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Appointed in 1888 as the University of Georgia's first professor of biology, John Pendleton Campbell introduced and developed a curriculum modeled upon the noted program in biology instituted in 1883 by his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University. Although hampered by onerous responsibilities and insufficient funding, Campbell worked tirelessly and successfully to promote biology at the University of Georgia and elsewhere in the South. In keeping with his training at Johns Hopkins, Campbell stressed laboratory work for all students enrolled in his courses and he argued that the study of biology is essential to the proper education of every student. Campbell also believed it was important to teach the theory of evolution as an integral component of biology.

Key words: biology, John Pendleton Campbell, University of Georgia


The reputation of Johns Hopkins University spread quickly after its founding in 1876. From its beginning, under the leadership of President Daniel C. Gilman, the University emphasized research and offered a strong program in the sciences. Determined that the department of biology would go beyond traditional natural history, Gilman turned to England for the first professor of biology at Johns Hopkins, hiring Henry Newell Martin to fill the post. He chose Martin for the position because the Irish native had worked with Thomas Henry Huxley, whose advocacy of biology as a replacement for natural history had convinced Gilman that the study of a general life science was more important "for liberal learning" than were the older fields of natural history, zoology, physiology, or comparative anatomy. Martin eventually accepted the position, and Johns Hopkins officially opened its biological laboratories in 1883 [18].

Among the first to enroll in the undergraduate program in biology was John Pendleton Campbell. Born in Cumberland, Maryland, on November 20, 1863, and prepared for college at the Andrew Small Academy in Charleston, West Virginia, the talented young man received the A.B. degree with a concentration in physiology in 1885. Immediately thereafter, he entered the Johns Hopkins graduate program in biology. So able was Campbell that in 1886-1887 he received one of the highly competitive fellowships offered by the University. He completed the requirements for the Ph.D. in the spring of 1888 [17, 27].

Campbell did most of his doctoral work under the direction of Martin, but he also took many courses with William Keith Brooks, who had earned a Ph.D. degree from Harvard University in 1875. Brooks had begun graduate study at Harvard under the direction of Louis Agassiz, the renowned Swiss naturalist who came to the United States in 1846 and a year later join the faculty of Harvard, where he eventually established the Lawrence Scientific School and the Museum of Comparative Zoology. A man of far-reaching influence, Agassiz had attracted many talented young men to the Lawrence Scientific School, and most of them played a prominent role in promoting the study of natural history, including the Georgian Joseph LeConte, who became a leading geologist, and John McCrady, a South Carolinian who earned a place as a pioneer in hydrozoan zoology. Upon the death of the noted naturalist in 1873, Brooks turned to Louis Agassiz's son Alexander and to John McCrady for direction of his work. Like Louis Agassiz, both Alexander Agassiz and John McCrady concentrated their research upon marine invertebrates [25]. Thus, Brooks also devoted most of his study to the same. Similarly, since his mentors were mainly morphologists, Brooks largely confined his research and teaching to morphology [25]. Hence, Campbell received considerable training in invertebrate morphology. During the summer of 1889 he studied marine invertebrates in Europe, and in the summer of 1890 he worked at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. In 1891, Campbell joined a summer expedition to Kingston, Jamaica, for the purpose of collecting and studying invertebrate specimens from the waters around that city [4]. Yet, Campbell had chosen to do his dissertation in physiology, under the direction of Martin. Entitled "Experiments on Tetanus and the Velocity of the Contraction Wave in Striated Muscle," the study was published in 1888 in the Johns Hopkins Studies from the Biological Laboratory [13]. Soon thereafter Campbell published the results of e xperiments he conducted at Johns Hopkins on the effects of peptone on the coagulation of blood [14].

