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Viktor Hamburger Edit Profile

educator , embryologist , Neurobiologist , scientist , author

Viktor Hamburger was a German professor, neurobiologist and embryologist. He was the author of many scientific works in the field of embryology.


Viktor Hamburger was born on July 9, 1900 in Landeshut, Silesia, Germany. He was the son of Max and Else (Gradenwitz) Hamburger.


Hamburger enrolled at the University of Heidelberg in 1919. He attended a seminar from Hans Driesch, and received his first introduction into experimental embryology from Curt Herbst.

In 1920 Hamburger enrolled at the University of Freiburg as a graduate student and was accepted into Hans Spemann’s laboratory.

In 1925 Hamburger received a Doctor of Philosophy degree for studying the relationship between nerve and limb development.

Hamburger received many honorary degrees including doctorate from Washington University in 1976 and doctorate from Rockefeller University in 1996.


Hamburger started his career at the Stazione Zoologica in Naples, Italy, after receiving his doctorate. He was invited by Otto Mangold to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin-Dahlem as a Research Associate in 1926.

In 1927 Spemann invited Hamburger back to the University of Freiburg with an Instructorship, a tenure track position. He taught and supervised laboratory courses until 1932, when he was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship to bring Spemann’s technique of micro-surgery to the United States.

In 1933 the Nazi party revoked Hamburger’s position at the University and the positions of all other Jewish faculty in Germany. The Rockefeller Foundation extended Hamburger’s support for an additional two years in response to the Nazi actions. At the termination of his fellowship, he began work at the Washington University in St. Louis in 1935 as an assistant professor. In 1939 he became an associate professor, and in 1941, he became a full professor and chairman of the zoology department.

In 1947 Hamburger invited Levi-Montalcini to work in his lab to resolve the discrepancy.

Hamburger retired from his professor position in 1969 and continued researching until the 1980s.


  • In the 1960s, Hamburger did embryological work in the field of embryology. He established that chick movements in embryo were spontaneous patterns, a finding that contradicted contemporary assertions of behavioral psychologists.

    He was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences in 1953.

    Hamburger also lectured, among others, Nobel Prize-winning neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini, who identified nerve growth factor along with Hamburger when they collaborated.


Viktor Hamburger was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society Development Biology, the International Society Development Biology and the Society Neuroscis.


Hamburger had 2 children: Doris Sloan and Carola Marte.

Max Hamburger

Else (Gradenwitz) Hamburger

Doris Sloan Hamburger

Carola Marte Hamburger