Viktor Hamburger Oral History


Reference code


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Viktor Hamburger Oral History


  • June 30, 1983 (Creation)


0.05 Linear Feet

Name of creator


Biographical history

Viktor Hamburger was a German-American biologist who was born in 1900. Hamburger attended the Universities of Breslau, Heidelberg, Munich, and Freiburg, receiving his Ph.D. in zoology under the supervision of Hans Spemann in 1925. He came to Chicago in 1932 as a Rockefeller fellow to work in Frank R. Lillie’s laboratory at the University of Chicago, studying the embryology of the chick embryo. While in Chicago, Hamburger was dismissed from his faculty position in Germany due to the rising Nazi party’s policies, and he chose to remain in the United States.

In 1935, Hamburger joined Washington University as an assistant professor of zoology. He served as chairman of the Department of Biology from 1941 to 1966. Though he retired as professor emeritus in 1969, Hamburger continued his research until the mid-1980s. Hamburger is best known for his work in experimental embryology, neuroembryology and the study of programmed cell death.

Name of creator

(Born 1938)

Biographical history

Dale Purves earned his doctoral degree from Harvard Medical School and took a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Neurobiology from 1968 to 1971. Purves joined the faculty of Washington University School of Medicine in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in 1971, and remained in that role until 1990, when he founded the Department of Neurobiology at Duke University. Purves was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1989.

Scope and content

Hamburger discusses major points in his long career as an embryologist – his early work in Germany with Hans Spemann and the study of the organizer effect; his experience coming to the United States in 1932 as a Rockefeller fellow and staying on after Hitler’s “cleansing of the professions” in Germany; joining the faculty of Washington University and his research there. Hamburger talks about his colleagues such as Rita Levi-Montalcini and their discovery of naturally occurring neuronal death, his work with Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen on the discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF), and his study of animal behavior development and motility.

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The collection is open and accessible for research.

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For detailed information regarding use of this collection, contact the Archives and Rare Book Department of the Becker Library (

Preferred Citation:

Item description, Reference Code, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University in St. Louis.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

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"Describing Archives: A Content Standard, Second Edition (DACS), 2013."

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© Copyright 2019 Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives. All rights reserved.

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