Campbell's training in "modern biology," as he and other Johns Hopkins faculty and graduate students preferred to call it, was as advanced as any that one could receive at the time. Indeed, Johns Hopkins offered the most modern program in biology during the 1880s, though other major universities soon enhanced their programs in the field. By choosing the route of specialization in physiology rather than in morphology, Campbell "was surrounded by electrical motors and batteries, surgical equipment, chemical apparatus, and high-powered microscopic equipment." Naturally, he was exposed through his more limited work with Brooks to the track, or program, in morphology, in which the observation and description of "embryo specimens" of marine life were the focus of study. But Campbell's mentor Henry Newell Martin was mainly a physiologist who held a special interest in "the mammalian heart." Thus, dissection, experimentation, and observation of physiological functions formed a large part of the training that Campbel l received. Those activities required laboratory work, of course, and Campbell therefore developed strong views on the importance of laboratory studies. Moreover, since he worked in the most modern biological laboratory in the United States in the 1880s, he understood the necessity of large rooms, proper lighting, and superior equipment, none of which he would find at the institution where he became a professor of biology. Along with the emphasis on experimentation and observation, Campbell was exposed to Darwin's theory of evolution [18]. Like most of his contemporaries, however, his view of evolution was essentially a modified version of the theory formulated early in the nineteenth century by the French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck.


As with other graduates of the Johns Hopkins program in modern biology, Campbell was an enthusiastic advocate of the new discipline. His zeal for biology as a major for college students and for the requirement of a general biology course for every college student was unbounded throughout his thirty years of teaching. Just at the time he finished his graduate degree, the University of Georgia was ready to hire someone who could develop a program in biology. Natural history had been a part of the University's curriculum for many years, and two graduates of the Lawrence Scientific School had been the main instructors of that subject, namely Joseph LeConte, who taught at the University of Georgia from 1853 to 1856, and his first cousin William Louis Jones, who was a professor there at various times from 1852 to 1888. In John Pendleton Campbell, however, the University of Georgia trustees appointed a man with advanced training in modern biology and an earned Ph.D. degree, one of the few members of the university' s faculty to hold such a degree in 1888 [1].

Moreover, in Campbell, as the long-time University administrator Thomas Walter Reed later stated, the trustees found "a young man of rare talent." Reed also observed that Campbell was "quiet and unobtrusive in his manner" and very "popular" with faculty and students. "His whole soul," added Reed, "[was] wrapped up in his dream of a great biological department for the University." The situation that faced the young professor in 1888 would no doubt have caused dismay in a man of lesser enthusiasm for his mission. As Reed observed, Campbell "had little in the way of physical equipment with which to start his scientific work..., but he made the best of the situation and it was not many months before he had everything running smoothly, ... [though] it took several years to build up an adequate laboratory" [22]. Fortunately, Campbell had the support of his colleague Henry Clay White, who was, for many years, the University's only nationally recognized faculty member.

A chemist who faced a similar situation when he joined the University faculty in 1872, White had built one of the best chemical laboratories in the Deep South, which was still suffering from a serious setback in scientific activity as a result of the Civil War. In later years, White, a man of considerable power and influence within the University, obtained chemical equipment and supplies at the expense of Campbell's program in biology, but his success was apparently due to his standing rather than to any desire to suppress Campbell's program [24]. In fact, evidence suggests that the two men enjoyed a firm friendship. In 1909, for example, White invited Campbell to be one of the four speakers at the affair he arranged in celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. This mutual regard for Darwin and the theory of evolution, which they freely advocated in their classes, was likely a bond between them [23]. Moreover, Campbell was disinclined toward publicity, and offered no threat to the proud and long-tenured chemist. He found sufficient satisfaction in his recognition as a teacher, as organist for the Presbyterian church in Athens, and as director of the local choral society [6, 15, 22].

In 1888, following the contemporary expectation of an inaugural address by a new faculty member, Campbell delivered a lecture before the assembled faculty, administrators, trustees, and guests. Speaking on the place of biology in the liberal education of students, the new professor asserted that biology encompasses all fields of the science of living beings and that a biologist must never forget that "he is first a biologist -- afterwards a specialist." Essential to success in advancing biological studies, he said, are well-equipped laboratories and depreciation of textbook learning, for, as Campbell saw it, biology is "par excellence a science of observation" that requires the exercise of "mental discipline." While the subject is rooted in empirical verification, he added, it leads to the development of comprehensive theories that explain relationships. Not the least of these, Campbell averred, is the theory of evolution. "Whether I believe evolution to the method of creation or not is not the question," he said. "Evolution is one of the live questions of the day, and I would not be faithfully performing my duty if I failed to explain it in the classroom" [9]. Campbell need not have worried about the freedom to teach the theory of evolution, for, contrary to conventional accounts, the idea was being openly advocated in many southern colleges and universities at that time [19]. Aware, however, that some Georgians opposed the theory, the young biologist apparently believed that he was obliged to publicize his position on the subject. Apparently, none of his peers voiced disapproval of his position on the topic, and, in fact, given their warm response to their new colleague, it appears that they either agreed with him or held no strong opinion on the matter.

