Born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on 2 February 1869, Charles Manning Child was the only surviving child of Mary Elizabeth and Charles Chauncey Child, a prosperous, old New England family. Growing up in Higganum, Connecticut, Child was interested in biology from an early age. He made extensive collections of plants and minerals on his family farm and went on to study biology at Wesleyan University, commuting from his family home. Child received his PhB in 1890 and MS in biology in 1892, and then went on to study in Leipzig after his parents death. He worked for a short time in the psychology laboratory of Wilhelm Wundt, and then pursued studies in zoology under the supervision of Rudolf Leuckhart. His doctoral dissertation investigated morphological aspects of insect sense organs. Leuckhart emphasized the functional purpose of morphological structures and led many of his students to develop and defend the notion of teleology, including Child, who completed his PhD in 1894.

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.

This video is composed of a sequence of films created by John Tyler Bonner in the 1940s to show the life cycle of the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum. As only the second person to study slime molds, Bonner frequently encountered audiences who had never heard of, let alone seen, the unusual organism. He therefore decided to create a film to present at seminars in order to introduce his object of study; the time-lapsed film captivated audiences, indeed Bonner has described that the film "always stole the show." Bonner began working in the biology department at Princeton University in 1947, and although Princeton appears in the opening title, Bonner actually made the film for his senior thesis as an undergraduate at Harvard University with some early assistance from Frank Smith, a photographer. Although unsure of name of the device that was used for filming, he has described it as "the most amazing antique contraption that belonged to my professor, Wm. H. Weston. It consisted of a gigantic and VERY heavy set of brass gears that had numerous possible speeds that turned a crank on the side of an old 16 mm box camera that pointed into the ocular of a microscope. The electric motor that propelled it made such vibrations that the whole apparatus had to be on a separate table and not touching the microscope."

Regeneration is a fascinating phenomenon. The fact that many organisms have the capacity to regenerate lost parts and even remake complete copies of themselves is difficult to fathom; so difficult, in fact, that for a very long time people were reluctant to believe regeneration actually took place. It seemed unbelievable that some organisms could re-grow lost limbs, organs, and other body parts. If only we could do the same! Unfortunately, our regenerative capacities are limited to hair, nails, and skin, while the liver and a few other tissues display more restricted regenerative abilities. What if we could grow back lost limbs, or damaged organs? This question has inspired many stories, dating back to Greek mythology, wherein Prometheus was doomed to regenerate his liver after it had been devoured by birds. Regeneration has permeated many imaginations; it has appeared in many literary and religious texts, and has also provoked much interest from the scientific community.

Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado's laboratory group has employed molecular tools to investigate old questions about regeneration and as a result have identified some of the molecular mechanisms determining polarity. Recent work by his group has shown Wnt-β-catenin signaling determines whether a tail or a head will form during regeneration in planarians. This study was motivated by work Thomas Hunt Morgan conducted in the late nineteenth century. Morgan observed that during regeneration a planarian cut into rather small pieces would sometimes regenerate a head at both its anterior and posterior end rather than a head and a tail. This led Morgan to think the size of the piece must affect the regenerative process.

Abraham Trembley's discovery of the remarkable regenerative capacity of the hydra caused many to question their beliefs about the generation of organisms. Born 3 September 1710 to a prominent Geneva family, Trembley studied at the Calvin Institute, now the University of Geneva, where he completed his thesis on calculus. He went on to become tutor for Count William Bentinck's two sons, and it was while teaching the boys natural history that Trembley came across a strange organism in a sample of pond water. This mysterious polyp, or hydra, had been previously described by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, as well as an anonymous English gentleman in 1704, but Trembley was unaware of the polyp's identity and began a series of experiments to determine whether it was an animal or a plant. His investigations were also motivated by his observation that the number of arms on different polyps varied, an irregularity uncommon in animals. Yet Trembley felt that it was an animal.

Lazzaro Spallanzani's imaginative application of experimental methods, mastery of microscopy, and wide interests led him to significant contributions in natural history, experimental biology, and physiology. His detailed and thoughtful observations illuminated a broad spectrum of problems ranging from regeneration to the genesis of thunderclouds.

The gradient theory is recognized as Charles Manning Child's most significant scientific contribution. Gradients brought together Child's interest in development and his fascination with the origins of individuality and organization. The gradient theory grew from his studies of regeneration, which were largely based on work he conducted with marine invertebrates, such as the ascidian flat worm, planaria and the hydroid, tubularia. Child observed that regeneration occurred in a graded process along the axis of the organism, with the characteristics of each physiological process seemingly determined by its location along the axis. To explain these observations, Child posited the existence of physiological factors working to guide the regenerative process. He was convinced that these differences along the gradients could be explained quantitatively.

Charles Manning Child designed an experimental test, the susceptibility assay, to measure the effects of different toxins on developmental processes. The susceptibility assay measured an organism s vulnerability to death when it was submerged in a noxious solution. The assay involved immersing an organism in a solution that contained a depressant or inhibitory substance, such as alcohol, and then measuring the responses of the organism. Child interpreted these measurements as revealing information about the relative levels of metabolic activity within the organism. Child predicted an organism's susceptibility to death should vary directly with its metabolic rate. An organism with a high metabolic rate would be expected to die more quickly in a noxious chemical solution than an organism with a lower metabolic rate: the higher the rate, the more quickly death should ensue. He also predicted young organisms should have higher metabolic rates than older organism, since children were known to metabolize drugs more quickly than adults.

The term morphogenesis generally refers to the processes by which order is created in the developing organism. This order is achieved as differentiated cells carefully organize into tissues, organs, organ systems, and ultimately the organism as a whole. Questions centered on morphogenesis have aimed to uncover the mechanisms responsible for this organization, and developmental biology textbooks have identified morphogenesis as one of the main challenges in the field. The concept of morphogenesis is intertwined with those of differentiation, growth, and reproduction. Each comprises the fundamental components of development that have commonly been used to categorize the problems that motivate developmental biology.

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