Google honors geneticist Nettie Stevens

Why Evolution Is True

I first heard of Nettie Stevens (1861-1912) when I was studying Mendelian genetics in college. She is well known to those of us who studied that branch of genetics (what I call “real” genetics!), but has been largely forgotten despite her immense contribution to the field. What was it? Nothing less than discovering that sex, at least in the species she was studying, was determined by chromosome constitution. And that turned out to be the case for many, many animal species (and even some plants!).

After years of of training, Stevens settled at Bryn Mawr College, and it was there that, while studying the mealworm Tenebrio molitor, she realized that while the cells of females had near pairs of regular-sized chromosomes, males had, among the regular pairs, one regular-sized chromosome paired with a tiny one. Those proved to be the X and Y, respectively, just as in humans. (In some species, like birds and butterflies, the…

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