A Little History

by Dr. James D. Long
(From Biology Department Newsletter, 1990)

I have been collecting a few facts and fallacies about the Biology Program at SHSU through the years, hoping one day to arrange these tidbits into a history of the Department.  Although I did not witness everything that has ever happened on our campus, as some may think, I have seen a lot of our history unfold since I was a student here in the 1950s.  I have decided that I will probably never sit down long enough to write all these items down at one time, and am beginning a series of shorter notes with this issue that I hope will prove more interesting for NEWSLETTER readers.

Sam Houston Normal Institute had its beginning in 1879 with the first class assembling during October in Austin Hall. The earliest list of faculty I can find citing anyone teaching a science is dated 1884. Among teachers listed is I. R. Dean given as the 'Natural Science' Instructor. Other topics taught include 'professional work, mathematics, music and calisthenics, physiology, elocution, drawing, language and literature.' Although limited to only seven teaching positions, subjects included in a 'normal' curriculum seemed well represented.

Mr. Ira (or Ibzan?) R. Dean was a native of North Carolina and had graduated from Peabody Normal College at Nashville, Tennessee, in 1881, before coming to Texas. He was the second in a family of seven and had seven children of his own. He taught on our campus until 1888. While on the faculty he became the pastor of First Baptist Church of Huntsville and was ordained as a minister by that congregation on April 10, 1889. On leaving Huntsville later that year, 'he became a pastor at Waxachachie, Texas, and at a number of other Texas locations during ensuing years. Mr. Dean was replaced in 1888 by two faculty who had major impact on science institutions of that era.

The first of these was R. B. Halley (not Hay-ley!) for whom the biology building which most of you knew was named.  Professor Halley was a much loved physical science teacher who remained on the faculty until his retirement in 1919. He was noted for his memory of people. At the first meeting of his class, he asked each of his students to rise and give their names. After this one exposure, he knew them by name ever more!

A second member of the 1888 faculty was Professor Walter M. Coleman listed as teaching 'physiology and natural science.' He was the first we would later call a biologist. In an 1899 publication commenting on SHSU's first twenty years, Mr. Coleman is described in the colorful fashion of that era quoted here in its entirety:

“Walter A. Coleman is a native Texan and graduated in the class of 1879-80 at the Sam Houston Normal Institute. The next few years found him an earnest student at the Washington and Lee University, where he graduated in 1884. As a teacher his first laurels were won in Belton, Texas,  where he held the position of Principal of the High School for two terms. In 1887 he was elected a member of the Faculty of the Normal Institute.  After holding this place for two years, being ambitious to thread the labyrinths of science more thoroughly and enjoy the advantages of travel as well, he resigned and went abroad. During his absence he attended the University of Berlin, and the Royal School of Science in London. In 1890 he was re-elected to his former position here and has since been devoting his best energies to his duties in the Institute. Professor Coleman is in the full vigor of both mental and physical manhood, systematic in all things, and so spiced with originality and humor that his teaching cannot be otherwise than impressive. He was married a few years since to Miss Satis Barton, of Tyler, Texas. Professor and Mrs. Coleman are both artistic in their taste, fond of the culture of flowers, fruits and all the accessories to a pretty home. For this reason, they are now building a model suburban residence, on grounds sufficient to furnish ample field for the exercise of their energy and skill.”

Professor Coleman continued on the faculty until 1908 when he returned to the University of Berlin to conduct research in Physiology. In 1909 he continued his studies at a hospital in London and was later named a Fellow of the Physical Society of London. During his career here and elsewhere he accumulated an impressive list of publications including both books and articles. Titles such as 'Hygienic Physiology' and 'Mental Biology' suggest a wide range in interest. Professor Coleman returned to this country living a while in Washington, D.C., and at Corpus Christi, Texas. He moved to British Suva on Fiji and, after 'going native' for a while, died there in 1925. As a graduate student here at Sam, I lived in the 'model suburban residence' Mr. Coleman built at what was later 20th Street at Avenue M and the long-time home of Professor R. M. Woods.

(Next issue, a little more history.)



Department of Biological Sciences

1900 Ave. I, Lee Drain Building (LDB) Suite 300
P.O. Box 2116
Huntsville, Texas 77341
Phone: 936.294.1540 Fax: 936.294.3940

DNA electrophoresis showing the inserts in eight different (Escherichia coli) clones. We are cloning promoters from Mycobacterium smegmatis which are active in stationary phase.

Primm Lab

The Steelcolor Shiner (Cyprinella whipplei) is a common minnow that consumes terrestrial and aquatic insects and is an important player in regulating nutrient dynamics in stream ecosystems.

Hargrave Lab

Habitat assessment and inventories of small mammal populations.

