Prof. Michael Mizell remembered in lecture series

Garland E. Allen delivered the Second Annual Michael Mizell Memorial Public History Lecture on May 18 at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, MA.  The topic was “Strange Bedfellows? Eugenics and the Environmental Conservation Movements in Early Twentieth Century America.” Michael Mizell was an Associate Professor of History at the University of New Orleans who, as a public historian sought to document and display histories of the lives of everyday people. Among other projects, he developed a website presenting the reaction of many New Orleans residents to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. At the time of his premature death from cancer, he was starting to work with the MBL History Project documenting the public controversy over development of a leper colony on Penikese Island, off the coast of Woods Hole. Penikese had been the site of Louis Agassiz’s Anderson School of Biology in 1871-1873, an ambitious program to introduce high school biology teachers to direct experience with marine organisms and habitats. Cut short by Agassiz’s death in 1872, the facility was eventually transformed into a Leper Colony. In the meantime, however, biologists such as Charles Otis Whitman from the University of Chicago, who had attended the Anderson School, recognized Woods Hole as an outstanding location for collecting and studying a wide variety of marine flora and fauna. It was this experience that brought Whitman to found the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole in 1888. Michael Mizell is the son of MBL research scientist Merle Mizell and spent the summers growing up in Woods Hole; thus the lecture series commemorates Michael’s special connection to the Laboratory and the larger Woods Hole community.