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George Linius Streeter

Born 1873
Died 1948

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American embryologist, born January 12, 1873, Johnstown, New York; died July 27, 1948, Gloversville, New York.

Biography of George Linius Streeter

George Linius Streeter was graduated from Union College, Schenectady, NY in 1895 and received his M.D. degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in 1899. He interned at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City and then became an assistant to Henry Nun (1854-1924), a neurologist in Albany. He also taught anatomy at Albany Medical College.

Streeter originally wanted to specialize in clinical neurology. In 1902 he travelled to Germany to study with the neurologist Ludwig Edinger (1855-1919) in Frankfurt and at Leipzig with the Swiss anatomist and embryologist Wilhelm His (1831-1904). His interest now turned to human and mammalian embryology.

In 1904, Streeter became an assistant and instructor in anatomy at the Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, under the leadership of Franklin Paine Mall (1862-1917), the first professor of anatomy at Johns Hopkins. There he published his first Contributions to Embryology, on the development of the cranial and spinal nerves and the ear of the human embryo.

1906–1907 Streeter was assistant professor at the Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology in Philadelphia and then went to the University of Michigan as professor of gross anatomy. In 1914 he returned to Baltimore to join Mall as research professor in the newly organized department of embryology of the Carnegie Institution, located at the Johns Hopkins Medical School. When Mall died in 1917, Streeter succeeded him as director.

During his directorship the department became world famous and grew to possess the largest collection of human embryological material in the world. At Carnegie, Streeter collaborated with Chester Henry Heuser (1885-1965) on studies of the early embryology of the pig, and with Heuser and Carl Gottfried Hartman (1879-1968) on the rhesus monkey. These studies were published in Contributions to Embryology of the Carnegie Institution between 1927 and 1941. They are among the most accurate descriptions of early mammalian development ever published. Among his highly skilled staff were John Rock (1890-1984), considered the inventor of the contraceptive pill and Arthur Tremain Hertig (1904-1990) of Boston. Working together they made great advances in early human embryology.

Before this time the human embryo was known only after about the eleventh day following conception. New specimens obtained by Hertig and Rock carried the story back to the beginning and made the earliest stages of human development as well known as the earliest stages of other mammals.

Streeter's research interests were diverse, including the embryology of the nervous system, the blood vessels of the brain, the auditory apparatus, embryology of twinning, pathology of early embryos and the chronology of embryonic growth. His last major undertaking, unfinished at his death, was a systematic catalogue and analytic description of the human embryo, classified by stages up to the end of the embryonic period – about the forty-eight day of gestation. The "developmental horizons", as he called them, were published, as far as completed, in the Carnegie Institution Contributions to Embryology from 1942 to 1951.

Streeter was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1931 and to the American Philosophical Society in 1943, and was president of the American Association of Anatomists in 1926-1928.

Streeter married Julia Allen Smith of Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1910. Their son and one daughter became physicians, and the other daughter took her doctorate in chemistry.

Streeter retired from the directorship of the Carnegie department of embryology in 1940. He died suddenly of coronary occlusion at the age of seventy-five.

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