Porter, Keith Roberts

Porter, Keith Roberts
▪ 1998

      Canadian-born American cell biologist (b. June 11, 1912, Yarmouth, N.S.—d. May 2, 1997, Bryn Mawr, Pa.), was one of the founding fathers of modern cell biology and pioneered the use of the electron microscope to observe biological cells and the fine structures within them. While working in the 1940s at the Rockefeller Institute (later Rockefeller University), New York City, Porter developed a technique called whole-mount electron microscopy, by which images of single, complete cells, magnified about 100,000 times, were produced. The procedure provided a window through which scientists were able to view the internal organization of the cell in detail for the first time. As an undergraduate, Porter studied biology at Acadia University, Wolfville, N.S., and went on to receive a doctorate in biology (1938) from Harvard University. After graduation he moved (1939) to the Rockefeller Institute, where during the 1940s and '50s he and colleague George Palade, along with other scientists, made many significant contributions to the study of cell structure, including the understanding that cells are divided and, in large part, organized by highly convoluted networks of skeletal-like microtubules and membranous sacs. In 1961 Porter returned to Harvard, and he later (1965-67) served as chairman of the biology department. He moved on in 1968 to establish and head the department of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. After relinquishing the chairmanship in 1975, Porter worked for several years as part-time director of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass. He helped organize the American Society for Cell Biology and the Tissue Culture Association and also was instrumental in starting the Journal of Biophysical and Biochemical Cytology, now the Journal of Cell Biology. Porter was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1964 and received a number of prestigious awards, including the National Medal of Science (1977). In addition to writing more than 200 scientific papers, he published several books, notably An Introduction to the Fine Structure of Cells and Tissues (1963; with Mary Bonneville).

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▪ American biologist
born June 11, 1912, Yarmouth, N.S., Can.
died May 2, 1997, Bryn Mawr, Pa., U.S.

      Canadian-born American cell biologist who pioneered techniques for electron microscope studies of the internal structure and organization of cells and tissues.

      Porter studied biology at Acadia University (Wolfville, Nova Scotia) and Harvard University, from which he obtained a Ph.D. in 1938. From 1939 to 1961 he was a member of the Rockefeller Institute (later Rockefeller University) in New York City. During that period he devised methods for using the electron microscope to obtain high-resolution images of individual cells. These procedures enabled Porter and his colleagues to examine the internal organization and fine structures of cells in detail for the first time. He studied the intracellular transport system known as the endoplasmic reticulum and helped discover the convoluted arrays of skeleton-like elements called microtubules (microtubule), which play a vital role in organizing the contents of the cell.

      Porter was a member of the biology department at Harvard from 1961 to 1970, serving as its chairman (1965–67). He also chaired (1968–75) the newly formed department of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder and served for several years as part-time director of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The author of more than 200 scientific papers, he wrote, with Mary Bonneville, An Introduction to the Fine Structure of Cells and Tissues (1963; 4th ed., Fine Structure of Cells and Tissues, 1973). Porter was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1964 and was the recipient of a number of prestigious awards, including the National Medal of Science (1977).

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Universalium. 2010.

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