By his second year at the University of Georgia, Campbell could write in the Annual Announcement that for all biology majors "the course in Biology begins in the Sophomore year, and continues to the end of the Senior." But all A.B. students were required to complete one term of general biology during their senior year, including some laboratory work, which, not unexpectedly, Campbell called "the most essential part of the course" because it was "especially designed to cultivate the habit of close observation and accurate description ... and to impress upon the mind of the student that all knowledge is not gained from books" [1]. Campbell said little in the announcement about the need for equipment in his laboratory.

Within three years, however, the situation was appreciably better, and in the Annual Announcement for 1892 he referred to "a laboratory admirably equipped with microscopes, ... [and] a good collection of physiological apparatus." By that time, Campbell was also training post graduate students, of whom one was a fellow assigned to aid him in the laboratory. His first assistant was Marion McHenry Hull, who had during the previous year published in the student magazine an article in favor of the theory of evolution [1, 16]. In all likelihood, Hull had been introduced to the theory by Campbell, who included the topic in the senior-year course in biology when he taught "the comparative Anatomy and Physiology of vertebrates..., the embryology of birds, amphibia and mammals..., and the Histology of the principal organs of the body..." Moreover, he dealt with it in a unit on "Historical Biology, in which the attempt is made to show ... the development of the subject from its earliest times down to the present" [1] .

By 1893, Campbell had made phenomenal progress in advancing his dream of a great program in biology at the University of Georgia. In the Annual Announcement for that year he provided a detailed list of the offerings in biology, which included for all freshmen a required half-year course in "Phaenogamic Botany," and for senior students, a half-year course in "Cryptogamic Botany and Vegetable Physiology" and a half-year course in "Invertebrate Zoology." He continued to offer a full-year course in "Vertebrate Anatomy and Physiology" and a half-year course in "Historical and Theoretical Biology," in which, once again, he obviously dealt with the theory of evolution. "Post-Graduate Courses" continued to be available, the principal of which were in "Physiology and Histology" [1]. Even more important than the range of courses were the new accommodations and equipment for the biology program. Excited over his progress, Campbell wrote an article for The Georgia University Magazine in order to boost the program [10].

Noting that the department had come into existence only five years earlier, Campbell expressed satisfaction that "the appropriations to the department have been liberal and as a result the equipment is now, in many respects, all that could be desired." Moreover, he proudly announced that the department had been given new, expanded quarters in the building called New College, occupying "the entire third floor and one room on the second -- seven rooms in all." Two of the rooms were laboratories, which, Campbell cheerfully noted, "comfortably accommodate fifty students engaged in biological work." Even more encouraging was the availability of "twenty-five microscopes of the best quality.., [and ranging] in magnifying power from sixty to six hundred diameters." In addition, he observed, "there is... one very elaborate instrument with apochromatic lenses of the highest powers, especially adapted for the study of Bacteria and other minute living forms." For histological work, the new laboratory contained "two slid ing microtomes." A special physiological laboratory contained both standard and special equipment. Campbell also described the museum that he had begun and developed. It included "1,200 alcoholic specimens," numerous brachiopods and corals, mammal skeletons, and a herbarium -- all of which he had secured during the past four years by his own hand or by gift from the United States National Museum. In addition, he had managed to acquire a department library, containing "several hundred bound volumes ... a large number of pamphlets and reprints ... [and] several of the best journals in this country and Europe." Campbell declared that he needed even more equipment and books, but he boasted, quite properly, that "not more than a dozen colleges in the country and none in the South are any better provided with means for physiological work than is the University of Georgia." Campbell added, "if the past rate of growth can be maintained, a few years more will show an equipment for Biological work of which no college i n the country need be ashamed" [10].

