[Tide Bites]: Edward Sylvester Morse, 1838-1925 Part of his Legacy: a Shared Japan/U.S. Scholar Exchange Program at FHL

This article comes from “Tide Bites”, the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. Morse, M. Patricia (2017, November). Edward Sylvester Morse, 1838-1925
Part of his Legacy: a Shared Japan/U.S. Scholar Exchange Program at FHL. Retrieved from http://depts.washington.edu/fhl/tidebites/Vol51/index.html. [link to original article]. Start planning now to attend spring quarter at Friday Harbor Labs by contacting the Marine Biology Adviser.

Edward Sylvester Morse, 1838-1925
Part of his Legacy: a Shared Japan/U.S. Scholar Exchange Program at FHL

by M. Patricia Morse, Ph.D.
UW Professor of Biology (retired), Friday Harbor Laboratories

Edward Sylvester Morse (1838-1925) was a greatly admired scientist and educator both in the United States and Japan. In the limited time he spent in Japan (1877-1883), one of the most important things E.S. Morse did was establish the first marine laboratory in the Pacific at Enoshima in 1877. Morse engaged in active research on Brachiopods, and his correspondence with Charles Darwin (seen at the University of Tokyo’s Archeology Museum) indicated the mutual respect they had for each other. In the U.S., Harvard University welcomed Professor Louis Agassiz from Switzerland, who Morse was invited to work with and was involved in the establishment of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. In addition, Morse participated with Agassiz in teaching about – and exposing high school teachers to – natural history at the Penikese Islands off Cape Cod, which was the forerunner to the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.

An amazing writer and illustrator, Morse left a legacy of experience by writing textbooks on zoology, making observations on a “day by day” basis in Japan, and discovering, dating and cataloging Japanese pottery. The history of Edward Sylvester Morse and his activities in Japan have received continuous loyal support: there is a Morse Society in Enoshima, and a conservationist group has preserved the site in Omori where Morse found the historic kitchen midden, as well as encouraging educational activities in the schools.

ES Morse Placard
Edward Sylvester Morse plaque in Enoshima, with added words by Trish Morse which were dedicated in 2016 while she and Billie Swalla visited the site.

The development of a new Natural History discipline in Japan and the U.S. in the late 19th century saw Morse’s new marine lab at Enoshima followed by establishment of the Misaki Marine Biological Station (MMBS) in Japan (1886), the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, MA (1888), and the Puget Sound Marine Station (now UW Friday Harbor Labs) in Washington (1904). The first Director of the MBL in Woods Hole was Charles O. Whitman, who E.S. Morse had named to replace himself as Professor of Zoology at Imperial University from 1880-81. Morse and Whitman had many Japanese students that they sent to various universities in the U.S. and other countries, while Japanese marine scientists were welcoming researchers from other countries to study natural history in their rich waters. A similar exchange hub developed at FHL, with a focus on marine zoology. Exchange visits among senior scientists – for example, Professors Arthur and Helen Whiteley to the laboratory of Professor Motonori Hoshi – were the beginning of an ever-widening exchange with post-doctoral students and others continuing to pursue marine studies in molecular aspects of development, particularly genomic studies.

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