Letters to the Editor

Great Biology Teacher at SJU

Dear Editor: Dr. Alfred V. Liberti, (1916-2014), founder, professor and chairperson of the Biology Department at St. John’s University, was an excellent teacher and administrator, as well as a warm mentor and person.

What I remember to this day is how one day in his Vertebrate Zoology lecture back in 1972, he remarked, paraphrased, “As you continue your studies in the Morphology series of courses and take Vertebrate Embryology, you will see, before your very own eyes, how the heart and brain develop from open tubes. You will see it all happen before your very own eyes, and wonder how anyone can possibly declare, ‘There is no God.’” There it was in a nutshell, the teleological proof of the Being of God as Designer from the ordered processes of embryological development.

The first biologist, Aristotle, had realized this truth over 2,000 years ago, when he studied the development of the chick embryo, but it was Dr. Liberti who succinctly and eloquently expressed it in the classroom! For Dr. Liberti, zoology was not the mere descriptive science of species and their structural parts, but the natural history of evolutionary speciation in accord with creationism. Dr. Liberti never lost his wonder at how, in the science of Chordate Morphology, the notochord is pivotal in histogenesis and the development of bodily symmetry.

Dr. Liberti had one foot on Earth, and the other in Heaven. Now, he sees God with his “very own eyes.” May he rest in eternal peace in Heaven in the presence of God and all His angels and saints.



One thought on “Great Biology Teacher at SJU

  1. It should also be pointed out that Dr. Liberti’s legacy is immense in terms of the number of biology teachers, professors, research scientists, surgeons, physicians and dentists who had been taught in the morphological sciences and mentored by this giant of St. John’s University. Every science is characterized by one key concept. In restorative dentistry, the concept of sealant is pivotal; in medical surgery, asepsis; in physics, energy; in chemistrry, molecular bonding. And, in biology, structure (at every level – molecular to organismal) necessitates the function of parts in individuals and the differentiation of species. For precisely this reason, Dr. Liberti adamantly advised biology students to gain a full foundation in the morphological sciences of zoology, gross anatomy, histology and embryology before study of the biochemical and physiological sciences. Sadly, though, a perusal through most collegiate course catalogs will show that morphology courses are non-existent, and the reductionism of molecular biology is dominant. And in Chordate Morphology, Dr. Libertti was keen to emphasize that the structure called the notochord is the key concept for all the species of the phylum Chordata either in embryonic or adult forms. Gray’s Anatomy text sat on his office desk and was accesible to his students.
    Discard every smart board, computer, and audio-visual aid from the biology classrooms and laboratories, and give me one humble biology professor in a white lab coat and a piece of chalk in his hand. And, students shall learn the morphological foundations of biology, medicine, and dentistry with no frills. Just one man who knew biology from Aristotle to Dr. Henry Gray suffices: Dr. Alfred Liberti.