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Edith M. Wallace, 1918. Photo ID AHS10.1-6

Caltech

In the News

In the Fly Room

Photo ID EMW1.5-2

Edith Wallace (1881-1964) came to Columbia in 1908 to work for Thomas Hunt Morgan in the laboratory known as the Fly Room. She later accompanied him to California to work with him at Caltech, from where she retired in 1944. A native New Englander, Wallace graduated from Mt. Holyoke College in 1903 and received a master's degree in biology at Clark University. She taught at colleges in Ohio and Maine before signing on with Morgan.

A number of Wallace's original drawings have survived in the papers of Morgan and of his student, A. H. Sturtevant, including the well-known color illustration of a pair of wild-type flies that served as frontispiece to Sturtevant and George Beadle's An Introduction to Genetics (W. B. Saunders, 1939). The recent acquisition of drawings, almost all in black ink on ivory artist's board, vastly increases the number of originals now in the Archives' collections. The drawings date from both before and after Morgan moved his laboratory to Caltech.

Shown above: Drawing showing aristapedia, or the mutation of antennae (aristae) into leg-like structures. Dated by Wallace 1938, with initials CBB (Calvin B. Bridges). Photo ID EMW1.10-1

Michael Ashburner, Professor of Biology at Cambridge University, chose recently to return the Edith Wallace drawings to Caltech. They had been sent in the 1960s by Caltech's Professor Edward B. Lewis to Dan Lindsley (who passed them to Ashburner) for inclusion in the Red Book (The Genome of Drosophila Melanogaster, 1992; first edition 1968). Lindsley (Caltech PhD, 1952) and Lewis were both students of A. H. Sturtevant and thus genuine progeny of the Morgan school.

imageWallace's fly drawings not only incorporate an extraordinary level of detail, but they are usually carefully dated and annotated to indicate the type and source of a mutation, the gender of the fly, and often the name of the geneticist for whom the drawing was made.

Shown right: Drosophila mutation named bithorax. The thorax has an enlarged middle section from which wing-like structures protrude. This drawing reproduced in the Red Book, p. 94. Mutation first discovered by Calvin Bridges in 1915. Photo ID EMW1.2-1.

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