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.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Edmund B. Wilson performed experiments to show where germinal matter was located in molluscs. At Columbia University in New York City, New York, Wilson studied what causes cells to differentiate during development. In 1904 he conducted his experiments on molluscs, and he modified the theory about the location of germinal matter in the succeeding years. Wilson and others modified the theory of germinal localization to accommodate results that showed the significance of chromosomes in development and heredity.

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.

Although educated as a scientist who studied with both August Weismann and Ernst Heinrich Haeckel, Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch was first employed as a professor of philosophy and became a strong proponent of vitalism. Driesch was born on 28 October 1867, the only child of Josefine Raudenkolb and Paul Driesch. He grew up in a wealthy merchant family in Hamburg, Germany, where he was educated at the humanistic Gymnasium Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums that had been founded by a friend of Martin Luther. In 1886 he spent two summers studying with Weismann at the University of Freiburg and then entered the University of Jena, where he received his doctorate in 1889 with a study of hydroid colonies. By 1890 Driesch had lost interest in Haeckel's popular phylogenetic approach to zoology and instead focused on experimental embryology.

Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch was a late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century philosopher and developmental biologist. In the spring of 1891 Driesch performed experiments using two-celled sea urchin embryos, the results of which challenged the then-accepted understanding of embryo development. Driesch showed that the cells of an early embryo, when separated, could each continue to develop into normal larval forms. This finding contrasted with Wilhelm Roux's experiments with frog eggs from which Roux concluded that embryonic cells have predetermined fates - they cannot form into one thing when separated, and a different form when left unseparated. To Roux, embryos were made up of a mosaic of cells, all of which were important and necessary for the viable embryos to form. Driesch, on the other hand, was able to show that individual cells resulting from cleavage of the fertilized egg were all able to form into viable embryos, and not just predetermined parts that Roux believed.

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