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June 1, 2012 | History

Gairdner Bostwick Moment

04 May 1905 - August 1990

Gairdner Bostwick Moment was born May 5, 1905, in Brooklyn, New York. He always called himself a "late bloomer," if a late bloomer can be defined as someone who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton and then scraped by four years later with a PhD from Yale.

Moment was a gifted teacher, and a talented writer. He spent his academic career (1932-1970) at Goucher College, then an all-women's college in Baltimore, Maryland. A non-science major Goucher alumna once said he was the best teacher she ever had. Whereas another professor in the lab would tell her to "look harder" under the microscope for that pesky paramecium she was supposed to find, Moment would actually describe how to see the world under the microscope, and inevitably, she'd find what she was supposed to see and understand.

The first general biology textbook Dr. Moment wrote was published in 1939, by Appleton, Century, Crofts, and it was used as an introductory text in many colleges and universities across the United States, including at Harvard. He had been urged to write this text by his mentor at Goucher, Dr. William H. Longley. Longley asked Moment if he had ever thought of writing a book, and Moment answered that he'd been thinking of writing a book about the life and habits of a particular marine worm that interested him. Longley replied, "But my dear young man, who would buy such a book?" Moment wrote the general biology textbook instead, and was forever happily in Longley's debt. The last of Gairdner Moment's biology textbooks was published in 1973 with his Goucher colleague Dr. Helen Habermann, a distinguished plant physiologist.

At the height of Gairdner Moment's career he was the Secretary General of the Sixteenth International Congress of Zoology in Washington, in 1963. He "starred" in a large series of teaching films for the American Institute of Biological Sciences, which were shown in high schools and colleges around the world. Also with the AIBS, he helped plan and write the standard high school biology curricula used across the country in the 1960's, the AIBS 'blue, yellow and green" series, which aimed to standardize and improve the level of biology teaching in American schools. Moment was also on the committee which helped plan and launch the Maryland Science Center, which was one of the early anchors of the now bustling Baltimore Inner Harbor.

After retiring from Goucher in 1970, Gairdner Moment became a guest scientist at the Gerontology Research Center of the National Institutes of Health at Baltimore City Hospital. There he continued his research into the growth and development of the earthworm Eisenia foetida, working on the puzzle of how earthworms, which don't have a sophisticated nervous system, or any sophisticated system for that matter, can count their segments. If you cut off five segments, they grow back five segments, not four or six. Over the years, Moment received grants from the National Cancer Institute and others to support his work.

Gairdner Moment was a devoted family man. In 1937, he married Ann Reed Faben, a biology major, and one of his students at Goucher College. Together, Ann and Gairdner had five children, and they have eight grandchildren.

Gairdner Moment died in August, 1990, and he donated his body to the Anatomy Board of Maryland. Ann F. Moment, his wife, and editor and partner in all things, died in December of 1998. She also donated her body to science.

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June 1, 2012 Edited by Edited without comment.
February 24, 2011 Edited by Jane Moment Jordan Birth and death dates, biography,
February 24, 2011 Edited by Update photos
February 24, 2011 Edited by Added new photo
April 1, 2008 Created by an anonymous user initial import