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Thomas Hunt Morgan
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Scientist
    (September 25, 1866-December 4, 1945)
    Born in Lexington, Kentucky
    Nephew of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan
    Studied mutations in fruit flies
    Showed that genes are carried on chromosomes and are the unit of heredity
    Also discovered sex-linked traits and chromosomal crossover
    Wrote 'Experimental Zoology' (1907), 'Heredity and Sex' (1913), 'A Critique of the Theory of Evolution' (1916), 'Human Inheritance' (1924), 'Evolution and Genetics' (1925) and 'Embryology and Genetics' (1934)
    Won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1933)
    He started off as a skeptic of both Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection and Gregor Mendel's laws of heredity; ironically, his discoveries would link and reinforce the two theories.
    Rather than disposing of fruit flies in a jar of ether like the other researchers in his lab, he would simply smash them against the white porcelain plate used for counting the flies, leaving the mess accumulating for days or weeks until someone -- often the wife of a grad student -- stepped in to wash the plate.
    He also wore clothes and shoes with holes, used a length of rope as a belt, let his mail accumulate unopened on his desk until someone else threw it out, and scribbled his data on scraps of paper.
    Oddly, he spent much of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech downplaying the contribution that genetics could make to medicine.
    He graduated as valedictorian from the University of Kentucky.
    He was the first native-born American and first non-physician to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
    He recognized the contributions of two of his graduate students by giving part of his Nobel Prize money to their children.
    He criticized the eugenics movement as resembling propaganda rather than science.

Credit: C. Fishel


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