History of Anatomy & Cell Biology, McGill University
In 2016, Emeritus Professor Dr. Gary Bennett completed work on a written record of the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology at McGill University.
Spanning hundreds of pages and hundreds of years of history, Dr. Bennett's painstaking compilation of material can now be consulted through the links below. We invite you to explore the proud and fascinating history of our Department!
Pioneers in Science: Drs. Yves Clermont and Charles Leblond
In 1953, the same year that Watson and Crick identified the double helix as the structure of DNA, Doctors Charles Philippe Leblond (1910-2007) and Yves Clermont (1926-2014) of McGill University's Department of Anatomy published the seminal paper that would first identify the theory of stem cell renewal.
By observing the steps of sperm differentiation in the testis as well as the population of spermatogonia responsible for the production of spermatozoa, the Renewal of Spermatogonia in the Rat revealed the first identified population of stem cells and included the first use of the term "stem cells" in this biological context.
This ground-breaking discovery--the subsequent applications of which have helped combat human diseases ranging from cancer to degenerative conditions--paved the way for a revolution in science. We are proud to have been the home of two such illustrious Canadian pioneers in science.
"I had the exceptional privilege of being taught by Drs. Clermont and Leblond. As medical students, we had no idea that the two gentlemen who taught us histology with such grace and flair, were pioneering scientists who had made the fundamental observations that laid the groundwork for stem cell biology. Yet, perhaps we should have guessed from their mastery of the subject and their deep understanding of biology. It is most fitting that we celebrate these two gifted researchers whose work opened the door to an entirely new branch of medical science.”
David Eidelman, MD, CM
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
VP (Health Affairs)
"It is very appropriate that, with the enormous current interest in induced pluripotency stem cells by Dr. Yamanaka and colleagues, we should be reminded of the history of the stem cell concept. The paper by Clermont and Leblond (1953) on spermatogonia renewal in the rat is certainly a landmark paper in this field."
Dr. John Gurdon
UK Gurdon Institute
2012 Nobel Prize Laureate
“Clermont and Leblond’s beautiful study of how sperm develop in the testis laid out many of the underlying principles that still drive modern stem cell biology. A great contribution from two great Canadian scientists.”
Janet Rossant, PhD, FRSC, FRS
Senior Scientist and Chief of Research
Departments of Molecular Genetics, and Obstetrics and Gynecology
University of Toronto
“I have recently discovered –and eagerly read many of the ground-breaking papers of C.P. Leblond on stem cells. I have come to conclude that with all of today’s technologies we only confirm the concepts that Leblond laid down over half a century ago.”
Hans Clevers, MD, PhD
Professor of Molecular Genetics
“Professor Charles Leblond’s pioneering studies in stem cell biology, beginning with the landmark report of spermatogonia self renewal in 1953, heralded Canada’s preeminent role and current international standing in this critical field of medicine. As a McGill alumnus, I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to follow the footsteps of this scientific giant and be part of the great Canadian stem cell legacy he created.”
Samuel Weiss, PhD, FRSC
Professor and Director
Hotchkiss Brain Institute