Articles

Ross Granville Harrison (1870-1959)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

A pioneer in experimental embryology, Ross Granville Harrison made numerous discoveries that advanced biology. One of the most significant was his adaptation of the hanging drop method from bacteriology to carry out the first tissue culture. This method allowed for further studies in embryology as well as experimental improvements in oncology, virology, genetics, and a number of other fields.

Created 2007-09-01

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Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945)

By Mary E. Sunderland

Although best known for his work with the fruit fly, for which he earned a Nobel Prize and the title "The Father of Genetics," Thomas Hunt Morgan's contributions to biology reach far beyond genetics. His research explored questions in embryology, regeneration, evolution, and heredity, using a variety of approaches.

Created 2007-09-25

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Charles Manning Child (1869-1954)

By Mary E. Sunderland

Born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on 2 February 1869, Charles Manning Child was the only surviving child of Mary Elizabeth and Charles Chauncey Child, a prosperous, old New England family. Growing up in Higganum, Connecticut, Child was interested in biology from an early age. He made extensive collections of plants and minerals on his family farm and went on to study biology at Wesleyan University, commuting from his family home. Child received his PhB in 1890 and MS in biology in 1892, and then went on to study in Leipzig after his parents death.

Created 2007-10-23

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The Marine Biological Laboratory Embryology Course

By Jane Maienschein

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, began in 1888 to offer opportunities for instruction and research in biological topics. For the first few years, this meant that individual investigators had a small lab space upstairs in the one wooden building on campus where students heard their lectures and did their research in a common area downstairs.

Created 2007-10-24

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Epidermal Growth Factor

By Adam R. Navis

Epidermal growth factor is a signaling molecule that stimulates the growth of epidermal tissues during development and throughout life. Stanley Cohen discovered epidermal growth factor (EGF) during studies of nerve growth factor as a side effect of other experiments. EGF stimulates tissue growth by initiating a variety of cellular mechanisms. This work led to the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini.

Created 2007-10-30

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Quickening

By Katherine Brind'Amour

Quickening, the point at which a pregnant woman can first feel the movements of the growing embryo or fetus, has long been considered a pivotal moment in pregnancy. Over time, this experience has been used in a variety of contexts, ranging from representing the point of ensoulment to determining whether an abortion was legal to indicating the gender of the unborn baby; philosophy, theology, and law all address the idea of quickening in detail. Beginning with Aristotle, quickening divided the developmental stages of embryo and fetus.

Created 2007-10-30

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Syncytial Theory

By Adam R. Navis

The syncytial theory of neural development was proposed by Victor Hensen in 1864 to explain the growth and differentiation of the nervous system. This theory has since been discredited, although it held a significant following at the turn of the twentieth century. Neural development was well studied but poorly understood, so Hensen proposed a simple model of development. The syncytial theory predicted that the nervous system was composed of many neurons with shared cytoplasm.

Created 2007-10-30

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"In vitro Experiments on the Effects of Mouse Sarcomas 180 and 37 on the Spinal and Sympathetic Ganglia of the Chick Embryo" (1954), by Rita Levi-Montalcini, Viktor Hamburger, and Hertha Meyer

By Adam R. Navis

"In vitro Experiments on the Effects of Mouse Sarcomas 180 and 37 on the Spinal and Sympathetic Ganglia of the Chick Embryo" were experiments conducted by Rita Levi-Montalcini in conjunction with Viktor Hamburger and Hertha Meyer and published in Cancer Research in 1954. In this series of experiments, conducted at the University of Brazil, Levi-Montalcini demonstrated increased nerve growth by introducing specific tumors (sarcomas) to chick ganglia. Ganglia are clusters of nerve cells, from which nerve fibers emerge.

