The materials found on this web site are the imperfect first drafts in a series of essays, and are currently and constantly under revision. Your comments, corrections, and additions are heartily
The Maupas Medal : Nodes on the Ciliatology Net
Home | Frontier Connections | Maupas | Jennings | Sonneborn | Nanney | Ricci | Orias |
Eduardo Orias
Orias Web Site | Tetrahyemna Genome Project
Awarding the Maupas-Medal to Eduardo Orias
March, 5th 2003, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Karl Stamitz Streichquartett Nr. 2 G-Dur (g-major)
1. Allegro con spirito
Award-speech by K. Heckmann
Franz Xaver Richter Streichquartett C-Dur op. 5 Nr. 1
2. Andante poco
3. Rincontro (Presto)
Wolfgang Herrmann - Violine Isabel Aguilera - Violine Miriam Schmitz - Viola
Mareike Hackstein - Violoncello

Dear friends, ladies and gentleman:

I have the privilege to present the Maupas Medal to Dr. Eduardo Orias, Prof. Em. of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Before I do this, I would like to tell you briefly the history of this medal.

The medal was struck in 1913 to commemorate the work of Emile Maupas who was one of the outstanding protozoologists of his time. Maupas had become famous by his work with ciliates, where he studied the nuclear events during conjugation - particularly in Paramecium and where he discovered that ciliate clones have a finite life cycle. He observed that the species he cultivated were not capable of indefinite replication, but passed from maturity to senescence and death, unless the program was interrupted by a sexual episode that started a new program.

This concept of a restricted life time of a clone, of a natural death of protozoa as he called it, engaged a lot of attention, because at that time it was held that protozoa - different from multicellular organisms - are potentially immortal. Maupas work was havily disputed, even from some of the workers on Paramecium. The most famous one bent on contradicting Maupas was Lorande Woodruff at Yale University, who periodically displayed the records of his so called "Methusalah" strain of Paramecium aurelia, whose division rate would occasionally falter, but whose ability to divide recovered and continued for more than 25 years. Richard Hertwig in 1914 and later Sonneborn explained these data as due to periodic self-fertilization or autogamy.

Probably several Maupas Medals were struck in 1913 and sent to friends of Maupas all over the world. And in this way the famous Herbert Spencer Jennings must have acquired it. He later gave it to Tracy Sonneborn, his most prominent student. Jennings, who was Professor of Experimental Zoology at Johns Hopkins University, from 1906 till to his retirement in 1938, is best known today for his studies on behavior of lower organisms. But he was also an eminent geneticist, the first one working with protozoa. In his genetic studies, begun in 1907, he tested the generality of Mendel's laws and showed - contrary to prevalent opinion, including his own - that the laws of heredity were in unicellular organisms fundamentally the same as in higher, multicellular organisms. He extensively studied clonal inheritance in Paramecium and it was he who established that the asexual progeny of a single cell - a clone - exhibite genetic constancy. He explained variations among the cells of a clone as due to diverse environmental conditions or to stages of growth and development. This principle of the genetic uniformity and constancy of the clone established first for Paramecium was later extended to asexually reproducing mulicelluar organisms. It has remained a basic principle of genetics for all organisms that form clones.

As mentioned already, Jennings passed the Maupas Medal to Sonneborn whom many of you have known personally. Sonneborn made Citiate Genetics a respected field in genetics. He not only discovered mating types in P. aurelia which made it possible to carry out crossbreeding analyses in ciliates, he also discovered the killer trait, confirmed the "maupasian life cycle" in ciliates and was involved in all major discussions of genetic concepts of his time.

Sonneborn gave the Maupas Medal to Dave Nanney, the founder of Tetrahymena genetics, whom all of you know. I don't know in which year this was, but I know that Dave passed the Medal to Nicola Ricci to honour him for his work on ciliate behavior in 1994 during a ceremony commemorating the 650th birthday of the University of Pisa. Only 6 years later Ricci passed away at the age of 53, just after he had become the successor of Renzo Nobili at Pisa University.

The Maupas Medal was returned to Nanney last fall by Ricci's widow and it is the wish of Nanney that the Medal is passed on and is now going to Ed Orias, who is also an eminent cilatologist. Dave Nanney had intended to come to this meeting and to present the Medal to Ed in person, but as he told me on the phone, he presently feels unable to travel and so I was asked to perform this ceremony on behalf of him.

Ed, would you please step forward. You will be the fifth ciliatologist in a line of eminent researchers
bearing the Maupas Medal. Please accept our congratulations to this honour.