John Saunders Lectureship

saunders-headshotDr. John Saunders was a pioneer in the field of developmental biology. Dr. Saunders’ achievements have been nationally and internationally recognized and his studies provided the foundational concepts for current research in developmental biology. Dr. Saunders passed away peacefully on December 26, 2015 at the age of 96.

Dr. Saunders’ research on development of the vertebrate limb has driven our understanding of growth and patterning, and still frames the questions that remain. His studies of the apical ectodermal ridge (AER) helped identify the role of growth factors in the growth and patterning of the developing limb, and his identification and study of the zone of polarizing activity (ZPA) demonstrated how this regionally limited tissue spreads essential information across the limb to dictate different skeletal patterns. His early recognition of the role of cell death in developmental morphogenesis and how developmental fields set up intricate feather patterns are also part of his long legacy to scientific understanding. Dr. Saunders received many awards during his career, including President of the Society of Developmental Biology and the Edwin Grant Conklin Medal awardee in 1996 and the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007. In 2006, Dr. Saunders was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Saunders was a summer investigator at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, from 1958 to 1972 and a lecturer in the Embryology Course during these early years and from 1995 to 2003, where he continued to inspire many young developmental biologists. In his honor, we have established the John Saunders Fund at the Marine Biological Laboratory.


Dr. Lee Niswander, University of Colorado Boulder – 2018