Francis O. Schmitt was an American biologist and Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Francis Otto Schmitt was born November 23, 1903 to Otto and Clara Schmitt, in South St. Louis, Missouri. He had two siblings, Otto and Viola. Schmittâ€™s father owned and operated a paint and wallpaper supply store that he established with his father in-law. The store was located on the first floor of the three story family home. The family rented out the second floor apartments and lived in the eight rooms on the third floor.
Schmitt received an A.B. in 1924 and a Ph.D. in 1927 from Washington University in St. Louis. During a summer research program at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1923, he worked with Haldan Keffer Hartline under the supervision Jacques Loeb and Thomas Hunt Morgan. Schmitt joined the faculty in 1929 and taught zoology until 1941. He collaborated extensively with Arthur H. Compton to develop x-ray diffraction techniques for biological macro-structures like muscles and nerves.
Some of Schmittâ€™s and his colleaguesâ€™ most promising work was done with collagen, fibrinogen, striated, and smooth muscle, along with the fibrous proteins of neurons. In 1952, Schmitt was working with two British students in order to teach them about electron microscopy. Using this new technology, these two students proposed the Sliding Filament Theory of muscle contraction. Ground breaking research was constantly coming out of his lab.