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"Selective Growth Stimulating Effects of Mouse Sarcoma on the Sensory and Sympathetic Nervous System of the Chick Embryo" (1951), by Rita Levi-Montalcini and Viktor Hamburger

By Adam R. Navis

In "Selective Growth Stimulating Effects of Mouse Sarcoma on the Sensory and Sympathetic Nervous System of the Chick Embryo," Rita Levi-Montalcini and Viktor Hamburger explored the effects of two nerve growth stimulating tumors; mouse sarcomas 180 and 37. This experiment led to the discovery that nerve growth factor was a diffusible chemical and later to discoveries that the compound was a protein. Although this paper was an important step in the discovery of nerve growth factor, the term "nerve growth factor" was not used in this paper.

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"Experiments on Embryonic Induction III. A Note on Inductions by Chick Primitive Streak Transplanted to the Rabbit Embryo" (1934), by Conrad Hal Waddington

By Adam R. Navis

Conrad Hal Waddington's "Experiments on Embryonic Induction III," published in 1934 in the Journal of Experimental Biology, describes the discovery that the primitive streak induces the mammalian embryo. Waddington's hypothesis was that a transplanted primitive streak could induce neural tissue in the ectoderm of the rabbit embryo. The primitive streak defines the axis of an embryo and is capable of inducing the differentiation of various tissues in a developing embryo during gastrulation.

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Organisers and Genes (1940), by Conrad Hal Waddington

By Adam R. Navis

Conrad Hal Waddington's Organisers and Genes, published in 1940, is a summary of available research and theoretical framework for many concepts related to tissue differentiation in the developing embryo. The book is composed of two main conceptual sections. The first section explores the action and nature of the organizer, while the second section delves into genes and their influence on development.

Created 2007-10-30

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"Proliferation, Differentiation and Degeneration in the Spinal Ganglia of the Chick Embryo under Normal and Experimental Conditions" (1949), by Viktor Hamburger and Rita Levi-Montalcini

By Adam R. Navis

In this paper Viktor Hamburger and Rita Levi-Montalcini collaborated to examine the effects of limb transplantation and explantation on neural development. In 1947 Hamburger invited Levi-Montalcini to his lab at Washington University in St. Louis to examine this question. Independently, each had previously arrived at opposing conclusions based on the same data.

Created 2007-10-30

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"Interspecific Chimeras in Mammals: Successful Production of Live Chimeras Between Mus musculus and Mus caroli" (1980), by Janet Rossant and William I. Frels

By Nicole Newkirk

In 1980 Janet Rossant and William I. Frels published their paper, "Interspecific Chimeras in Mammals: Successful Production of Live Chimeras Between Mus musculus and Mus caroli," in Science. Their experiment involved the first successful creation of interspecific mammalian chimeras. Mammalian chimeras are valuable for studying early embryonic development. However, in earlier studies, clonal analysis was restricted by the lack of a cell marker, present at all times, that makes a distinction between the two parental cell types in situ.

Created 2007-10-30

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Nerve Growth Factor

By Adam R. Navis

Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a signaling protein and growth factor implicated in a wide range of development and maintenance functions. NGF was discovered through a series of experiments in the 1950s on the development of the chick nervous system. Since its discovery, NGF has been found to act in a variety of tissues throughout development and adulthood. It has been implicated in immune function, stress response, nerve maintenance, and in neurodegenerative diseases.

Created 2007-10-30

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Mizuko Kuyo

By Katherine Brind'Amour, Benjamin Garcia

Mizuko Kuyo is a Japanese Buddhist ceremony that focuses on a deceased fetus or stillborn child. This ceremony was originally developed to honor Jizo, a god believed to be responsible for transporting dead fetuses or children to the other world. The practice has become more popular in the last half century due to the growing number of abortions taking place and the particular views that Japanese Buddhists have about fetuses and abortion.

Created 2007-10-30

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"Purification of a Nerve-Growth Promoting Protein from the Mouse Salivary Gland and its Neuro-Cytoxic Antiserum" (1960), by Stanley Cohen

By Adam R. Navis

Stanley Cohen published "Purification of a Nerve-Growth Promoting Protein from the Mouse Salivary Gland and its Neuro-Cytoxic Antiserum" in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences in 1960. This paper outlined the successful purification and identification of nerve growth factor (NGF) as a protein, the developmental effects of depriving an embryo of NGF, and the discovery that NGF is also required for the maintenance of the nervous system.