Campbell was not content to list needed equipment, however; his objective was larger, that is, to promote the study of biology as a means of preparing students to enter adulthood as disciplined, mature, and intellectually developed persons. In order to achieve that goal, the university must train each student's "observational powers" and his "powers of inductive and deductive reasoning." In no subject could those powers be developed better than in biology, argued Campbell. Then he described some of the ways in which the student sharpened his powers of observation: Throughout the year each student in the required senior course in biology must dissect "a fish, a frog, a terrapin, a bird and a cat... Each subject is dissected with considerable minuteness, the bones, the blood vessels, nerves and other organs being so studied as to give ... a real knowledge of the plan of animal organization." Moreover, observed Campbell, "the student is always encouraged to go as far as practicable to nature itself for knowledge, rather than to accept facts on the authority of anyone." In his judgment, "the educational value of Biology... is that it tends to make the student self reliant [5, 8, 10].


Meanwhile, Campbell had enlarged his mission: to promote modern biology as a requirement in all American colleges and universities, and especially in the South. It is likely that he discussed the subject with fellow members of the American Association of Naturalists, the most active organization in trying to improve instruction in biology, but no evidence indicates that he presented a paper on the topic. In order to launch his effort, he conducted a survey of the status of biology in the nation's institutions of higher learning, perused scores of college catalogs, and wrote to dozens of schools for additional information. The study was published by the U. S. Bureau of Education in 1891 as Biological Teaching in the Colleges of the United States. This volume of 179 pages is a treasure-chest of information about the status of biology during the last decade of the nineteenth century [7]. In addition to its value as a survey, however, it clearly shows the mission of John Pendleton Campbell, who can be justly cal led the southern spokesman for modern biology near the turn of the century.

Campbell introduced his volume with a statement on the increasing interest, or "unprecedented activity," in promoting "scientific methods" in the education of students. Indeed, he declared that it is "well-nigh universally recognized" that instruction in the traditional curriculum of "languages, mathematics and metaphysics" does not constitute an education "in any sense of the word," for that curriculum stresses "mere facts," which are insufficient. Students must learn, he asserted, the "processes by which those facts are acquired." His view was not unique; in fact, it represented a general dissatisfaction with rote learning and a contemporary movement to develop critical thinking. But, while he agreed that the physical sciences were important, Campbell argued that biology was especially crucial to a good education because it trains "the observational powers. Yet, he lamented, biology lagged behind its "sister sciences," for it was not a universal requirement and was often taught poorly [7].

Because of his special affinity for physiology, Campbell expressed concern over the way it was often taught, that is, by memorization rather than by use of the methods of observation and experimentation. The role of the teacher of that subject, stated Campbell, is to "guide," not to lead students to conclusions or to make them dependent upon authorities. Of course, he admitted, the instructor must provide background and information, but, to him, physiology can only be learned properly through observation and, especially, experimentation. The latter requires expensive equipment and the dissection of live animals, which, he said, "can not be intrusted to students, but must be demonstrated." It would be better, he argued, to introduce college students first to a course in systematic botany, a discipline in which it is easy to go from "known to unknown" and which is "entirely independent of other sciences" at the beginning state. He believed, however, that knowledge of chemistry and physics is essential for adva nced study in botany [7].

Ideally, Campbell maintained, students would enter college with prior preparation in biology, which, as he noted, had been recommended in 1887 by the American Association of naturalists, of which he was a member [21]. But the schools have a long way to go, he observed, and "in the Southern States ... the situation seems worst of all." Indeed, he added, "from each of these [states] came loud complaints of the almost total lack of preparation in the schools." To Campbell, the most essential course for all college students was a general course in modern biology, and the model for that course had been developed at his alma mater, where the approach was to "unite subjects formerly held apart." The aim of the course, he said, "is completeness and comprehensiveness. Physiology is joined with morphology, while the life history and embryology of each organism receive attention ... [and] every statement is based upon the solid ground work of experiment or observation." He was encouraged that Johns Hopkins was conducti ng "a training school for teachers," which was "causing a widespread recognition of the value of the general biology course" [7]. His descriptions of biology programs in the institutions on which he reported seem to indicate that he believed conditions were generally better in the Northeast, but Campbell contended that improvements were needed nationwide. It is clear, however, that he was especially concerned over the relatively poor status of biology instruction in southern colleges and universities.

