Theodor Boveri

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Have you heard of Theodor Boveri? He is one of many scientists whose discoveries advanced the course of science, and yet they remain relatively obscure outside of their specialized fields, until a chance circumstance brings them back to the fore. The chance circumstance in this case was the clean up in a university cellar in 1992. Boveri did seminal work on chromosomes and embryonic development in Germany in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He was the first to describe cancer as an uncontrolled cell division resulting from chromosomal damage in 1902.

His work was presumed lost in WW 2 until the chance clean up of a basement. The Zoological Institute of the Theodor Boveri Institute of Biosciences at the University of Würzburg was moving to a new facility. As part of the move the cellar of the building was explored. Instead of throwing out boxes of dusty old material, a careful examination found Boveri’s original slides and drawings. They are now on display at the university. This makes a person wonder about what other treasures, scientific and cultural, are lying undiscovered in cellars and attics around the world.

Learning more

The link below will take you to the full article in The Scientist. Information on Boveri can also be found on Wikipedia.