The Hubrecht Institute was named after Ambrosius Arnold Willem Hubrecht (1853-1915), Professor of Zoology in the medical faculty of Utrecht University. He lived in Janskerkhof in Utrecht, an official residence that was later also to contain the Anatomy/Embryology Laboratory and the Anatomy Museum of Utrecht University. At the beginning of the 1880s Hubrecht corresponded with Charles Darwin, who paved the way for the theory of evolution in his book "On the origin of species". During his life Hubrecht assembled a vast amount of embryonic material from a number of species, particularly from the former Dutch colonies of the East Indies. This collection is available for study at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, which is part of the Humboldt-Universität. In addition some cultural-historical items are on display at the Utrecht University Museum.
In 1916, after Hubrecht’s death, it was decided to establish the first Hubrecht Laboratory in Hubrecht’s house in Janskerkhof. In the 1960’s, the Hubrecht Laboratory moved to a new building in the Uithof area of Utrecht. Here, several important advances in developmental biology were made, particularly the pioneering work of Pieter Nieuwkoop, after whom the area of an embryo called the “Nieuwkoop center” is named. In 2000 the Hubrecht moved into a new, larger building built alongside the old building to accommodate the growing number of research groups. In 2007 the name was changed from Hubrecht Laboratory to Hubrecht Institute.
The first director of the institute was Prof. Daniël de Lange who retired in 1947. Prof. Chris Raven took over de directorship until 1953 when he was succeeded by Prof. Pieter Nieuwkoop who retired in 1980. In his turn Prof. Nieuwkoop was succeeded by Prof. Siegfried de Laat. In 2000 Prof. Ronald Plasterk became director of the institute and in 2002 a co-directorship was put in place when Prof. Hans Clevers moved to the institute. After the appointment of Ronald Plasterk as Minister of Education, Culture and Science in the Dutch government in February 2007, Hans Clevers became sole director of the institute. As per January 2012 Prof. Alexander van Oudenaarden was appointed co-director. In June 2012 Prof. Hans Clevers has been appointed President of the KNAW. Because of this new position, he stepped down as director of the Hubrecht Institute. He will remain group leader of the Clevers group at the Hubrecht Institute. Prof. Jeroen den Hertog acted as director a.i. from 1 June until 1 September 2012 after which he returned to his former position of deputy director research. Per 1 September 2012 Alexander van Oudenaarden was appointed director by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Ambrosius Arnold Willem Hubrecht, Professor of Zoology at Utrecht University, began collecting embryos in the late 19th Century. The initial collection consisted mainly of European mammalian species and was used for his study of placentation. He later widened his field and collected from the former Dutch colonies, the Indonesian Archipelago. These activities stem from the days when "collecting and observing" was the way of scientific research.
The resulting collection still makes a valuable contribution to scientific knowledge, which supplements and complements modern research at other levels. In addition to the original Hubrecht collection there is one of similar size assembled by Professor J.P. Hill early in the 20th century, which was donated to the Hubrecht Laboratory in 1967. This series consists mainly of marsupial embryos from Australia, Africa and South America. In addition to the main collections there are smaller, though no less important contributions from Dohrn (fish), Selenka (primates), Glaesner (Triturus) and Bolk (various species) of series of normal development; mutant mice variations from Gruneberg and a very important acquisition of the experimental slide material of Mangold and that of the Nobel prize winning work of Spemann.
Since August 2004 the collection is available for study at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. Researchers wishing to visit the collection should contact the curator, Dr. Peter Giere
(e-mail). The full address is:
Museum für Naturkunde
Leibniz Institute for Research on Evolution and Biodiversity
at the Humboldt University Berlin
Some cultural-historical items, like instruments used by Prof. Ambrosius Hubrecht, are on display at the Utrecht University Museum, Lange Nieuwstraat 106, 3512 PN Utrecht, The Netherlands.