Wilson, Edmund B.

Wilson, Edmund B. (Beecher)

(1856–1939) geneticist; born in Geneva, Ill. After studying in Europe (1882–83), he taught at Williams College (1883–84), then moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1884–85). He became the first professor of biology at Bryn Mawr (1885–91), where he published his research on earthworm embryology and studies of movement in the invertebrate Hydra. In the 1890s he began the first of nearly 50 summers investigating marine biology at Wood's Hole, Mass., realizing the importance of live specimens in his research. His work at Columbia University (New York City) (1891–1928) brought that institution to prominence in genetics and cytology. Inspired by Thomas H. Morgan, he developed the theory of sex determination via X and Y chromosomes (1905–12), and recognized what came to be known as sex-linked inheritance. His monumental book, The Cell in Development and Inheritance (1896), became a mainstay of classrooms and underwent several revisions. He was a respected educator and an accomplished flautist and cellist.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.