The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 48: 687 - 694 (2004)

Vol 48, Issue 8-9

Special Issue: Eye Development

The extracellular matrix in development and regeneration. An interview with Elizabeth D. Hay

Published: 1 November 2004

Robert L. Trelstad

Child Health Institute, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA


Betty Hay was born in Melbourne, Florida and raised there until her father enlisted as an army physician during World War II. Her family moved to Mississippi and to Kansas and then returned to Florida when her father left for military duty in the Philippines. In1944, Betty entered Smith College where her emerging interests in biology were significantly accelerated by a freshman biology course with Professor S. Meryl Rose, who became her scientific mentor. She worked with Rose on amphibian limb regeneration at Smith and in the summers at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. Upon graduation Betty entered Johns Hopkins Medical School and graduated in the Class of 1952. During medical school Betty was able to continue interacting with Florence and Meryl Rose at Woods Hole (Fig. 1B). Upon graduating from Hopkins and interning in medicine, Betty joined the Anatomy Department at Hopkins, discovered the emerging field of electron microscopy and began to interact with George Palade and Keith Porter at Rockefeller and with Don Fawcett at Cornell Medical College. She moved to Fawcett's Anatomy Department at Cornell in 1957 and thus was in New York at the time when cell biology opened up. In 1960, Betty moved to Harvard Medical School with Fawcett and there rose through the ranks to become the Louise Foote Pfeiffer Professor of Embryology in 1964 (Fig. 1A) and Chair of the Department of Anatomy in 1975. Betty has been President of the American Society for Cell Biology, the Society for Developmental Biology, the American Association of Anatomists and she has won over twenty national and international awards including the E.B. Wilson Award in cell biology (Fig. 3) and the E G. Conklin Award in developmental biology. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has served on countless national and international committees. Betty lives in Weston, Massachusetts, with multiple cats and surrounded by woods filled with mushrooms about which she is an expert in harvesting, cooking and eating.

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