Created 2007-10-30

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Chemical Induction

By Adam R. Navis

Research in chemical induction seeks to identify the compound or compounds responsible for differentiation in a developing embryo. Soren Lovtrup compared the search for these compounds to the search for the philosopher's stone. It was based on the assumption that the differentiating agents have to be chemical substances either within cells or in the extracellular matrix.

Created 2007-10-30

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"A Series of Normal Stages in the Development of the Chick Embryo" (1951), by Viktor Hamburger and Howard L. Hamilton

By Adam R. Navis

The developmental stages of the chick embryo were examined by Viktor Hamburger and Howard L. Hamilton in "A Series of Normal Stages in the Development of the Chick Embryo," published in the Journal of Morphology in 1951. These stages were published to standardize the development of the chick based on varying laboratory conditions and genetic differences. The stages Hamburger and Hamilton assigned were determined by the visible features of the chick embryo.

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Epigenetic Landscape

By Adam R. Navis

The epigenetic landscape is a concept representing embryonic development. It was proposed by Conrad Hal Waddington to illustrate the various developmental pathways a cell might take toward differentiation. The epigenetic landscape integrates the connected concepts of competence, induction, and regulative abilities of the genes into a single model designed to explain cellular differentiation, a long standing problem in embryology.

Created 2007-10-30

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Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

Best known for his contributions to the field of embryology, Karl Ernst von Baer also pursued a variety of other areas of study including medicine, botany, zoology, and anthropology. Committing his life to scientific research, von Baer's work led to the advancement of the understanding of mammalian reproduction, development, and organ functioning. His embryological discoveries ultimately led him to a view of development that supported epigenesis and refuted long-held thinking about preformation.

Created 2007-10-31

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Abraham Trembley (1710-1784)

By Mary E. Sunderland

Abraham Trembley's discovery of the remarkable regenerative capacity of the hydra caused many to question their beliefs about the generation of organisms. Born 3 September 1710 to a prominent Geneva family, Trembley studied at the Calvin Institute, now the University of Geneva, where he completed his thesis on calculus. He went on to become tutor for Count William Bentinck's two sons, and it was while teaching the boys natural history that Trembley came across a strange organism in a sample of pond water.

Created 2007-10-31

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Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

Jan Swammerdam, known as the founder of the preformation theory based on his extensive research on insect development, was born on 12 February 1637 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Baertje Jans Corvers and Jan Jacobszoon Swammerdam. He began medical school on 11 October 1661 at the University of Leiden. A few of his classmates included Regnier de Graaf, Frederik Ruysch, Niels Stensen (Nicolaus Steno), and Robertus Padtbrugge. Padtbrugge would later join the East India Company and send Swammerdam exotic animals.

Created 2007-10-31

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St. Augustine (354-430)

By Katherine Brind'Amour

St. Augustine of Hippo, born Aurelius Augustinus to a respectable family in the year 354 CE, is now considered one of the foremost theologians in the history of the Catholic Church. His writings, including his philosophy regarding life in the womb and the moral worth of embryos, influenced many other great thinkers of his time and throughout history.

Created 2007-11-01

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Wilhelm His, Sr. (1831-1904)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

Wilhelm His, Sr. was born on 9 July 1831 in Basel, Switzerland, to Katharina La Roche and Eduard His. He began his medical studies at Basel in 1849 and later transferred to the University of Bern during the winter semester of 1849-1850. A year later, His arrived at the University of Berlin, where he studied under Johannes Müller and Robert Remak. For his clinical training, His attended the University of Würzburg from 1852-1853.