Thies Lab

Reconstructing the paleoenvironment of northwestern Botswana by comparing indigenous species with fossil material excavated from two cave systems.

Thies Lab

The orangethroat darter (Etheostoma spectabile) is a common darter that consumes benthic grazing invertebrates affecting a stream primary productivity and creating a trophic cascade within an aquatic ecosystem.

Hargrave Lab

A collaboration with Dr. Howard K. Reinert at the College of New Jersey to investigate habitat use of the Boa constrictor which has recently invaded the island of Aruba. Potential niche overlap could become a concern for the conservation of the endangered Aruba Island Ratttlesnake.

Lutterschmidt Lab

Rhodobacter sphaeroides, a purple photosynthetic bacteria, whose genome has been completely sequenced and fully annotated.

Choudhary Lab

Methyl green agar plates for examining whether microorganisms synthesize and secrete DNAse enzymes which degrade extracellular DNA for nutrient acquisition.

Primm Lab

The desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) of California's and Mexico's Peninsular Ranges is a federally listed endangered species. Physiological adaptations allowing this large mammal to survive desert conditions are studied in Turner's lab.

Turner Lab

A chromatogram of DNA sequences from various clones.

Choudhary Lab

A gregarine (Nubenocephalus secundus) parasitizing the midgut epithelium of the blue-ringed dancer (Argia sedula). This is one of many new gregarine species described from an investigation for the biodiversity of these aquatic insect parasites.

T. Cook Lab

Parental feeding rates to nestlings are monitored at nests of Carolina Wrens as part of a study on parental investment strategies.

Neudorf Lab

A unicellular bi-flagellated alga (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii) is a model organism for studying the inctracellular signaling mechanisms that control movement of eukaryotic cilia and flagella.

Gaillard Lab

A genus of parasitic plants (Harveya) depends entirely on its hosts for water, minerals, and photosynthates. Such plants are of unique interest in molecular evolution and systematics.

Randle Lab

A fossil jaw of a gerbil lying outside of Gcwhihaba cave, Botswana. Gerbils are important indicators for paleoenvironmental reconstruction in the region.

Lewis Lab

A radio-tracked female Northern Cardinal as part of a study on extra-pair mating strategies.

Neudorf Lab

The white-tailed deer persists in historic home ranges despite encroaching development. Studies of urbanization influences fecundity, distribution, enzootic and epizootic disease, and parasites are of interest.

Turner Lab

Chromatophore is the photosynthetic apparatus of R. sphaeroides which allows this organism to harvest light energy.

Choudhary Lab

Female timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) demonstrate seasonal differences in baseline and stress-induced hormone responses due to reproductive condition. Corticosterone is significantly higher in gravid females due to stressors related to reproduction.

Lutterschmidt Lab

By examining what causes variation in modern African rodents, like this gerbil, we can better understand how environments have changed where we find their fossil ancestors.

Lewis Lab

A population of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii cells exhibiting phototaxis, migration toward light. Some pharmacological agents inhibit phototaxis by inhibiting flagellar motility of the cells.

Gaillard Lab

Species-specific mange mite recorded for the first time in Texas from 6-year-old male white-tailed deer. Infection of the deer may be related to effects of crowding in rural/urban deer herds.

Turner Lab

The southern redbelly dace (Phoxinus erythrogaster) is a common stream minnow that consumes benthic algae, playing an important role in the regulation of periphyton biomass in small headwater streams.

Hargrave Lab

Male Northern Cardinals are banded and measured as part of a study of extra-pair mating behavior.

Neudorf Lab

We are investigating the reproductive timing and potential of the Boa constrictor which has recently invaded the island of Aruba and has become a concern for the conservation efforts of the endangered Aruba Island Rattlesnake.

Lutterschmidt Lab

Distribution, abundance, and reproduction of rural/urban deer herds are a growing concern in southeast Texas. Habitat impacts relative to human encroachment and high deer populations are being studied by Turner's lab.

Turner Lab

A large lineage of small moths (Gelechioidea) remains poorly known in the Nearctic, with only 30% of its species described. Modern morphological and molecular systematics are used with behavioral and ecological data to study and infer systematic relationships.

Bucheli Lab

A gregarine (Nubenocephalus secundus) parasitizing the intestine of the blue-ringed dancer (Argia sedula) by attaching to the epithelium with a long slender epimerite and a wide "suction cup"-like protomerite at its anterior.

T. Cook Lab

The reptile fauna from northwestern Botswana, including this chameleon, is helping us better understand how and why the climate has changed in this region over the last two million years.

Lewis Lab

This neotropical hemipteran (Neoplea absona) in the family Pleidae was a specimen used to revise the genus. Pleids, or pygmy backswimmers, are predators of micro-crustaceans in stagnant waters.

J. Cook Lab

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