Pioneering neurobiologist and civic leader, Dr. Platt became Pacific Grove's first female mayor in 1932.

Julia Barlow Platt was born on September 14, 1857 in San Francisco. Her nine years of graduate studies in zoology began in 1887 at Harvard University, where she specialized in embryology. She did groundbreaking research in neurobiology and comparative embryology at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Bryn Mawr College, the University of Chicago, and Radcliffe College. She also studied at Hopkins Marine Station (then located at Lovers Point) in the early 1890s. She continued her doctoral studies at several German universities, and received her Ph.D. diploma in May 1898. Platt published 12 scientific papers in 10 years.

Despite her excellent credentials, Dr. Platt could not find a suitable academic position. She returned to Pacific Grove, and in 1899 wrote, "Without work, life is not worth living. If I cannot obtain the work I wish, then I must take up with the next best."

The work she found was civic duty in Pacific Grove. She shot her neighbor's chickens after they ran rampant through her garden, and then saw to it that a zoning ordinance was passed limiting livestock to certain areas. She also singlehandedly cleared and planted around Lovers Point, and led the successful movement that gave Pacific Grove a city council/city manager form of government. The original City Charter is in her handwriting. Perhaps Dr. Platt is best know locally for using file, sledgehammer, and axe to remove the spite fence that blocked public access to the beach near Lovers Point. In 1931, at age 74, she became the first female mayor of Pacific Grove.

top--Detail from photo of Marine Biological Laboratory shows Julia Platt among investigators at Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1893.

bottom--Dr. Platt reenacts her destruction of the bathhouse gate for a local newspaper. 1931.

See Rita Carratello's page showing her Julia Platt impersonations.

The Inaugural Scientific Meeting of the Julia B. Platt Club (Steven J. Zottoli and Ernst-August Seyfarth).

Short biography of Julia Platt in the online PGMNH Chautauqua Years exhibit.

Abstract from article, "Julia B. Platt (1857-1935): pioneer comparative embryologist and neuroscientist" by SJ Zottoli and EA Seyfarth in Brain, Behavior, and Evolution (1994;43(2):92-106).



Julia Barlow Platt

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Last updated January 22, 2007.