The Making of a Scientist

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At the age of twenty-two, Richard H. Ebright wrote and published a theory of how cells work in an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Richard H. Ebright grew up reading different books in Pennsylvania. He was not able to play any sport or do anything. The only thing he could do is explore the fauna and collect things and animals. 

In his childhood, he collected butterflies. Along with the butterfly, he also collected rocks, fossils and He would observe the sky at night. His mother bought him in an away that he was always eager to learn. She would take him on trips and get him a telescope, microscope, cameras, mounting materials, and other learning materials. He lost his father when he was in the third grade of school. He was called as “Richie” by his mother. She would discuss with him every night about his learnings and give him mental puzzles instead of physical exercises. By the time he was in class two, Ebright had collected all twenty-five species of butterflies found around his hometown.

Richard decided to end his Butterfly collection, but his mother gifted him a book called- ‘The travels of the Monarch X’” That book told explained how monarch butterflies migrate to Central America,  thew open the gates to the world of science for him. 

Towards the end of the book, readers were asked to help study butterfly migration. They were asked to tag butterflies at their wings for research by Dr. Frederick A. Urquhart of the University of Toronto, Canada.  Anyone who found a tag on a butterfly was asked to send the tag to  Dr. Urquhart.

So Richard rose a flock of butterflies. He caught a female monarch, took her eggs, and rose them in his basement through their life cycle, from egg to caterpillar to pupa to adult butterfly. Then he tagged the butterflies’ wings and freed them. For several years his basement was a comfortable shelter for thousands of monarchs in different stages of development.

He understood the real science experiments when he lost in the country science club. He felt empty and sad when he did not win anything while others were celebrating after all; his entry was the frog tissues which he displayed with a microscope. At the same time, others created real science experiments. Hence, for his next year, he decided to do an entire extraordinary science project. He took the help of Dr. Urquharto to give him many suggestions. He later created remarkable experiments throughout his high school and got many awards from country science fair and International science fair. He tried to find out the viral disease and cure, killing monarch butterflies but failed in class. However, his experiment got him an award. 

The next year his project was to test why the viceroy butterflies imitate monarch. 

The theory was that viceroys look like monarchs because monarchs don’t taste as viceroys to birds. The more they look like monarchs, the less likely they are to become a bird’s prey. Ebright’s project was to see whether birds would eat monarchs. He saw that birds ate monarchs instead of birds for this project were placed first in the zoology division and third overall in the county science fair.

In his second year in high school, Richard Ebright began the research that led to discovering an unknown insect hormone. Indirectly, it also led to his new theory on the life of cells. The question he tried to answer was simple: What is the purpose of the twelve tiny gold spots on a monarch pupa?

“Everyone assumed the spots were just ornamental,” Ebright said.“But Dr. Urquhart didn’t believe it.”