a summary of available research and theoretical framework for many concepts related to tissue differentiation in the developing embryo. The book is composed of two main conceptual sections. The first section explores the action and nature of the organizer, while the second section delves into genes and their influence on development.

Johannes Holtfreter made important discoveries about the properties of the organizer discovered by Hans Spemann. Although he spent much time away from the lab over many years, he was a productive researcher. His colleagues noted that the time he spent away helped revitalize his ideas. He is credited with the development of a balanced salt medium to allow embryos to develop; the discovery that dead organizer tissue retains inductive abilities; and the development of specification, competence, and distribution of fate maps in the developing frog embryo. He was the sole author on all but three of the more than sixty papers he published. Johannes Holtfreter was born on 9 January 1901 in Richtenberg, Germany. He was the middle of three children, the only boy, and grew up collecting and drawing butterflies and other animals in the surrounding area. When World War I began, his family moved to Strausland, Germany, to avoid the war.

Otto Mangold was an early twentieth century embryologist who specialized in the development of amphibian embryos. A major emphasis of his research was refining the concept of the organizer, now referred to as embryonic induction. He was born on 4 November 1891 in Auenstein, Germany, and came from what Viktor Hamburger, a colleague and personal acquaintance, described as "peasant stock." Mangold attended several universities including Tübingen, Freiburg, and Rostock. He was one of Hans Spemann's first students at Rostock before Mangold had to leave to serve in the air force in World War I.

In "Versuche zur Analyse der Induktionsmittel in der Embryonalentwicklung," published in Naturwissenschaften in 1932, Hermann Bautzmann, Johannes Holtfreter, Otto Mangold, and Hans Spemann jointly reported on experiments each had conducted testing the activity of organizers killed by boiling, freezing, alcohol, and drying. Each of the authors had been independently conducting similar experiments, when Holtfreter made a breakthrough allowing him to produce many more successful transplantations. When he told Spemann the news, Spemann suggested that he tell Bautzmann, who had been working extensively on the question. Spemann then coordinated the joint paper to avoid a conflict among the researchers.

Hilde Proscholdt Mangold was a doctoral student at the Zoological Institute at the University of Freiburg in Freiburg, Germany, from 1920-1923. Mangold conducted research for her dissertation 'On the Induction of Embryonic Primordia by Implantation of Organizers from Different Species' ('Ueber Induktion von Embryonanlagen durch Implantation artfremder Organisatoren'), under the guidance of Hans Spemann, a professor of zoology at the University of Freiburg. The dissertation was the culmination of five experiments on three species of newt embryos, of the genus Triton (presently, Triturus), performed during the summers of 1921 and 1922, which resulted in a confirmation of Spemann's organizer concept. Spemann and Mangold published the dissertation in a 1924 edition of Roux's Archives for Microscopic Anatomy and Developmental Mechanics (Roux's Archiv fur Mikroskopische Anatomie und Entwicklungsmechanik)."

Conrad Hal Waddington's "Experiments on Embryonic Induction III," published in 1934 in the Journal of Experimental Biology, describes the discovery that the primitive streak induces the mammalian embryo. Waddington's hypothesis was that a transplanted primitive streak could induce neural tissue in the ectoderm of the rabbit embryo. The primitive streak defines the axis of an embryo and is capable of inducing the differentiation of various tissues in a developing embryo during gastrulation. In this experiment Waddington was, in fact, able to induce neural differentiation. Waddington noted that the tissue is "competent"; for a chick organizer, and by deduction a mammalian organizer must exist. Competence refers to a cell's ability to respond to an inducing signal, which is temporally limited to certain developmental stages. Waddington's initial work laid the foundation for many decades of research to follow, including further experiments by Waddington with the mammalian organizer.