Dr. Hilde Proescholdt Mangold attended a lecture on embryology by Hans Spemann and was so intrigued by his work that she decided to pursue a doctorate at the Zoological Institute in Freiberg working in his lab.
After joining Spemann’s lab, Mangold wasn’t given the type of new research tasks that male doctoral students were–instead she was asked to perform experiments that had been previously published in the 1800s–she felt that it was because she was a woman. After both scientists were unable to find success with this experiment, she insisted that she be given a new direction for her thesis.
In her new study, Mangold grafted the dorsal lip of two species of newts that where different colors so that the development could be easily traced. These grafts were tedious and failed many more times than not, but she was able to grow an embryo that had two dorsal lips developing into a pair of conjoined twin tadpoles joined at the belly. She was also able to observe that the transplanted dorsal lip had formed some muscles and other supportive tissue of the nearest twin with the rest of its body coming from the host embryo. Her conclusion was that the dorsal lip served as the embryo’s foreman and she dubbed it “the organizer.”
Earning her doctorate in zoology in 1924, Mangold was again frustrated by Spemann–this time when he insisted his name be listed as an author to her dissertation, even though he didn’t do this for his male students.
The next year Mangold moved to Berlin for her husband’s new job and shortly after was severely burned upon an explosion in their kitchen and she was killed. Spemann continued to work with the results of Mangold’s experiments and in 1935 he was awarded a Noble prize for the discovery of the “organizer” and he did acknowledge her contributions to this work. It is thought that Mangold would have been included in the prize had she not be so tragically killed, but nonetheless she helped lay important foundations for the study of embryology.
Written by Angela Goad