Biography of Walter Heape – Victorian reproductive biologist, traveler and entrepreneur

This week we published a biography of Walter Heape by John D. Biggers, Ph.D., D.Sc., who has worked in the field of reproductive biology from 1950 and at Harvard Medical School from 1971 where he is now Emeritus Professor of Cell Biology, and Carol Kountz, Ph.D., who is Associate Professor Emerita of Writing, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan.

Walter Heape - portrait

Walter Heape – portrait

Walter Heape never earned a university degree, but after a world voyage he left the family business to train in embryology at Trinity College, Cambridge, and work alongside many great scientists of the late Victorian Age, including Francis Balfour, William Bateson, Michael Foster, James Frazer, Francis Galton, Thomas Huxley, E. Ray Lankester and Anton Dohrn. His entrepreneurial spirit embraced the unfolding revolutions in genetics and endocrinology, and breakthroughs in animal breeding technology and fertility treatment for patients were foreshadowed by his contributions to reproductive biology. He did not, however, always enjoy a smooth ride as a researcher and science administrator, but a background in business helped him to survive the political fray to leave a scientific legacy that deserves to be celebrated.

Walter Heape, F.R.S. – a Pioneer of Reproductive Biology

Jamestowne Bookworks 2016 (a non-profit independent publisher)

$2.99 (ebook) and $12.99 (print) at Amazon, 296 pp/ illustrated/ over 500 endnotes

Walter Heape, F.R.S.

Publisher’s Introduction

This book is the life story of a gentleman-scientist and businessman whose career spanned a period of revolutionary progress. He made pioneering contributions to reproductive biology and animal breeding, which were under-investigated and hobbled by superstition, and he laid foundations for IVF technology. It is lamentable that his name is not better known, and this first biography fills an important gap in scholarly detail.

There are two other, more personal, reasons for welcoming the book. I was familiar with Heape’s research as a graduate student in Cambridge where he also worked, and cited his 1890 paper in my dissertation, and I was a visiting scientist at the Stazione Zoologica in Naples 100 years after he spent time there for modeling the future Marine Biological Laboratory at Plymouth. But until I read this book I had no idea of how rich and accomplished his life had been. I can think of no authors who are better qualified to write this biography than John Biggers and Carol Kountz. John’s eminent career in reproductive science has spanned six decades from Cambridge to London to Johns Hopkins and finally to Harvard. I have admired his research throughout my career and now encourage everyone in our field, and anyone with a bent for the history of science, to enjoy this fruit of his endeavors.  (R.G.G.)


About Roger Gosden

British-born scientist specializing in human and animal reproduction & embryology. Academic career spanned from Cambridge and Edinburgh to McGill and Cornell's Weill Medical College in Manhattan where he was Professor & Research Director. Married to Lucinda Veeck Gosden, embryologist for the first successful IVF team in America, he retired early to Williamsburg, Virginia, to write and to recover from 'nature deficit disorder'
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