History of Sciara


History of Sciara

The stocks of Sciara coprophila were initiated by Charles W. Metz when he was a graduate student under Thomas Hunt Morgan at Columbia University. Metz collected Sciara coprophila at the former pigeon house at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, published his first paper on this fly in 1914 and devoted his career to its study. He was a member of the Carnegie Institution of Washington at the Department of Genetics (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; 1914-1930) and then the Department of Embryology (Baltimore; 1930-1940) where he was also a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University. Subsequently, he became Chairman of the Zoology Department at the University of Pennsylvania (1940-1955). In 1959 he retired from academia and moved to the Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, MA). He was a highly regarded scientist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Helen V. Crouse acquired Sciara coprophila when she worked in the Metz lab in Baltimore and in 1939 brought this organism with her to the University of Missouri where she obtained her Ph.D.; she was one of only three graduate students trained by Barbara McClintock and the only one to remain in science. From 1941–1942 Crouse was a postdoctoral fellow in the zoology department of Columbia University with Theodosius Dobzhansky. Crouse was a faculty member at Bennington College and Goucher College, but she could not resist the pull of research on Sciara and became a research associate with J. Herbert Taylor at Columbia University, moving with him to Florida State University in Tallahassee. Taylor was a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Susan A. Gerbi was an undergraduate at Barnard College and took a molecular genetics course taught at Columbia by J. Herbert Taylor. Gerbi began working with Sciara for her senior thesis project in the lab of Reba Goodman and subsequently brought Sciara with her to Yale University for her Ph.D. with Joseph G. Gall where the gigantic polytene chromosomes of Sciara provided the first chromosomes for development of the method of in situ hybridization. At this time, Sciara stocks were housed in the Crouse/Taylor lab and also with Hewson Swift at the University of Chicago. After a postdoc at the Max-Planck-Institute in Tübingen Germany, Gerbi joined the faculty at Brown University in 1972 and ultimately became the founding Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry. In 1976 Helen Crouse transferred the Sciara stocks to the Gerbi lab at Brown.

Thus, Sciara has been maintained for a century, housed in the labs of distinguished scientists including four members of the National Academy of Sciences (CW Metz, JH Taylor, JG Gall, H Swift) and four past-Presidents of the American Society for Cell Biology.(JH Taylor, JG Gall, H Swift, SA Gerbi). Their scientific credentials validate the conclusion that Sciara is an invaluable resource to elucidate fundamental biological mechanisms.