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Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch (1867-1941)

By Mary E. Sunderland

Although educated as a scientist who studied with both August Weismann and Ernst Heinrich Haeckel, Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch was first employed as a professor of philosophy and became a strong proponent of vitalism. Driesch was born on 28 October 1867, the only child of Josefine Raudenkolb and Paul Driesch. He grew up in a wealthy merchant family in Hamburg, Germany, where he was educated at the humanistic Gymnasium Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums that had been founded by a friend of Martin Luther.

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Florence Rena Sabin (1871-1953)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

Florence Rena Sabin had successful careers as both a researcher and public health reformer. When Johns Hopkins University Medical School opened, accepting women and men on the same basis, Sabin was one of the first to enter. After the successful completion of her MD degree, Sabin went on to become the first female faculty member and later full-time professor at Johns Hopkins.

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Warren Harmon Lewis (1870-1964)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

As one of the first to work at the Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Embryology, Warren Harmon Lewis made a number of contributions to the field of embryology. In addition to his experimental discoveries on muscle development and the eye, Lewis also published and revised numerous works of scientific literature, including papers in the Carnegie Contributions to Embryology and five editions of Gray's Anatomy.

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George Washington Corner (1889-1981)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

As the third director of the Carnegie Institute of Washington s Department of Embryology, George Washington Corner made a number of contributions to the life sciences as well as to administration. Corner was born on 12 December 1889 in Baltimore, Maryland, near the newly established Johns Hopkins University. Although Corner was not exposed to science much in school at a young age, he developed an early appreciation for science through conversations with his father about geography and by looking through the family's National Geographic magazines.

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Joseph Needham (1900-1995)

By Adam R. Navis

Joseph Needham was an embryologist and biochemist who is most noted in science for his studies on induction in developing embryos. Needham worked with Conrad Hal Waddington to attempt to identify the compound responsible for the organizer's activity. Although he was not successful in discovering the chemical, he and Waddington learned much about the organizer. Needham was a meticulous writer, writing reviews and books about contemporary research.

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Libbie Henrietta Hyman (1888-1969)

By Kristin Bolfert

Libbie Henrietta Hyman was born into a recently immigrated Jewish family on 6 December 1888 in Des Moines, Iowa. One of many siblings and daughter to parents Sabina Neumann and Joseph Hyman, who did not particularly support her interests in science, Hyman excelled in school and indulged her interests in biology in her free time. From a young age, Hyman collected and cataloged flora around her home. Despite being valedictorian of her high school class, Hyman's first job was labeling cereal boxes in a local factory.

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Jane Marion Oppenheimer (1911-1966)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

Jane Marion Oppenheimer, embryologist and historian of science and medicine, was born on 19 September 1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Sylvia Stern and James H. Oppenheimer. After studying zoology at Bryn Mawr College, Oppenheimer received her AB degree in 1932. Oppenheimer received her PhD in embryology at Yale University in 1935 and worked as a research fellow from 1935-1936. While at Yale she was influenced by the work of Ross Granville Harrison and John Spangler Nicholas, the latter of whom was Oppenheimer's PhD advisor.

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Stanley Cohen (1922- )

By Adam R. Navis

Stanley Cohen is a biochemist who participated in the discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF) and epidermal growth factor (EGF). He shared the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Rita Levi-Montalcini for their work on the discovery of growth factors. His work led to the discovery of many other growth factors and their roles in development.

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Wilhelm August Oscar Hertwig (1849-1922)

By Katherine Brind'Amour, Benjamin Garcia

Wilhelm August Oscar Hertwig contributed to embryology through his studies of cells in development and his discovery that only one spermatozoon is necessary to fertilize an egg. He was born 21 April 1849 to Elise Trapp and Carl Hertwig in Hessen, Germany. After his brother Richard was born the family moved to Muhlhausen in Thuringen where the boys were educated. The two brothers later attended the university in Jena from 1868 to 1888 and studied under Ernst Haeckel, who later convinced Hertwig to leave chemistry and pursue medicine.