"Laboratory work must be the central element of the general biology course," repeated Campbell: "The value of any course in biology ... is directly proportional to the amount of laboratory work that it involves." Unfortunately, he observed, biology instructors are "expected to do an unreasonable amount of work," often without an assistant. Thus, he complained, "they often use laboratory time to present lectures." That "larger teaching forces are absolutely necessary" was evident to Campbell, a need that he was increasingly aware of in his own university (2). In addition, Campbell cautioned against the overuse of laboratory manuals, which often gave the outcome in advance and thus increased the student's confidence in printed statements" and solidified the student's dependence upon authorities. In his view, such manuals may lead to "dishonest work," for they make the student "see what he is told to see." Campbell again argued that textbooks and lectures in biology can be equally dangerous as pedagogical tools . The former, he said, requires more effort "to get a lesson" than does a lecture, and encourages students to "forget that nature is the ultimate source of all scientific knowledge." Lectures tend to foster the same spirit, declared Campbell. "Where it is all talk and no work ... every sound principle of education is outraged and science is only made ridiculous" [7]. In brief, Campbell advocated a pedagogy of "discovery." If any of his fellow biologists disagreed with his emphasis on the discovery method, they registered no contrary opinion. Certainly, they were pleased that he was taking an active role in promoting the study of biology.


Returning to the problem of the overburdened instructor, Campbell maintained that it was no longer possible to do an adequate job of teaching with one or two professors of biology and that, in fact, at least six professors and several assistants are necessary. That is the case, stated Campbell, not only because of the demands of teaching modern biology to a growing number of students but also because of increasing specialization in biological fields.

Unwittingly contradicting his long-standing argument for an all-encompassing approach, he observed that it had become impossible for one person to teach both vertebrate and invertebrate morphology, or to handle both phaenogamic and cryptogamic botany. In his own case, Campbell received no relief until nearly twenty years later, when the University of Georgia created a separate professorship in botany [2].

The extent to which his ideas influenced other institutions toward the development of biology programs is unknown, but it is known that Campbell's 1891 study was cited by others who later joined in the movement to establish general biology as a requirement in the curricula of American colleges and universities. Campbell continued to carry his heavy load at the University of Georgia and to serve for a time as entomologist for the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station [11, 12, 20]. In 1909, he was at work on a book in physiology and on a study of "recent developments in evolution, heredity, and variation," according to the annual report of the chancellor, but he apparently never completed either [2]. Appropriations for his department had declined to a meager $200 in 1910 and to $100 in 1917 [2]. Meanwhile, his committee assignments and other duties increased significantly. In 1910-1911, he was a member of three major committees and serving as "professor of school extension," in which capacity he was organizi ng "boys' corn clubs and girls' industrial clubs," doing so in such good fashion that, as the chancellor noted, his efforts were "probably unsurpassed in any other southern state" [2]. In his report in 1917, the chancellor observed that Campbell was requesting a "student assistant" and that he would like to add a tutor to the biology department because "Prof. Campbell has a very heavy schedule." Unfortunately, the chancellor indicated that he had no funds to do so [2]. Since Campbell h ad married in 1892 and was the father of two daughters by 1896, he also had family responsibilities that consumed his time, as did his commitments to his church and to his musical interests [15, 26, 27]. The burden took its toll in late 1918, and an ailing Campbell traveled to Baltimore to be treated at the Johns Hopkins Hospital for "disease of the heart." There, in early December 1918, he died. Campbell was buried in Winchester, Virginia, the home town of his wife Martha F. Hunter [3, 6]. Although he has been largely forgotte n, John Pendleton Campbell had firmly established a modern biology program at the University of Georgia, and he had served as a pioneering spokesman for the promotion of modern biology as an important component of the university and college curriculum.


