Skip to main content

Frank Rattray Lillie papers

 Record Group
Identifier: MC-MBL-Lillie

Scope and Contents

The collection, dating from 1894 to 1947, includes materials related to Lillie’s time as director of the Marine Biological Laboratory (1908-1925) and as president of the MBL Corporation (1925-1941). The papers also pertain to the early years of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.


  • 1894-1947

Conditions Governing Access

Open: materials are available for research.

Biographical Information

Frank Rattray Lillie was born in Toronto, Canada, and attended the University of Toronto as an undergraduate. He moved to the United States and became a fellow at Clark University under the tutelage of Charles O. Whitman. He received his doctorate in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1894. Lillie was an important pioneer in the field of embryology, including discovering the mechanisms causing freemartins.

Lillie first came to the Marine Biological Laboratory in 1891 to conduct summer research on embryology. Lillie went on to serve as assistant director of the MBL under Whitman from 1900-1908, director of the MBL from 1908-1925, and president of the MBL Corporation from 1925-1941. Lillie was one of the directors of the MBL Embryology course from its first year in 1893 through 1903. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.


29 boxes (twenty-nine 12" x 5" boxes)




The papers are grouped into the following 11 series, and there are also diaries and a framed letter:

II.A. – Correspondence

II.B. – Sex Research Committee

II.C. – National Academy of Sciences

II.D. – National Resources Committee, Science Committee

II.E. – National Research Council

II.F. – F. R. Lillie, Publications I: Books, articles, etc.

II.G. – F. R. Lillie, Publications II: Lectures, addresses, etc.

II.H. – F. R. Lillie, Publications III: MBL Book (1944)

II.I. – F. R. Lillie, Personal Documents


II.K. – Research in Progress

Related Materials

The University of Chicago maintains a collection of Frank R. Lillie papers in the Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library. A finding aid is available at

Processing Information

The Lillie papers were originally part of a sequentially numbered series of manuscript boxes, the first two boxes being the papers of Charles Otis Whitman. Papers were left in their original order. The collection begins with box 3 (II.A).

Most papers are cataloged at the folder level. A Library volunteer cataloged correspondence II.A (folders 1-41 and folder 101) and II.B (folders 1-13) to the item level. For the catalog of individual items, see

Processed January 14, 2015. Finding aid updated by Katy Sternberger, June 2016.

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Marine Biological Laboratory Archives Repository