Department of Biology, 1892-present


The Department of Biology emerged from its predecessor, the Department of Natural History. The Department was founded in 1892 and began offering undergraduate students the option of a departmental major in 1894. In the same year, the Department established its Ph.D. program. The Department of Biology conferred four Ph.D. degrees by 1906. The M.S. degree in biology began to be offered during the 1906-1907 academic year. The Department of Biology collaborated in the introduction of an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in the Molecular Basis of Biological Phenomena on the Medford campus in 1966.

History of Department of Biology

The Department of Biology emerged from its predecessor, the Department of Natural History. The Department was founded in 1892 and began offering undergraduate students the option of a departmental major in 1894. In the same year, the Department established its Ph.D. program.

The Department of Biology began offering a summer school program in 1898. This summer school program operated off-site, away from the Tufts campus in Medford. Established in South Harpswell, Maine near the shore of Casco Bay, this summer school program continued for several years until the facilities it utilized were sold.

The Department of Biology conferred four Ph.D. degrees by 1906. During the 1906-1907 academic year, the M.S. degree in biology began to be offered by the Department.

The Department of Biology expanded in 1933 when the university administration authorized the construction of a greenhouse in Barnum museum for its use. Later, during the 1934-1935 academic year, the construction of the east wing of the Barnum Museum was completed, thereby expanding the physical size of the Department of Biology. In 1966, the Department of Biology collaborated in the introduction of an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in the Molecular Basis of Biological Phenomena on the Medford campus.

The night of April 14, 1975 proved to be a momentous one for the Department of Biology. On that night, a fire believed to have been caused by an electrical malfunction in a refrigeration unit resulted in the wholesale destruction of the original section of the old Barnum Museum (which the Department of Biology had largely occupied).

In addition to the loss of valuable materials, books, and laboratory animals, this disastrous fire succeeded in destroying the invaluable research materials which had been accumulated by two leading faculty members in the Department. Professors Benjamin Dane and Norton Nickerson suffered irretrievable losses to their scholarship in this fire. Professor Dane lost hundreds of feet of film documenting his research while Professor Nickerson was faced with the total destruction of his herbarium.

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