1940s History | Zoology | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Agriculture, Life and Physical Sciences


The decade of the 1940s saw many changes with regard to both the curriculum and the faculty. Willard Gersbacher was Head of the Department of Zoology; the other faculty were Hilda Stein and Martha Scott. By the end of the decade, some of the framework that is still noticeable in our current department was in place. Throughout this period, the main location for the department was on the first floor of the Science Building (later renamed Altgeld Hall). The Museum with its many specimens representing natural history diversity and used extensively in teaching some of the department's course offerings also was located in the Science Building. The name of SINC was changed to Southern Illinois Normal University in 1943; four years later, it was changed again to Southern Illinois University (SIU). During this decade, approval was granted to begin offering master's degrees. In 1947, Zoology was first in the life sciences to obtain approval for a Master's program; the same year Charles Foote and his wife Florence joined the Department, initiating study in endocrinology and strengthening the program in embryology and histology.

The Zoology curriculum consisted of 17 courses at the outset of the decade. These included material on vertebrates and invertebrates; involved laboratory work in genetics, embryology, anatomy, and histology; and encompassed courses involving a component of field work in ornithology, entomology, and ecology, and a course specifically for field techniques. The course offerings remained pretty much the same until just after the middle of the decade. For the 1946-47 year, a new course in limnology was added, with particular reference to Crab Orchard Lake and many other bodies of water in southern Illinois. Another new course was initiated with specific emphasis on research, providing the first opportunity for students to obtain credit for participation in scholarly endeavors. In 1947-48, two more courses were added. One of these dealt with animal geography and the other was a course for readings in the current literature. Five new courses were added the next year: protozoology, endocrinology, experimental zoology, and lower level and advanced animal ecology (two courses). Two years later at the close of the decade, six more courses were added in the areas of mammalogy, fish management, ichthyology, game management, advanced game management, and game birds. Thus, over the course of the decade, the course offerings in the Department of Zoology expanded from 17 to 34 in number.

The change in the curriculum reflected a shift in the overall mission of the university. The original and long standing tradition of producing teachers continued but added to this were degrees in liberal arts. It was possible to obtain a bachelor's degree with emphasis in zoology, either through the College of Education or the College of Liberal Arts. Also, the addition of advanced-level courses in some areas of zoology and the opportunity to do research signaled the addition of graduate education.

During the late 1940s, the faculty increased dramatically, more than doubling in size within a few years. The decade began with Dr. Gersbacher as Head of the Department and a faculty consisting of Hilda Stein and Martha Scott. By the end of the decade, Drs. Charles and Florence Foote, as well as Drs. Willard Klimstra and William Lewis, had joined the faculty ranks. These four individuals brought new talents and played key roles in the expansion of the department's curriculum. The arrivals of Drs. Klimstra and Lewis were key components in the establishment of the Cooperative Research Laboratories in Wildlife and Fisheries, respectively. Both laboratories remain active and productive today.