MDI Biological Laboratory
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Recognizing MDI Bio Lab’s Historian-in-Chief: David H. Evans, Ph.D.

  • August 16, 2023

As the MDI Bio Lab community continues to celebrate 125 years of science-by-the-sea, we want to give a grateful shout-out to David H. Evans, whose research and writing about the Laboratory’s people and accomplishments are now an essential guide to the history of this unique community.   

David’s own history at the lab extends back more than a half-century. He first visited in 1965, when he was working on his doctorate at Stanford University. He went on to a career in comparative biology research and education at the University of Miami and the University of Florida.  

By the 1970s he would become a regular summertime researcher on MDI Bio Lab’s campus, where he focused on osmoregulation in fishes. After 42 summers here – including a stint as Laboratory Director – Evans retired as an active research biologist and educator and launched a second career as a historian, writing a definitive, 1,000-plus page history of the institute: Marine Physiology Down East: The Story of the Mt. Desert Island Biological Laboratory (Springer 2015). 

That work is the foundation for much of the historical material that’s been presented to the MDI Bio Lab community and the general public this year, including several talks held around Mt. Desert Island and in David’s recent Science Café, during Homecoming Week.

David’s compendious knowledge has informed stories this year in our bi-annual magazine, Breaking Through, and was the basis for a printed timeline charting notable moments in the Laboratory’s history. Now that timeline has been adapted for a permanent, interactive online presentation, and it includes adaptations of vignettes David wrote exploring the biographies of many of the Laboratory’s researchers. 

Over time, we expect to be posting more of those scientific portraits, as David continues his remarkable work exploring the deep history of MDI Bio Lab. It’s an invaluable service and, here on our 125th anniversary, it couldn’t be more timely.