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the story of the bureau of commercial fisheries biological laboratory woods hole, massachusetts

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In the years following Baird's death the major emphasis in the work of the Woods Hole Station was placed on fish culture and routine administration rather than on scientific investigations. Because of this trend the Woods Hole Station became the principal hatchery for artificial propagation of marine fish species. Administratively, the Station was under the Division of Propagation and Distribution of Fishes, and the Superintendent of the Station became responsible for the operation of the hatchery, maintenance of buildings and grounds, and expenditures of funds allocated to the institution. The Report of the Fish Commission shows that in the year of 1887, C.G. Atkins was Superintendent and William P. Seal was in charge of the aquaria. The scientific work was divided between J.N. Kidder, in charge of the physical and chemical laboratory, and A.E. Verrill,- assisted by Richard Rathbun- who was in charge of the biological laboratory. Among the 16 persons attending the summer session, 10 were engaged in research work, 4 can be listed as assistants to the investigations, 1 was an artist, and Vinal N. Edwards was the collector. The division of responsibilities as well as the titles of the positions occupied by various persons was not definitely established. In 1888 John A. Ryder was in charge of the laboratory with 23 biologists in attendance. In the spring of the following year, H.V. Wilson was appointed "resident naturalist" and remained in this position until the summer of 1892. The number of investigators in this period varied between 12 and 16.

Henry Van Peters Wilson (fig. 23) was a man of dynamic personality. In a biographical sketch published by D. P. Costello (1961) Wilson is described as a small man, 5 feet 6-1/2 inches tall and never weighing more than 120 pounds, with piercing blue eyes. "He was not a man lightly to tolerate fools among his colleagues, assistants, or students. He expected efficiency approaching perfection in others as well as in himself, and worked with tireless energy to attempt to achieve this end." Unfortunately, the records of the Bureau of Fisheries contain no personal notes, letters, or other materials which would indicate his attitude toward his assistants and personnel of the Woods Hole Laboratory. During the first year at Woods Hole he devoted himself to the study of embryology of the sea bass. He described the development of the sea bass egg from fertilization to the free-swimming larva, about 160 hours old (Wilson, 1889). It is a classic contribution to fish embryology which has not lost its usefulness to the present day, and remains one of the chief reference books for students and researches engaged in embryological investigations. Another valuable contribution by Wilson was the important discovery of regeneration of sponges from dissociated tissue cells. Wilson's interest in the structure, development, and taxonomy of sponges began in 1890. In 1891 he resigned from the Bureau of Fisheries and joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C., but he continued to work on the sponges collected during the Albatross expedition off the west coast of Mexico and those collected by the Fish Hawk in the vicinity of Puerto Rico. He induced the Bureau of Fisheries to established a biological laboratory at Beaufort, N.C., where he completed his detailed study of the development of sponges from dissociated tissue cells. Wilson's report on sponges (Wilson, 1912) opened a new approach to the problem of regeneration and initiated many investigations conducted in American laboratories and broad. Interest in the problem was revived in 1921-24 by experimental work conducted by P.S. Galtsoff, first at the Marine Biological Laboratory and later at the Bureau of Fisheries Laboratory at Woods Hole (Galtsoff, 1925).

At the time of H.V. Wilson's separation from the Bureau of Fisheries in 1891, the work of the Fishery Laboratory at Woods Hole assumed a distinct pattern. One of the biologists of the Bureau was assigned to Woods Hole "in charge of the Laboratory", or some outstanding zoologist outside of the Government service received a temporary appointment as "summer director". From time to time one or several biologists of the Bureau used the facilities of the Woods Hole Station for work on special problems related to commercial fisheries. At the same time the facilities of the laboratory were made available without charge to professors of various colleges and their students or to other qualified investigators. With a few exceptions the Laboratory was open only during the summer and the major part of the Station's activities were concerned with hatching eggs of marine fishes. Vinal N. Edwards was employed as "permanent collector", helping the investigators by his knowledge of local fauna and assisting them in obtaining the needed material. During the years of 1893 to 1896, inclusive, the following persons, listed in chronological order, were in charge of the laboratory: James L. Kellogg, J. Percy Moore, serving two years, and James L. Peck. In 1898 H.C. Bumpus was appointed as "Director of the Laboratory", and remained in charge until 1901. The number of biologists engaged in independent research work varied from year to year and attained the largest number of 61 in 1901. Also, that year, six laboratory assistants were employed to help the Director.

