Thomas Hunt Morgan

Given to the University of Kentucky by the class of 2010, Historical Marker #2342 honors Thomas Hunt Morgan. Born in Lexington on September 25, 1866, he was the eldest child of Charlton Hunt Morgan and a nephew of Confederate cavalryman John Hunt Morgan. As a child, he had a great interest in natural history, and, while living in the country at age ten, he collected birds, birds' eggs, and fossils. Thomas Hunt Morgan graduated as valedictorian from the State College of Kentucky (UK) with a B.S. in 1886 and an M.S. in 1888 and earned his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University in 1890.

In 1891, he became Associate Professor of Biology at Bryn Mawr College for Women, where he stayed until 1904. That same year he married Lilian Vaughan Sampson, who had been a student at Bryn Mawr College, and who often assisted him in his research. They had one son and three daughters. In 1904, he became Professor of Experimental Zoology at Columbia University, New York. He stayed there until 1928, when he was appointed Professor of Biology and Director of the G. Kerckhoff Laboratories at the California Institute of Technology, at Pasadena. He remained there until 1945.

Morgan discovered the basic mechanisms of heredity and was a pioneering geneticist, winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933. He died in 1945. In 1966, the University of Kentucky named the new Thomas Hunt Morgan School of Biological Sciences for him.

The UK Senior Challenge Historical Marker Project, administered by the Kentucky Historical Society, began in 1994 as a way for the graduating senior class to leave a memorial to the university. Every year since then, the UK historical marker committee has decided on the topic, raised the money, and written the text for the markers.