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[Blanchard] Cobb, Frieda

A Case of Mendelian Inheritance Complicated by Heterogametism

  • The uncommon offprint of the dissertation of geneticist and scientific administrator Frieda Blanchard, née Cobb (1889-1977), the first scientist to demonstrate Mendelian inheritance in a reptile.

    Cobb’s father, Nathan Augustus Cobb, was a pioneering plant pathologist who involved his daughters in his work, particularly in their home laboratory. “Frieda developed an enthusiasm for science and a love for plants and animals. In Hawaii, where her father studied the diseases of sugar cane, Frieda worked in the laboratory he organised” (Ogilvie p. 141). She attended Radcliffe College and completed her bachelor’s at the University of Illinois in 1916.

    “In the fall of 1916, after a summer helping her father with nematode research at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Frieda Cobb moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the request of Harley Harris Bartlett, director of the University of Michigan Botanical Gardens, and a pioneer in plant genetics. There she became not only his graduate student but also, in 1919, the assistant director of the gardens. Together, Bartlett and Cobb developed the gardens as a major center for Oenothera (evening primrose) research as they tried to solve some of the puzzles in the newly developing science of genetics. Cobb earned her doctorate in 1920 with a study of Mendelian inheritance in certain strains of Oenothera. Because Bartlett was often away from Ann Arbour, Cobb became the active administrator of the gardens, maintaining facilities for scientific research and an atmosphere conducive to such research. That arrangement continued until the 1950s when both retired” (Ogilvie, p. 141).

    Cobb married the herpetologist Frank N. Blanchard in 1922, and they worked together on the garter snake, with Frieda concentrating on genetics. “Their work, carried on over many years, provided the first demonstration of Mendelian inheritance in a reptile” and when Frank died in 1937, Frieda “continued their work as well as her other research and raised their three children” (Ogilvie. p. 141).

  • ...and Mutation in Oenothera Pratincola. A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan. [Offprint from] Genetics Vol. 6, No. 1, January 1921. Genetics, 1921.

    44 page offprint. Original grey wrappers printed in black, hidden staples. Contemporary pencilled note to the upper wrapper. Ink stamp of the University of Bonn on the verso of the title. Wrappers very lightly rubbed and toned, with small discoloured spots from the staples. Excellent condition.





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