After the death of McDonald, the position of the Commissioner was occupied for two years (1896-97) by John J. Brice, retired Naval officer. The next Commissioner was George Meade Bowers. During the next 13 years of his administration, from 1899 to 1912 inclusive, the activity of the Bureau of Fisheries greatly expanded in all branches, including services rendered by the Woods Hole Laboratory. The policies with regard to the operation of the laboratory and its availability to independent investigators have not been formally established. Continuing the tradition initiated by Spencer F. Baird the Bureau of Fisheries allowed a number of investigators to work in the laboratories on various problems of their own choice. Sometimes this created difficulties for the Commissioner in justifying the request for funds made to the Appropriation Committee of Congress. To overcome this complication, Commissioner Bowers defined the Bureau's policy regarding this matter. In his report for the year 1909 he wrote (Bowers, 1911, p. 16-17): "The marine biological stations of the Bureau at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and Beaufort, North Carolina, primarily established and maintained for study and experimentation in the interests of the fisheries and fish culture, have as usual been restored to by competent investigators from all parts of the country. While the Bureau provides ample facilities for qualified students and does not attempt to dictate the scope and character of their researches, it is noteworthy that a large percentage of the men of science who avail themselves of the laboratory privileges are engaged in work having more or less direct relation to practical questions, and in the past year an unusual amount of attention was given on the commercial fisheries and the cultivation of marine creatures." As a matter of interdepartmental courtesy the facilities of the laboratory were available to the government scientists of the Department of Agriculture, Public Health Service, and other agencies.

Scientific accomplishments of the Woods Hole Laboratory made by its staff and by independent investigators have been published in many volumes of Government reports and scientific journals. A comprehensive review of these investigations is beyond the scope of the present historical sketch. It is sufficient, for the purposes of this report, to give a general outline of the research projects carried out in the laboratory and mention the more important contributions during the period.

Scientific problems of a general biological nature were studied by a number of eminent zoologists who were either guests of the Fishery Laboratory or were temporarily appointed by the Bureau to investigate a special research problem. The long list of scientists mentioned in the annual reports of the Commissioner of Fisheries from 1884 to 1920 contains the names of persons who later attained great prominence and became leaders of American biology. For some of them the work at the Fisheries Laboratory was a starting point of their career. The following names, selected from the annual reports of the Bureau, are associated with the development of marine sciences at Woods Hole. The years after the names indicate the time they worked at the Fisheries Laboratory. W.K. Brooks (1888-90) biology of the oyster; Gary N. Calkins (1902) protozoologist, investigation of marine protozoa of Woods Hole region; Wesley R. Coe (1899, 1901) structure, biology, taxonomy of nemertines; Edwin G. Conklin (1890-94) embryologist, cell lineage and development of molluscan eggs; Charles B. Gargitt (1902-03) taxonomy and structure of coelenterates; Francis H. Herrick (1889-1895) biology of the American lobster; Edwin Linton (fig. 24) (1882-1941) parasitic worms in fishes; Jacques Loeb (1895) physiology of fertilization of marine eggs; T.H. Morgan (1889) embryology of marine invertebrates and regeneration; Raymond Osburn (1904) taxonomy and distribution of Bryozoa; George H. Parker (1888-1903) fish behavior and physiology of hearing and lateral line; William A. Patten (1893-99) morphology of Limulus, ancestry of vertebrates; William M. Wheeler (1900-02) free-swimming copepods of the Woods Hole region; E.B. Wilson (1877-1886) embryology of mollusks, cell lineage; and many others.

