Biologist William Keith Brooks studied embryological development in invertebrates and used his results as evidence for theories of evolution and ancestral heredity. He founded a marine biological laboratory where his and others' embryological studies took place. Later in life, Brooks became head of the Biology Department at Johns Hopkins University where he helped shape the minds of leading embryologists.

In 1934 a fourteen-day-old embryo was discovered during a postmortem examination and became famous for being the youngest known human embryo specimen at the time. The embryo was coined "the Yale Embryo," named after the location where it was discovered, Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. During the early twentieth century, the rush to collect embryos as well as to find younger and younger embryos was at an all time high, and the Yale Embryo is representative of the this enthusiasm. The young embryo had a significant impact on human embryo collection and developmental studies as well as on the career of its discoverer.

Multiple theories about what determines sex were tested at the turn of the twentieth century. By experimenting on germ cells, cytologist Nettie Maria Stevens collected evidence to support the connection between heredity and the sex of offspring. Stevens was able to interpret her data to conclude that chromosomes have a role in sex determination during development. For her time, she was an emerging breed: a woman of science making the leap from the world of data collection to that of male-dominated interpretive work.

Physician and pathologist Elizabeth Maplesden Ramsey was a member of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW) for thirty-nine years. The affiliation began in 1934, when Ramsey discovered what was assumed to be the youngest-known embryo at the time, and donated it to CIW's massive embryo collection. After studying embryos, Ramsey focused her research on placental circulation in primates.

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