MBL and Woods Hole: A Mecca for Biologists and, for Many, a Place to Call Home

A fateful conversation between two scientists at a popular Woods Hole watering hole may have first brought Shinya Inoué to Woods Hole and the MBL, but the opportunity for unique research collaborations kept him coming back for decades. One evening at the Captain Kidd, Dr. Jean Clark-Dan, wife of Professor Katsuma Dan, Dr. Inoué's mentor at Tokyo University and the Misaki Marine Biological Station, spoke highly of a young, ambitious Japanese zoology student to her friend, Kenneth Cooper, a Princeton biology professor and MBL summer investigator. Impressed with what he heard, Cooper arranged a fellowship for the student (Inoué) to Princeton not long after. That was in 1948. The rest, as they say, is history.

Dr. Inoué would go on to a distinguished career studying the mechanisms of cell division in living cells and pioneering polarized light microscopy. His teaching appointments would span the nation and world, from the Medical School at the University of Washington in Seattle where he met and married his wife Sylvia, to Tokyo Metropolitan University, the University of Rochester, Dartmouth Medical School, and the University of Pennsylvania. But wherever they were living, the Inoué family would always return to Woods Hole each summer. "Even though we lived in many towns, Woods Hole was a constant place where we could always return, enjoy the summer, and re-unite with friends old and new," Dr. Inoué says.

Dr. Inoué was an instructor in the MBL's Physiology course for five years, taught in the Embryology and Neurobiology courses, and started a residential course for University of Pennsylvania General Honors undergraduate students. He also created the short-but-intensive "Analytical and Quantitative Light Microscopy" course which opened up a completely new field. Each summer Dr. Inoué, in addition to his teaching duties, would set up a laboratory in Lillie or in the basement of Old Main to pursue his research. In the early 1970s, Dr. Inoué's laboratory became part of the MBL's resident research program, and in 1979, he gave up his tenure at Penn to work full-time in Woods Hole. According to Dr. Inoué, "The MBL was more of what a university ought to be but seldom was. At MBL we were completely immersed in our research and research training. Without the institutional problems of a typical university, there was true scientific collegiality and free exchange of ideas," he says.

Dr. Inoué was named a Distinguished MBL Scientist in 1986.  In December, 2003 he received the prestigious International Prize for Biology, awarded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science to one who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of research in fundamental biology. He was elected into the National Academy of Sciences in 1993.

For Dr. Inoué and his family, Woods Hole and the MBL was always a place to call home. What began as an intellectual summer retreat for a promising young scientist and his growing family eventually became the base for Dr. Inoué's lifelong pioneering research, which continues today. In 1989, Dr. and Mrs. Inoué demonstrated their commitment to the MBL with the donation of waterfront land they owned on Martha's Vineyard to the Laboratory. In exchange for transferring the property to the MBL, the Laboratory created a Charitable Gift Annuity. The Annuity, income from which will eventually support inter-disciplinary fellowships in cell biology, provided the Inoués with an income tax deduction based on the value of the property, which had appreciated substantially. They will continue to receive steady income from the annuity for life.

"Even in Japan during World War II, I had hoped to come to Woods Hole," says Dr. Inoué. Soon after the War, that dream became a reality, thanks to Jean and Katsuma Dan and their friends in the States. Ever since then, I've thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to become immersed in research and meet and work with friends and students each summer here. MBL has been my true scientific home for over half a century."

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