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George Linius Streeter (1873-1948)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

George Linius Streeter was born on 12 January 1873 in Johnstown, New York, to Hannah Green Anthony and George Austin Streeter. He completed his undergraduate studies at Union College in 1895 and received his MD degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in 1899. At Columbia, Professor George S. Huntington sparked Streeter's interest in anatomy, and Streeter also interned at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. He then went on to Albany to teach anatomy at the Albany Medical College and to work with neurologist Henry Hun.

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Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)

By Kristin Bolfert

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was born in Delft, the Netherlands, on 24 October 1632 to Margriet Jacobsdochter van den Berch and Philips Thooniszoon, both of whom were middle-class artisans. He attended grammar school in Warmond, and then temporarily moved to Benthuizen to live with relatives. Eventually Leeuwenhoek left for Amsterdam to work as a cloth merchant's apprentice. Returning to Delft, he married Barbara de Mey on 29 July 1654, and worked as a shopkeeper. The marriage resulted in five children, only one of whom, Maria, outlived Leeuwenhoek.

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Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799)

By Mary E. Sunderland

Lazzaro Spallanzani's imaginative application of experimental methods, mastery of microscopy, and wide interests led him to significant contributions in natural history, experimental biology, and physiology. His detailed and thoughtful observations illuminated a broad spectrum of problems ranging from regeneration to the genesis of thunderclouds.

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Francesco Redi (1626-1698)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

Francesco Redi, son of Florentine physician Cecilia de' Ghinci and Gregorio Redi, was born in Arezzo, Italy, on 18 February 1626. He studied philosophy and medicine at the University of Pisa, graduating on 1 May 1647. A year later, Redi moved to Florence and registered at the Collegio Medico. There he served at the Medici Court as both the head physician and superintendent of the ducal pharmacy and foundry. Redi was also a member of the Accademia del Cimento, which flourished from 1657-1667. It was during this decade that Redi produced his most important works.

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Karl Wilhelm Theodor Richard von Hertwig (1850-1937)

By Katherine Brind'Amour, Benjamin Garcia

Karl Wilhelm Theodor Richard von Hertwig is an important figure in the history of embryology for his contributions of artificial hybridization of sea urchin eggs and the formulation of his coelom theory. He was born 23 September 1850 in Friedelberg, Germany, to Elise Trapp and Carl Hertwig. Richard and his older brother Oscar began their studies at Jena under the direction of Ernst Haeckel from 1868 to 1871. In 1872 Hertwig became a lecturer in zoology at Jena while Oscar lectured in anatomy and embryology.

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Franklin Paine Mall (1862-1917)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

Franklin Paine Mall was born into a farming family in Belle Plaine, Iowa, on 28 September 1862. While he attended a local academy, an influential teacher fueled Mall's interest in science. From 1880-1883, he studied medicine at the University of Michigan, attaining his MD degree in 1883. William J. Mayo, who later became a famous surgeon and co-founder of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, was a classmate of Mall's. Throughout his studies at Michigan, he was influenced by Corydon L. Ford, a professor of anatomy, Victor C.

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Samuel Randall Detwiler (1890-1957)

By Adam R. Navis

Samuel Randall Detwiler was an embryologist who studied neural development in embryos and vertebrate retinas. He discovered evidence for the relationship between somites and spinal ganglia, that transplanted limbs can be controlled by foreign ganglia, and the plasticity of ganglia in response to limb transplantations. He also extensively studied vertebrate retinas during and after embryonic development.

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Margaret Higgins Sanger (1879-1966)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

Margaret Higgins Sanger, a leader of the movement to decriminalize contraceptive use in the United States, was born on 14 September 1879 to Anne Purcell and Michael Hennessey Higgins in Corning, New York. Prior to her career as a birth control reformer, Sanger attended Claverack College and Hudson River Institute, though she never graduated. She was later trained as a nurse at White Plains Hospital. In 1902 she married William Sanger and the couple had two sons, Stuart and Grant, and a daughter, Peggy.

