Robert Chambers

Robert Chambers, Pioneer in the study of living cells

Robert Chambers (1881-1957) was best known for his fundamental and enduring work on the biophysics of protoplasm. He worked on the structure of living membranes, capillary physiology, mesonephros function, fertilization in marine eggs, and adhesiveness of cancer cells in tissue culture. His astonishing development of the micromanipulator, along with the essential glass needles, micropippettes, electrodes, and microgages, stands as a landmark in the progress of science.

Born in Erzurum, Turkey, of Canadian missionary parents, he grew up in a deeply religious household and in the exciting atmosphere of Armenian-Turkish disputes. He went to Robert College in Constantinople, graduating with a BA in 1900. He received a MA from Regina (possibly now part of Queens University, Kingston, Canada) in 1902 and then taught high school in Bardezag, Turkey from 1902-05. He then went to Germany where he earned a Ph.D. in 1908.

Much more about his scientific career can be found from obituaries (e.g. Science 126:645 or Biological Bull 115:10-11) or the book Explorations into the Nature of the Living Cell by Robert and Edward L. Chambers from Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1961 LCC No 61-8845.

This web site presents some stories he wrote about his experiences in Turkey. They have been retyped from his manuscript with only minor changes of spelling or punctuation.

  1. Nature Stories
    1. Dormice
    2. The Moon-fish
    3. The Woodcock
    4. The Hoopoe
    5. The Fig Tree
    6. Fox Hunting
  2. Erzerum
    1. A Religious Procession
    2. The Garden of Eden
  3. School Stories
    1. A Butting Party
    2. Fire in Roumeli-Hissar
    3. Singing
    4. A Fight in the Study Hall
    5. Athletic Club of Robert College
    6. Holiday Walks
    7. Attacked
  4. Constantinople [ this was included in the table of contents but no stories were indicated ]
  5. Bardezag
    1. The Funeral Procession
    2. Another Funeral Procession
    3. Haeckel
    4. Sari Baba's Story
    5. The Stone Road
    6. The Drum
    7. Indian Rollers and Bee-eaters
    8. Our Hermit
    9. Means of Travel
    10. Trials and Tribulations
    11. Soldiers
    12. My First Ship
    13. The Laz Village
    14. The Pink Pajamas
    15. Nicaea
    16. The Flag
    17. The Customs
    18. Saribaba
Picture of Robert Chambers on another site.
david@landowne.org