Carl Richard Moore was a professor and researcher at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois who studied sex hormones in animals from 1916 until his death in 1955. Moore focused on the role of hormones on sex differentiation in offspring, the optimal conditions for sperm production, and the effects of vasectomy or testicular implants on male sex hormone production. Moore's experiments to create hermaphrodites in the laboratory contributed to the theory of a feedback loop between the pituitary and fetal gonadal hormones to control sex differentiation. Moore showed that the scrotal sac controls the temperature for the testes, which is necessary for sperm production. He also helped distinguish the hormones testosterone, and androsterone from testicular extracts.

Frank Rattray Lillie's research on freemartins from 1914 to 1920 in the US led to the theory that hormones partly caused for sex differentiation in mammals. Although sometimes applied to sheep, goats, and pigs, the term freemartin most often refers to a sterile cow that has external female genitalia and internal male gonads and was born with a normal male twin. Lillie theorized that a freemartin is a genetic female whose process of sexual development from an undifferentiated zygote was suppressed or antagonized by her twin's release of male hormones via their shared blood circulation in utero. Despite publications of similar findings by physician Julius Tandler in Vienna, Austria, in 1910 and physician Karl Keller in Wiesensteig, Germany in 1916 prior to Lillie's research, Lillie often receives credit for the hormonal theory of sex differentiation in the freemartin. Lillie's study of freemartins, and the subsequent research by graduate students in Lillie's laboratory at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, prompted many embryologists to research sex differentiation and hermaphroditism in mammals.

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, began in 1888 to offer opportunities for instruction and research in biological topics. For the first few years, this meant that individual investigators had a small lab space upstairs in the one wooden building on campus where students heard their lectures and did their research in a common area downstairs. The lectures for those first years offered an overview of general biology with a focus on zoology, and they were intended for teachers and graduate students interested in acquiring the background for teaching about and/or actually doing laboratory work. As the lab quickly grew, it added sets of lectures that made up courses in zoology, then botany, then physiology, and in 1893 what became the first Embryology Course.

Frank R. Lillie was born in Toronto, Canada, on 27 June 1870. His mother was Emily Ann Rattray and his father was George Waddell Little, an accountant and co-owner of a wholesale drug company. While in high school Lillie took up interests in entomology and paleontology but went to the University of Toronto with the aim of studying ministry. He slowly became disillusioned with this career choice and decided to major in the natural sciences. It was during his senior year that he developed his lifelong interest in embryology. Graduating with a BA in 1891 Lillie then moved to the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to work and study with Charles Otis Whitman, the founding director of the MBL. Lillie collected and studied cell lineage side-by-side with some of the most prominent embryologists of the time: Edmund B. Wilson, Edwin G. Conklin, and Aaron L. Treadwell. Along with his cell lineage studies, Whitman guided Lillie to work on the question of how blastomeres contributed to the formation of organs in fresh water clams.

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