Whitman at table reading

Whitman became first director of the MBL in 1888 and energetically defended its independence while attracting collaborations with many institutions. Working with microscope companies, he also made sure that the labs had excellent equipment for everybody, including students. In 1892, he also became the first director of the biological sciences at the University of Chicago.

With his 1885 handbook Methods of Research in Microscopical Anatomy and Embryology, Whitman explained how to prepare specimens. Using his methods and the MBL’s equipment made it possible to see the life of cells and their interactions.

Whitman recruited students and investigators to take up marine research. If they each did similar studies in different organisms, he suggested, they could compare their results. His own research started with the leech Clepsine.

HoverTouch to magnify
whiman cover HoverTouch to magnify
MBL Rare Books Collection
Whitman with birds
Whitman and his pigeons (The University of Chicago Library)
whitman with daughters
Whitman and his sons c. 1887 (Davenport, 1917)

He explored other marine invertebrates before becoming immersed in study of animal behavior, particularly pigeons, which he shipped each summer between Chicago and Woods Hole.

1. Still Image: "Photograph of Charles Otis Whitman reading a book", https://hdl.handle.net/1912/17069

2. Wikimedia Commons contributors, "File:Parasite180056-fig1 Placobdelloides siamensis (Glossiphoniidae).png," Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Parasite180056-fig1_Placobdelloides_siamensis_(Glossiphoniidae).png&oldid=474623617 (accessed December 12, 2021).

3. Whitman, Charles Otis. Methods of Research in Microscopical Anatomy and Embryology. Boston: Cassino & Co, 1885.

4. The University of Chicago Library. “Photo of Charles Otis Whitman and his pigeons.” Special Collections Research Center. Identifier: apf1-08737.

5. Davenport, Charles B. 1917. “The Personality, Heredity and Work of Charles Otis Whitman, 1843–1910.” The American Naturalist 51(601): 5–30.