Ernest Everett Just's critique of gene theory, his emphasis on the importance of cell cytoplasm, especially of the cortex in development and heredity, is placed within the context of his times, when the views of embryologists, who emphasized heredity as process, and those of geneticists who held determinist conceptions of the gene, were irreconcilable. Just's emphasis on the cell cortex in heredity and morphogenesis was appreciated by few, but was vindicated by studies of cortical inheritance and the morphogenetic role of pre-existing cell structure in ciliated protists. His essential criticisms of mechanism remain potent today. Mol. Reprod. Dev. 76: 903–911, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.