(1.) Annual Announcement of the University of Georgia with a Catalogue of the Officers and Students, p. 18, 1889; PP. 33-34, 1892; pp. 34-35, 1893; pp. 35-36, 1894; pp. 37-39, 1895; pp. 12-13, 1899; pp. 45-47, 1902.

(2.) Annual Reports of the Chancellor of the University, Dean of Franklin College, President of the State College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts to the Honorable Board of Trustees, University of Georgia, passim, 1909, 1910, 1911, and 1917.

(3.) Anon.: History of Athens and Clarke County, [GA]. Athens, GA: H.J. Rowe, Publisher, 90-91, 1923.

(4.) Anon.: Marine laboratories in the United States. Nature 47: 66-67, Nov. 17, 1892.

(5.) Anon.: Wonders from the biological laboratory. The Georgian 4: 16-18, Nov., 1899.

(6.) Athens Banner-Herald, p. 8, Dec. 4, 1918.

(7.) Campbell JP: Biological Teaching in the Colleges of the United States. U.S. Bureau of Education Circular of Information 9: 1-179, 1892.

(8.) Campbell JP: Biology. University of Georgia General Catalogue, pp. 44-45,1900-1901.

(9.) Campbell JP: Biology and its place in liberal education. Inaugural Address Delivered in the Chapel of the University of Georgia, Friday, Sept. 28th, 1888. [Athens, GA: n.p.], pp. 1-12, [1888].

(10.) Campbell JP: The department of biology. Georgia University Magazine 2:

128-133, Jan., 1893.

(11.) Campbell JP: Department of entomology. Ga Agr Exper Sta Bull 6: 82-89, Jan., 1890.

(12.) Campbell JP: Entomology. Ga Agr Exper Sta Bull 3: 45-49, 1889; 7: 115, April, 1890.

(13.) Campbell JP: Experiments on tetanus and the velocity of the contraction wave in striated muscle. Studies from the Biological Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University 4: 123-145 + 3 pls., 1887-1890.

(14.) Campbell JP: On the action of peptone in preventing blood coagulation. Studies from the Biological Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University 4: 1-12, 1887-1890.

(15.) Hull AL: Annals of Athens, Georgia, 1801-1901. Athens, Ga.: Banner Job Office, p. 403, 1906.

(16.) Hull M McH: Evidence of design in nature. Georgia University Magazine 1 (new series): 16-19, Dec., 1891.

(17.) Johns Hopkins University Circulars 3, No. 27: 20, 24, Nov., 1883; 7, No. 66: 87, July, 1888.

(18.) Maienschein J: Transforming American Biology, 1880-1915. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 20-59, 1991.

(19.) Numbers RL and Stephens LD: Darwinism in the American South. In RL Numbers and J Stenhouse, eds., Disseminating Darwinism: The Role of Place, Race, Religion, and Gender. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 123-143, 1999.

(20.) Pandora [University of Georgia Yearbook] 7: 17, 1894; 10: 18, 1897; 17: [faculty photographs page], 1904.

(21.) Records of the American Society of Naturalists. Boston: American Society of Naturalists 1, Pts. 7-12, passim, 1889-1894.

(22.) Reed TW: History of the University of Georgia. Typescript. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.

(23.) Stephens LD: Darwin's disciple in Georgia, 1875-1927: Henry Clay White. Ga His Quar 78: 66-91 Spring, 1994.

(24.) Stephens LD: White, Henry Clay. American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press 23: 251-216, 1999.

(25.) Stephens LD: Science, Race, and Religion in the American South: John Bachman and the Charleston Circle of Naturalists, 1815-1895. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, pp. 146-153, 239-246, 2000.

(26.) United States Census, Population Schedule, 12th Census, Clarke County, Georgia, District 216, 1900.

(27.) Who's Who in America. Chicago, Ill.: A.N. Marquis & Company, 6: 302, 1910-1911.
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Author:Stephens, Lester D.
Publication:Georgia Journal of Science
Geographic Code:1U5GA
Date:Dec 22, 2000
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