E. E. Just and Creativity in Science. The Importance of Diversity
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Renowned biologist Ernest Everett Just (1883–1941) was an outspoken advocate for the classical embryologist’s view of the cell; he believed that all the parts of the cell, but especially the cytoplasm, have important roles to play in the process of development, whereby a one-celled zygote becomes a many-celled animal. In opposition to geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan, Just formulated a hypothesis for how the cell works in development, one that gave a more dominant role to cytoplasmic (instead of nuclear) factors. This paper argues that, in creating his hypothesis, Just applied insights from the African American intellectual community in which he was immersed, much as Charles Darwin applied insights from British political economist Thomas R. Malthus in formulating his theory of evolution by natural selection. This in no way diminishes the scientific validity of Just’s (or Darwin’s) hypothesis. Rather, it highlights Just’s creativity and, as such, points to the importance of having diversity in science.
KeywordsErnest Everett Just History of biology Scientific creativity Diversity in science
Research in the author’s laboratory has been supported by grants funded through the US National Institutes of Health’s RCMI and MBRS-SCORE programs. The author gratefully acknowledges a 2008 grant from the US National Science Foundation that funded a symposium at Howard University honoring E. E. Just and his work. He thanks Scott F. Gilbert, William R. Jeffery, George Langford, Kenneth R. Manning, Jan Sapp, Kimberly K. Smith, and an anonymous reviewer for helpful and insightful comments on preliminary drafts of the paper. Any errors or inaccuracies that remain are solely the author’s.
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