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by Nicole Elmer, February 12, 2016


“There was  ‘possum meat all over the lab.” – T.S. Painter

As Hartman mentions in his autobiography, Dr. J.T. Patterson asked Wheeler if “Hartman would stick this time” before inviting him to join the staff at UT as an instructor. Given an encouraging review by Wheeler, Patterson brought Hartman back in 1912, and would serve as his thesis advisor as well. This was, in Hartman’s words, not done to see him as a future researcher, but to relieve Patterson more immediately of an arduous administrative task of evaluating Texas high schools for qualification for affiliation with UT. Luckily, this task was transferred to the Department of Education, allowing Hartman to focus on the study of embryology of the opossum for his PhD.

Hartman OBGynSurvey
A photo of Hartman, dedicated to Harold Speert. From "Memorable Medical Mentors".

    The embryology of this only marsupial in North America had never been studied before. Hartman gathered these abundant opossums through arranging nocturnal hunts with students, using dogs to locate the animals and chase them up a tree or into a hole. During the first breeding season, the animals were kept in Hartman’s backyard in cages he built for them, and he fed them from his family’s kitchen. During the second year, Hartman and his students built cages in the sloping spaces beneath the unpainted wooden R.O.T.C. barracks, eventually stocking some 300 animals.
    With his course work as a PhD student at UT, in addition to credits he earned at the University of Chicago, Hartman had fulfilled the classroom requirements for the PhD degree in the spring of 1915.
    His PhD thesis caught the attention of Dr. Milton Greenman of the Wistar Institute of Biology in Philadelphia, who gave Hartman $500 to continue expanding his study of the embryology of the opossum. To gather more of the animals, Hartman placed ads in local newspapers, calling for opossums.  Hunters responded, bringing in the animals at a dollar a piece. Hartman collected 2000 opossum eggs, embryos, and pouch young, and the Wistar Institute arranged what is believed to be the first series of photographs of living eggs.
    During his work on the opossum, Hartman also discovered some general principles of reproduction, such as the short survival period of an unfertilized egg, and the role of the musculature in the female genital tract when assisting the travel of spermatozoa to the site of fertilization.
    One of his most important discoveries about the opossum was the manner in which the newly birthed young migrate to the mother’s pouch. Hartman and his wife observed that the tiny young, less than half an inch long, navigate of their own accord with only their front legs to their mother’s pouch. This had never been recorded before Hartman’s observations, and the earlier belief was that the young were assisted to the mother’s pouch by her tongue.
    After completing his PhD, Hartman continued to work at UT, but he took a year’s leave of absence to teach at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia during World War I. He had become a widower recently, and welcomed the change of scenery. During his time in Philadelphia, he would meet Eva Rettenmeyer, who would become his second wife two years later.
    Soon after returning to Austin, Hartman began to also conduct summer research at the University of California, Berkeley, as a “laboratory guest” of Dr. Herbert M. Evans, the head of the Department of Anatomy in the Medical School. He also worked as a guest of Dr. Ross G. Harrison at the Zoological Laboratory and University Library at Yale University. 

Hartman and possum friend
Hartman with one of his opossums. Embryo Project Encyclopedia (1922). ISSN: 1940-5030 http://embryo.asu.edu/handle/10776/2481.

    In 1924, Hartman wanted to move on from his research on marsupials to that of primates “as a dress rehearsal for the study of human development,” as he noted. He began correspondence with other researchers that lead him to focusing on the macaque, with the Philippines as his possible research home. He began to raise the then large funds of $50,000 required for two years research, when he was invited to move to Baltimore, MD, to develop a primate colony in George Streeter’s lab at Carnegie Institute of Washington. Hartman accepted this offer, and handed in his resignation at UT in 1925.
    UT rejected Hartman’s resignation letter, and countered with a five-year leave of absence, with the understanding that upon his return, his salary would be equal to that of the head of the department.  Hartman none-the-less declined, and left UT in 1925.
    “While not a native Texan, I’m usually thought as one, such is my loyalty to that state and its university,” Hartman wrote in his autobiography. “My New England wife shed tears over our leaving. It was not that she was ‘dragging me North,’ but rather that the monkeys that were beckoning me, enticing me away from the Texas opossums.”


While at Carnegie as a research associate, Hartman would become an expert on keeping the rhesus monkey, and his colony would alter the way in which laboratory animals were kept. During his tenure the Carnegie Institute, he would produce more than 130 publications, and gain election to the Academy of Science in 1937.
    In 1941, Hartman retired from the Carnegie Institute and became the head of the Department of Zoology and Physiology at the University of Illinois in Chicago. While there, he received the Squibb Award for his research in endocrinology in 1946.
    Hartman would leave the University of Illinois in 1947 and join the Ortho Research Foundation in Raritan, New Jersey, where he studied hormones and fertility. The Ortho Research Foundation was an affiliate of Johnson and Johnson’s Ortho Pharmaceutical Corporation and sponsor of the world’s largest group of laboratories devoted to research in contraception and family planning.
    Hartman developed a special laboratory team to study reproductive physiology and initiated the first studies of the effects of oral contraception on animals. He received the 1949 Lasker Award of the Planned Parenthood Federation for outstanding investigations on basic problems of human reproduction and fertility.  He retired as the Director Emeritus in 1957, and the Library of the Ortho Pharmaceutical Corporation was dedicated as the Carl G. Hartman Library in 1957.
    After retiring, Hartman continued his research in the field of reproductive physiology by consulting for the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau in New York City. His career capstone, based on 50 years of research, was entitled Science and the Safe Period: A Compendium of Human Reproduction. The compendium was a summary of timed ovulation in women and was published in 1962. It focused on the anatomy and physiology of human reproduction. In 1967, Hartman received the first Margaret Sanger Award in the area of medicine, presented by Planned Parenthood-World Population.
    Hartman died on March 2, 1968. He was 88 years old.
    In addition to the awards mentioned above, Hartman was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, member of National and the New York Academies of Sciences, a life member of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, and the first recipient of the Marshall Medal given by that society for the study of fertility.
    In an article in Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey, Harold Speert, one of Hartman’s mentorees, spoke of Hartman as being a “human dynamo,” often challenging Speert to keep up with him as he went up the stairs, two at a time.
    In the 1902 publication of UT’s annual Cactus yearbook, a curious section exists for graduating seniors, called “Senior Roster and Grinds,” to which quotes are attributed to those graduating from UT. Carl Hartman’s entry reads “Wisdom shall die with me.” While the passing of Carl G. Hartman may not have killed wisdom, his contributions to the expansion of it have certainly been immense.  

Quote from 1902 UT Cactus yearbook



Goodman, Giavonna A., "Carl Gottfried Hartman (1879-1968)." Embryo Project Encyclopedia (2011-11-01). ISSN: 1940-5030 http://embryo.asu.edu/handle/10776/1747.

Hartman, Carl. Untitled Autobiography from 1968, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Hartman, Carl & Bibb, Lewis Bradley. First Book of Health, World Book Company, 1913.

Leatham, James H. "Carl G. Hartman." Proceedings of the American Association of Anatomists, 82nd meeting, The Anatomical Records, Vol 165, Issue 2, 1969.

New York Times. "Carl Hartman, 88, is Dead; Aided Knowledge of Contraception." March 12, 1968.

Speert, Harold. "Memorable Medical Mentors: VIII. Carl G. Hartman (1879-1968)." Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey, Vol 59, Number 12, 2004.