Peebles, Florence (1874–1956)

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Peebles, Florence (1874–1956)

American biologist and teacher. Born in Pewee Valley, Kentucky, in 1874; died in Pasadena, California, in 1956; daughter of Thomas Peebles and Elizabeth (Cummins) Peebles; graduated from Girls' Latin School, Baltimore, Maryland; Woman's College of Baltimore (later Goucher College), B.A., 1895; Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Ph.D., 1900; never married; no children.

A creative research biologist and an influential teacher, Florence Peebles was born in 1874 in Pewee Valley, Kentucky, but received her secondary education at Girls' Latin School in Baltimore. After earning a B.A. from Woman's College of Baltimore (later Goucher College), she attended Bryn Mawr, studying biology under Thomas Hunt Morgan, with whom she shared an interest in regeneration. Between 1894 and 1924, she conducted research on marine specimens, working much of the time out of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. She was awarded a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr in 1900.

Peebles taught biology for 30 years, beginning in 1897 as a demonstrator in biology at Bryn Mawr, where she later became an associate professor. She also held teaching and administrative posts at Goucher College, Miss Wright's School (in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania), and the Sophie Newcomb College at Tulane University. Following her "retirement" from teaching in 1928, she established a bacteriology department at Chapman College in California, where she also served as professor of biology until 1942. Another retirement attempt was thwarted when she founded the biology laboratory at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

At the age of 80, after finally leaving teaching, Peebles established herself as an authority on gerontology ("Grandma and grandpa should be rehabilitated—not scrapped," she said). In 1946, she moved to Pasadena, California, where she was involved in many community activities, particularly as a counselor for the aged. Peebles suffered a stroke in August 1956, and, although confined to a convalescent home, she remained active and involved to the end of her life. She died in December 1956, leaving behind an unpublished autobiography.


Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey. Women in Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993.