Calvin Blackman Bridges

Bridges, Calvin Blackman (1889-1938) was an early geneticist whose pioneering work helped formulate important basic concepts. Bridges helped prove that genes on chromosomes pass along hereditary traits and helped advance the understanding of how chromosomal abnormalities are linked to changes in physical traits.

Bridges was born in Schuyler Falls, New York. His parents died when he was young, and he was raised by his grandmother. He worked to support himself and did not graduate from high school until he was 20 years old. He was awarded a scholarship to Columbia University and enrolled in 1909.


During his freshman year. Bridges met geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan, who played a pivotal role in Bridges's scientific interests. By 1910, Morgan had made Bridges his lab assistant in studies on the genetics of Drosophila elanogaster, the common fruit fly. Bridges contributed greatly to the work of Morgan's group and was noted for his ingenuity in developing new equipment for viewing the flies and new laboratory techniques for more clearly distinguishing chromosomes. Bridges graduated from Columbia with a B.S. degree in 1912. That year, he married Gertrude Frances Ives. The couple had four children.

Bridges earned his Ph.D. degree in zoology from Columbia in 1916. After graduation, he worked with Morgan as a research associate. His pioneering work helped prove that genes on chromosomes pass along hereditary traits. It helped advance the understanding of how abnormalities in chromosome structure are related to changes in physical traits and how the sex of an organism is genetically determined. By studying chromosomes with missing segments, Bridges also constructed some of the earliest chromosome maps.

In 1928, Bridges moved with Morgan's research group to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, where he remained for the rest of his career. Bridges died at the age of 49 from a heart infection.