The work of a few zoologists on the staff of the Woods Hole Station was concerned with practical fishery problems and various scientific pursuits. The authority of the biologist in charge, who sometimes was called "Director" or "Summer Director" of the Laboratory, was somewhat limited. Administrative responsibility for maintenance of the buildings, grounds, and small boats, as well as hatchery operations, were the duties of the Superintendent, who took orders directly from the Washington office.

From 1898 to 1901 the Laboratory was under the directorship of H.C. Bumpus. In addition to his other researches, Bumpus made observations on the reappearance of the tilefish, Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps. In 1879, large schools of tilefish were discovered in the waters south of Nantucket Shoals. Three years later, multitudes of dead fish of this species were found on the surface throughout its entire area of its distribution north of Delaware Bay. This mass mortality attracted a great deal of public attention and was studied by the Fish Commission every year from 1882 to 1887. Not a single tilefish was found during this period. In 1898, however, the tilefish had become numerous again, and the Fish Commission schooner Grampus on three short trips caught several hundred fishes each weighing from to 29 pounds. The mortality in 1879-80 was attributed to the influx of abnormally cold water, but this explanation has not been definitely substantiated.

During Bumpus' directorship, a new investigation of parasitic copepods infesting common food fishes was undertaken. Little was known at that time about this important group of Crustacea. Charles B. Wilson (fig. 25) was invited to undertake the study. He resolved to make it his life's work, and began a painstaking determination and description of parasitic species. Since the year 1899, his first summer at Woods Hole, C.B. Wilson continued his association with the Bureau of Fisheries working on copepod collections he made himself or those which were assembled for nearly 25 years by the U.S. S. Albatross. The importance of his undertaking was such that in 1901 the entire collection of parasitic copepods in the National Museum in Washington, D.C, was turned over to him, also the various stations and hatcheries of the Bureau of Fisheries were instructed to collect this material and forward it to him for identification. Being a man of broad scientific background, he was placed in charge of the economic survey of Lake Maxinkuckee, Indiana. Here he obtained the material for his monographic studies published as his doctoral thesis under the title "North American Parasitic Copepods. Part 9, The Lerneopodidae." He participated in economic surveys of Lake Maxinkuckee; the Mississippi River; and the Maumee, Kankakee, and Cumberland Rivers. Between 1913 and 1923 he was economic investigator for the Bureau of Fisheries at Fairport, Iowa, and in the summers of 1924-27 and 1931 he again worked at Woods Hole. Those who saw him every day in the laboratory remember him as very industrious, patient, and at the same time a cheerful man. During one summer he concentrated his efforts of the study of fresh-water copepods of numerous fresh-water ponds and lakes on Cape Cod, and was frequently seen rowing a small skiff towing a plankton net. Playing golf was his principal recreation, and he was a familiar figure on the Woods Hole golf course. He also liked bowling and watching baseball, but most of the time he was seen sitting at his laboratory desk patiently dissecting and mounting copepods with the aid of a binocular microscope. Among his many contributions "The Copepods of the Woods Hole Region Massachusetts" (Wilson, 1932) is the most valuable book for students of marine copepods. His large library of copepod literature, probably the most complete in existence, he bequeathed to the National Museum. Until his retirement in 1932, C.B. Wilson was Professor of Biology at the State Normal School (later State Teacher's College), Westfield, Mass.

In 1902, H.M. Smith was the Director of the Laboratory. The following year he was appointed to the newly created administrative position of Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau. One of his actions was the appointment of Francis B. Sumner (fig. 26) as the Laboratory Director, who held this summer position until 1910. Sumner's repots (Sumner, 1904, 1905) indicate that in addition to the large laboratory room with nine tables, the Woods Hole station had 14 private rooms equipped for research. Certain parts of the hatchery plant and the aquarium were also available to the investigators. The permanent collection of the library at that time comprised 16,000 titles; mostly reports of the U.S. and foreign governments and reprints donated by the authors. A large number of books were loaned by Brown University (650 volumes) and 100 volumes by the College of the City of New York for use during the summer. An author catalog of the library books was supplemented by a subject catalog that was commenced by Miss R. MacDonald, the librarian.

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