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Min Chueh Chang (1908-1991)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

As one of the researchers involved in the development of the oral contraceptive pill, Min Chueh Chang helped to revolutionize the birth control movement. Although best known for his involvement with "the pill," Chang also made a number of discoveries throughout his scientific career involving a range of topics within the field of reproductive biology. He published nearly 350 articles in scientific journals.

Created 2007-11-08

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Viktor Hamburger (1900-2001)

By Adam R. Navis

Viktor Hamburger was an embryologist who focused on neural development. His scientific career stretched from the early 1920s as a student of Hans Spemann to the late 1980s at Washington University resolving the role of nerve growth factor in the life of neurons. Hamburger is noted for his systematic approach to science and a strict attention to detail. Throughout his life he maintained an interest in nature and the arts, believing both were important to his scientific work.

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Katharine McCormick (1876-1967)

By Aliya Buttar

Katharine Dexter McCormick, who contributed the majority of funding for the development of the oral contraceptive pill, was born to Josephine and Wirt Dexter on 27 August 1875 in Dexter, Michigan. After growing up in Chicago, Illinois, she attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she graduated in 1904 with a BS in biology. That same year, she married Stanley McCormick, the son of Cyrus McCormick, inventor and manufacturer of the mechanized reaper.

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John Charles Rock (1890-1984)

By Kimberly A. Buettner

Born on 24 March 1890 in Marlborough, Massachusetts, to Ann and Frank Rock, John Charles Rock was both a devout Catholic and one of the leading investigators involved in the development of the first oral contraceptive pill. In 1925 he married Anna Thorndike, with whom he later had five children. He spent over thirty years of his career as a clinical professor of obstetrics at Harvard Medical School, and in 1964 the Center for Population Studies of the Harvard School of Public Health established the John Rock Professorship.

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Washington University in St. Louis

By Adam R. Navis

Washington University in St. Louis served as the backdrop for many scientific discoveries, including that of nerve growth factor (NGF). Many of the accomplishments in embryology at Washington University can be attributed to the influence of Viktor Hamburger. He served as chair of the zoology department for twenty-five years. One of the few Nobel Prizes given for embryological research was awarded to faculty members Hamburger hired; Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen won for their role in the discovery of nerve growth factor.

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"Experiments in Transplanting Limbs and Their Bearing Upon the Problems of the Development of Nerves" (1907), by Ross Granville Harrison

By Adam R. Navis

In his 1907 paper, "Experiments in Transplanting Limbs and Their Bearing Upon the Problems of the Development of Nerves," in the Journal of Experimental Zoology that he edited, Ross Granville Harrison tested the development of nerves in transplanted tissue. He studied neural development by examining two competing theories. Victor Hensen proposed a syncytial theory as a way to explain neural development, suggesting that all the nerves of an embryo were connected directly by cytoplasm laid down early in development, and leaving no room for later modification.

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"Experiments on the Development of Chick and Duck Embryos, Cultivated in vitro" (1932), by Conrad Hal Waddington

By Adam R. Navis

Conrad Hal Waddington's "Experiments on the Development of Chick and Duck Embryos, Cultivated in vitro," published in 1932 in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B, compares the differences in the development of birds and amphibians. Previous experiments focused on the self differentiation of individual tissues in birds, but Waddington wanted to study induction in greater detail. The limit to these studies had been the amount of time an embryo could be successfully cultivated ex vivo.

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Robert William Briggs (1911-1983)

By Adam R. Navis

Robert William Briggs was a prolific developmental biologist. However, he is most identified with the first successful cloning of a frog by nuclear transplantation. His later studies focused on the problem of how genes influence development.

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Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012)

By Adam R. Navis

Rita Levi-Montalcini is a Nobel Laureate recognized for her work in the discovery and characterization of nerve growth factor. Nerve growth factor (NGF) promotes the growth and maintenance of the nervous system in a developing system. The majority of her career has been devoted to investigating the many aspects of NGF.

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