The Little Scientist!

Richard H. Ebright and his college friends presented an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. A scientific work of such importance was an extraordinary achievement for college students, and it all started with butterflies.

Ebright was the only child of his parents. He grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania. Since he was alone during his childhood, he could not play football or any other sport; Rather, there was only one thing he could do: collect things. Ebright, in his childhood, collected butterflies, coins, rocks, and fossils. He also gazed at stars in the night.

Curiosity: A Wonderful Thing

From his childhood, Ebright had this unquenchable curiosity. His mother was also very cooperative and bought him telescopes and microscopes and encouraged his interest in learning things. Ebright’s mom was his only companion till school. Ebright’s dad died when he was in the third grade. Ebright was a born-learner, according to his mother.

Ebright had collected all the twenty-five species of butterflies that were found around his hometown. After this achievement, his mother bought him a book titled “The Travels of Monarch X.” This book explained the migration of monarch butterflies to Central America.

At the end of that book was a column that invited individual readers to help study butterfly migrations. One had to tag butterflies for research. Dr. Frederick A. Urquhart was conducting the whole research from the University of Toronto, Canada.

Mother: A True Companion

Ebright’s mother called Dr. Frederick, and Ebright counted himself in the research. Since he could not catch many butterflies if he relied on catching them one by one, instead, he decided to raise a flock of butterflies and then tag them. His basement was home to thousands of butterflies.

Eventually, he lost interest in butterflies. He only captured two of the tagged butterflies, and that too not far away from his house.

When Ebright was in seventh grade, he lost a county science fair that transformed his life. He displayed the slides of frog tissues. It stimulated his competitive spirit, and he decided to do a real experiment in the next science fair.

Ebright wrote to Dr. Frederick and got an experimental advice. His eighth-grade experiment was to find what caused the death of monarch butterflies. Though he did not come up with anything, yet his try led him to success.

His next experiment was to test the theory that stated that Viceroy butterflies copy monarch butterflies to evade predator birds. His experiment proved the theory. His research was placed first in the zoology division and third in the county science fair.

The Golden Spots

In the second year of high school, Ebright discovered a new hormone that led to the formulation of a new cell theory. “What is the purpose of the twelve tiny gold spots on a monarch pupa?”

Dr. Frederick rejected many scientists claiming the purpose of the gold spot as mere ornamentation. However, Ebright showed that the gold spot played a crucial role in the development of butterflies. This lead to his win as well as his entry into the International Science and Engineering Fair. Ebright also had this opportunity to work at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. He also won first place at International Science Fair.

Ebright continued to win multiple competitions by proving the importance of the gold spots in butterfly’s development. This project won him first place for zoology at International Fair. That year Ebright spent his summer while working at the laboratory of the U.S Department of Agriculture. Ebright worked for one more year and was finally successful in identifying the chemical structure of those hormones. 

DNA: Cell’s Blueprint

While studying the chemical structures under X-rays, he got the idea for his new theory on how the cell can read its DNA’s blueprints. Ebright and his college mate James R. Wong worked day and night on the models and later wrote a paper based on their work. Ebright graduated with the second rank in almost fifteen hundred students and became a Harvard Medical School student researcher.

A Man of Excellence

Despite being a research scholar, Ebright was a champion debater and pubic speaker, and an expert photographer. He also became a good friend of Richard A. Weiherer.

He explained that Ebright was a competitive person and tried his best to win to do his job in the best possible way. Ebright had this curiosity to win from the beginning when he read the book “The Travels of Monarch X’.