Jane Marion Oppenheimer (1911-1966)
AuthorBuettner, Kimberly A.
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Jane Marion Oppenheimer, embryologist and historian of science and medicine, was born on 19 September 1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Sylvia Stern and James H. Oppenheimer. After studying zoology at Bryn Mawr College, Oppenheimer received her AB degree in 1932. Oppenheimer received her PhD in embryology at Yale University in 1935 and worked as a research fellow from 1935-1936. While at Yale she was influenced by the work of Ross Granville Harrison and John Spangler Nicholas, the latter of whom was Oppenheimer's PhD advisor. While working with Nicholas, she studied the embryology of killifish (Fundulus hereoclitus) using Nicholas s method for dechorionating the embryo, which made it possible to perform precise experimental manipulations on teleost embryos. Oppenheimer became interested in teleosts after studying the history of biology as a graduate student and published a part of her dissertation, "Historical Introduction to the Study of Teleostean Development," in the History of Science Society journal Osiris. From 1934-1937 she published numerous noteworthy papers discussing Fundulus embryology. Oppenheimer performed fate mapping experiments and developed a staging series for Fundulus embryos. When the United States and the USSR developed Apollo-Soyuz as a joint space venture, Oppenheimer used Fundulus embryos to design an experiment that tested the effects of a zero-gravity environment on embryonic development.