He was born in Wiesbaden, Germany. His parents were of French and German descent, and he came with them to the United States while very young. He got his early education in private schools in Baltimore, and then spent two years in Baltimore City College (1894-1896). In 1900 he received an A.B. degree from Johns Hopkins University. He stayed there to do graduate work, and in 1904 received the degree of Ph.D. His doctoral thesis as stated in the president's annual report was entitled "The Larva of Fasciolaria tulipa (var. distans)" (or, as published in 1904 in German by Johns Hopkins University Press in Baltimore, Über den kannibalismus bei Fasciolaria tulipa (var. distans) und deren larvale excretionsorgane).