Edmund Beecher Wilson contributed to cell biology, the study of cells, in the US during the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. His three editions of The Cell in Development and Inheritance (or Heredity) in 1896, 1900, and 1925 introduced generations of students to cell biology. In The Cell, Wilson described the evidence and theories of his time about cells and identified topics for future study. He helped show how each part of the cell works during cell division and in every step of early development of an organism. Developmental biologists trained in the mid-twentieth century reported WilsonÕs text as their foundation for understanding biology, including about how cells, development, heredity, and evolution interact. Wilson considered cells as the center of all biological phenomena.
Edmund Beecher Wilson experimented with Amphioxus (Branchiostoma) embryos in 1892 to identify what caused their cells to differentiate into new types of cells during the process of development. Wilson shook apart the cells at early stages of embryonic development, and he observed the development of the isolated cells. He observed that in the normal development of Amphioxus, all three main types of symmetry, or cleavage patterns observed in embryos, could be found. Wilson proposed a hypothesis that reformed the Mosaic Theory associated with Wilhelm Roux in Germany. Wilson suggested that cells differentiated into other cells when influenced by physiological (dynamic) changes in the hereditary substance contained in cells, and not because of the qualitative division, or parcelling out, of the substance into daughter cells. Wilson published his results in August 1893.
The Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (Anton Dohrn Zoological Station) is a public research institute focusing on biology and biodiversity. Hereafter called the Station, it was founded in Naples, Italy, in 1872 by Anton Dohrn. The type of research conducted at the Station has varied since it was created, though initial research focused on embryology. At the turn of the twentieth century, researchers at the Station established the sea urchin (Echinoidea) as a model organism for embryological research. A number of scientists conducted experiments on embryos and embryonic development at the Station from the 1890s to the 1930s, including Hans Driesch, Jacques Loeb, Theodor Boveri, Otto Warburg, Hans Spemann and Thomas Morgan. Research completed during this time at the Station contributed to the study of experimental embryology and developmental biology and helped shape the history of embryology.
In the early twentieth century, Paul Kammerer, a zoologist working at the Vivarium in Vienna, Austria, experimented on sea-squirts (Ciona intestinalis). Kammerer claimed that results from his experiments demonstrated that organisms could transmit characteristics that they had acquired in their lifetimes to their offspring. Kammerer conducted breeding experiments on sea-squirts and other organisms at a time when Charles Darwin's 1859 theory of evolution lacked evidence to explain how offspring inherited traits from their parents. In 1809, zoologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in France theorized that living beings can inherit the features their parents or ancestors acquired during those ancestor's lifetime, a theory called the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Kammerer attempted to provide evidence for the theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics, which constituted, he argued, the mechanics of evolution. Kammerer claimed that his results could explain evolutionary processes through developmental phenomena.
Julia Barlow Platt studied neural crests in animal embryos and became involved in politics in the US during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She researched how body and head segments formed in chicks (Gallus gallus) and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias). Platt observed that in the mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus), the coordinated migration of neural crest cells in the embryo produced parts of the nervous system, bones, and connective tissues in the head. Platt's research indicated that the neural crest functioned like a germ layer, it challenged existing theories of what sorts of tissues arose from each of an embryo's germ layers, and it described early developmental stages of the nervous system.