Walter Sutton


Walter Stanborough Sutton was born in Utica, New York in April 5, 1877 to the family of Agnes Black and William Bell Sutton. Moving their family of seven sons (Walter being the fifth) to Kansas, the Suttons took to their residence on a farm in Russel County, Kansas. Sutton had had engineering aspirations as he had decided to attend the University of Kansas, however, his dreams were put to a stop as his family members contracted typhoid fever leaving only himself to take care of them. Seeing his capabilities, his family urged him to pursue a medical career which he agreed to in 1897.


 Sutton had coined a theory that combined the topics of cytology (the study of the structure and function of cells, more specifically animals and plants) and heredity. Although at the time the topics weren't considered related, Sutton's arguments connected them as similar fields, his papers are now often considered the start and basis of cytogenetics.

 While Sutton himself had originally proposed that the arguments of the Mendelian Laws of Inheritance also occurred in the chromosomes of living organisms, Theodore Heinrich Boveri (a German biologist, born October 12, 1862), had publicized such similar ideas the same year (1903). In their combined theory, which became known as the Boveri-Sutton Theory of Inheritance, chromosomes had hereditary components. Despite their common findings, Boveri and Sutton had not worked in collaboration with each other, but instead found justification in their works with the rediscovery of Gregor Mendel's works in 1900. While Mendel's works only scratched the surface of theories of inheritance, Boveri and Sutton are credited with further adding onto his ideas.


 Sutton had chose to work with grasshoppers (more specifically, the species of brachystola magna) to study sperm cell development (spermatogenesis). In working with them, Sutton planned to study the grasshoppers extensively and frequently cited the works of Mendel, Boveri, Walter Bradford Cannon, Thomas Harrison Montgomery, and other such similar scientists. His papers consist of the observations found in studying brachystola magna and the evidence that at the time had supported his theory.

Results and Conclusion

  Upon the realization of his studies, Sutton supposed that the separation of maternal and paternal chromosomes in the second division of meiosis could explain both Mendelian assortment and segregation. In following with the law of segregation, the formation of gametes calls for the separation of alleles. As with the law of independent assortment, the inheritance of different traits were endowed individually.

Source - As featured in his work "The Chromosomes In Heredity" (1903)

Contribution to Genetics

 As aforementioned, Sutton had combined the unlikely fields of cytology and heredity to form a hypothesis. With the application of the Mendelian Law of Inheritance to chromosomes, the field of cytogenetics was made. Because of cytogenetics, chromosomal abnormalities are acknowledged and provide for further analyzing. With this field of study, accurate diagnoses are provided in cases such as cancer as well as further research into stem cell lines.


1.) Sutton, Walter. "The Chromosomes In Heredity.", 1903. Web.  15 January 2015.

2.) Mishra, Abhinav. "Walter Stanborough Sutton (1877-1916)". Embryo Project Encyclopedia (2014-06-27). ISSN: 1940-5030 - See more at:, 27 June 2014. Web. 15 January 2015.