Advanced Instruction in Zoology

According to David Starr Jordan, Hopkins Seaside Laboratory was planned along the lines of Anton Dohrn's famous zoological station, the Stazione Zoologica in Naples, Italy. (1) Having considered Charles Darwin’s idea that embryonic stages of development would provide the scientific evidence for evolutionary relationships, Dohrn positioned his seaside laboratory along the Mediterranean Sea; a location that provided easy access to an abundance of larval and embryonic forms of marine invertebrates and vertebrates. (2) At this time in the history of science, comparative embryology was at the cornerstone of morphological evolutionary studies, and centered on Ernst Haeckel's recapitulation theory, known as ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

Comparative embryology became very much a part of an effort to develop and expand scientific research associated with the Darwinian theory of evolution, with studies in embryology and morphology becoming a major focus for zoologists during the last decade of the 19th century and well into the 20th century. (3) As such, seaside laboratory studies using the most advanced microscopes and physiological equipment became the norm, with Stazione Zoologica in Naples leading the way, followed by the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and Hopkins Seaside Laboratory in Pacific Grove, California.

When Hopkins Seaside Laboratory opened in 1892, the summer course of instruction offered a class in zoology and botany. Stanford Bulletin for Hopkins Seaside Laboratory of 1892 provided the following description of the zoology class.

The elementary course in Zoology will consist of the study of the structure, physiology and life histories of some of the more common marine animals, such as sea anemones, jelly-fishes, star-fishes, sea-urchins, sea-cucumbers, worms, clams, abalones, squids, crabs and fishes The course will include instructions in the use of the microscope. (4)

The following year (1893) special instruction in morphology, physiology, embryology and histology were offered to advanced students and visiting scientists. Other than the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory was the only facility in America offering course instruction and research opportunities in advanced zoology associated with the study of marine organisms. As with Anton Dohrn, it would be the visionary leadership positioned at Hopkins Seaside Laboratory that recognized that invertebrate marine organisms provided a valuable alternative to the research associated with advanced zoology. Such foresight can be attributed to Oliver Peeble Jenkins (1892) in a statement that appeared in an article about Hopkins Seaside Laboratory

"There is no field in science more inviting nor more promising of large results than those pertaining to the morphology and physiology of marine forms. The time has certainly arrived when those among us with scientific inclination and ambition can turn their attention with profit to these inviting fields." (5)

OP Jenkins comment reflects the fact that in the latter half of the nineteenth century, research in zoology was progressing beyond observational studies. This advancement in scientific research was accompanied by the recognition that marine organisms offered unique advantages for the investigation of fundamental questions in biology, especially in the areas of comparative zoology and morphology. This understanding allowed for the advancement of zoology to be furthered by the research conducted at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory of Pacific Grove, California. These two seaside laboratories, positioned on opposite coasts of continental U.S., enabled a community of American biologist and visiting scientists from around the world, to gather each summer, and share their latest scientific ideas and research techniques. Besides providing a common meeting space for researchers, these earliest of seaside laboratories provided opportunities to train the next generation of American biologists, whom would themselves make significant contributions and advancements in the areas of biological research, education, and conservation. (6)

Below: Photograph of Anton Dohrn, a prominent German Darwinist and the founder and first director of the first zoological research station in the world, the Stazione Zoologica in Naples, Italy. The image appeared in David Starr Jordan's autobiography "The Days of a Man"


(2) Gale Encyclopedia of US History: Marine Biology.

(3) Anton Dohrn (Wikipedia).

(4) Stanford, HMS Bulletin, 1892.

(5) Jenkins, Oliver Pebbles. (1893). The Hopkins Seaside Laboratory. Zoe, 4: 58-63.

(6) Benson, Keith R. (2002). Summer Camp, Seaside Station, and Marine Laboratory: Marine Biology and Its Institutional Identity. Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences Volume 32 Pt 1:11-8.