By Jane MacNeil
MBL Distinguished Scientist Shinya Inoué has been designated as the second Honorary Scholar within the Edward Sylvester Morse Institute at the University of Washington.
This designation honors Inoué’s interactions with the university’s Friday Harbor Laboratories (FHL) during the 1950s and beyond, and recognizes his considerable scholarly, research, and educational contributions to the imaging and understanding of cell development in marine organisms.
Friday Harbor Laboratories, the University of Washington’s marine station on San Juan Island. Photo courtesy University of Washington.
The award was bestowed on Inoué by M. Patricia (Trish) Morse, one of the co-founders of the E.S. Morse Institute’s scholarly exchange program between Japanese marine laboratories and the Friday Harbor Laboratories. Trish Morse is a distant relative of Morse’s and the first native of Woods Hole to receive a PhD in marine zoology.
Inoué’s connection to FHL began when, after graduating from Princeton with a Ph.D. in Biology in 1951, he took his first professional appointment as an Instructor in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Washington. During spring break of 1952, he drove two hours north and took the Puget Sound ferry to Friday Harbor for the first time where, to his delight, he was able to collect more than four species of jellyfish right off the dock in front of the lab. Furthermore, Inoué recalls, the lab had running seawater piped through Pyrex glass tubing that was so pure and free from excess heavy metal ions that not only sea urchins, but 100 percent of the jellyfish eggs, could be fertilized.
While at Princeton, Inoué had improved upon his hand-built polarized light microscope and in 1951 he used it to prove the universal existence of the spindle fibers, the dynamic protein filaments that move chromosomes in the dividing cells. This was his first major accomplishment in a career devoted to delving into the mysteries of living cells.
“In an attempt to better understand how cells divide, Dr. Inoué made a series of epochal innovations in the development of light microscopy,” said Emperor Akihito of Japan, in 2003, on the occasion of Inoué’s receipt of the International Prize for Biology. “These advances rendered it possible to directly observe dynamic changes in the supramolecular structure of living cells during cell division. This contributed immensely to advancing research in such fields of cell division, cytoskeleton, and cell motility,” the Emperor said. ”The products of Dr. Inoué’s research are widely utilized by researchers around the world and contribute immensely to the advancement of biological sciences.”
MBL Distinguished Scientist Shinya Inoué (front center) and some of the MBL-affiliated cell biologists and biophysicists whom he has influenced (l-r, by row): Ted Salmon and Kip Sluder; James LaFountain, Ron Vale, Gary Borisy, and Michael Shribak; Jason Swedlow, Conly Reider, Rudolf Oldenbourg, Tim Mitchison, and Gaudenz Danuser. Credit: Tom Kleindinst
Inoué began coming to the MBL as a visiting investigator in the early 1950s, and became a year-round principal investigator in 1977. He was named MBL Distinguished Scientist in 1986.
The first recipient of the Edward Sylvester Morse Honorary Scholar award was Arthur H. Whiteley, a sea urchin developmental and cell biologist at the Friday Harbor Laboratories for more than 60 years. Previously, Whiteley had been a student of E. Newton Harvey’s at Princeton University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1945 and worked with Inoué’s mentor, Kenneth Cooper. While not classmates, Whiteley and Inoué did become friends while Inoué served as an Instructor at the University of Washington from 1951-1953. Whiteley and his wife, Helen, were both early exchange scholars in Japan and were active supporters of Japanese scholars working on developmental biology at the Friday Harbor Laboratories. Whiteley died in April of 2013 after a long life dedicated to science, education, and international collaboration.
Background on Edward Sylvester Morse
In the 1850s, Edward Sylvester Morse was a protégé of Louis Agassiz, then chair of Zoology and Geology at Harvard University. Under Agassiz’s direction, Morse studied marine biology and specialized in conchology. Morse became one of the leading natural scientists of his time and helped develop the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. Agassiz’s ties to the MBL include his founding of “a practical school of natural science, especially devoted to the study of marine zoology” on Penikese Island, an institution which is considered to be the precursor of MBL. Morse taught with Agassiz at the Penikese Island school in 1873 and later was a visiting scientist at the MBL.
Morse’s career focused on the study of brachiopods, bottom-dwelling marine animals that have two shells and are considered living fossils. In 1870, he published The Brachiopods, a Division of the Annelida, which attracted the attention of Charles Darwin. In 1876, he was named a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. Three years later, he visited Japan in search of coastal brachiopods and became the first Professor of Zoology at the Tokyo Imperial University. At the end of his term, he recommended that the Japanese government hire, as his successor, Charles O. Whitman, later to become the founding director of the MBL. Whitman was Professor of Zoology at Tokyo Imperial University from 1879-1881, during which time he was the first professor to introduce systematic methods of biological research, including the use of microscopes, to Japanese students. Whitman went on to become head professor of the Department of Zoology at the University of Chicago where he used the same systematic methods of scientific research and teaching with his students.
While in Japan, Morse became very interested in Japanese ceramics, pottery, and the Japanese way of life. He was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science from 1886 to 1889, and in 1892 he became the Keeper of Pottery at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, a position he held until his death in 1925. His collection of daily artifacts of the Japanese people can still be seen today at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.
Similar to the Order of the Sacred Treasure (3rd class) that Inoué received from the Japanese government in 2010, Edward Sylvester Morse received the Order of the Rising Sun (3rd class) in 1914 and the Order of the Sacred Treasure (2nd class) in 1922.