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Ross Granville Harrison (1870-1959)

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ross Granville Harrison

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Format: Photographs

Subject: People

Ross Granville Harrison

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Format: Photographs

Subject: People

R. G. Harrison

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Format: Photographs

Subject: People

"The Outgrowth of the Nerve Fiber as a Mode of Protoplasmic Movement" (1910), by Ross Granville Harrison

In "The Outgrowth of the Nerve Fiber as a Mode of Protoplasmic Movement," Ross Granville Harrison explores the growth of nerve fibers in vitro. The purpose of this experiment was to test two possible hypotheses for the growth of nerve fibers. Santiago Ramón y Cajal suggested that nerve growth is due to the extension of nerve fibers as they push through tissue. Victor Hensen's syncytial theory proposed an opposing view of nerve growth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Benjamin Harrison Willier (1890-1972)

Benjamin Harrison Willier is considered one of the most versatile embryologists to have ever practiced in the US. His research spanned most of the twentieth century, a time when the field of embryology evolved from being a purely descriptive pursuit to one of experimental research, to that of incorporating molecular biology into the research lab. Willier was born on 2 November 1890 near Weston, Ohio to Mary Alice Ricard. He spent his childhood doing farming chores and running the farm while his father, David Willier worked as a banker.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Benjamin Harrison Willier

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Benjamin Harrison Willier

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Format: Photographs

Subject: People

Samuel Randall Detwiler (1890-1957)

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine was created by Maurice Hilleman in 1971 at the Merck Institute of Therapeutic Research, a pharmaceutical company in West Point, Pennsylvania. It combined three separate vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella, common and sometimes fatal diseases. Measles causes a red skin rash and severe fevers that can be fatal. Mumps causes fever and swelling of the salivary glands in the mouth and jaw, while rubella causes milder fevers and skin rashes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Stanley Alan Plotkin (1932– )

Stanley Alan Plotkin developed vaccines in the United States during the mid to late twentieth century. Plotkin began his research career at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he studied the rubella virus. In pregnant women, the rubella virus caused congenital rubella syndrome in the fetus, which led to various malformations and birth defects. Using WI-38 cells, a line of cells that originated from tissues of aborted fetuses, Plotkin successfully created RA27/3, a weakened strain of the rubella virus, which he then used to develop a rubella vaccine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Maurice Ralph Hilleman (1919–2005)

Maurice Ralph Hilleman developed vaccines at the Merck Institute of Therapeutic Research in West Point, Pennsylvania, during the twentieth century. Over the course of his career at Merck, Hilleman created over forty vaccines, making him one of the most prolific developers of vaccine in the twentieth century. Of the fourteen vaccines commonly given to children in the US by 2015, Hilleman was responsible for eight of them. Hilleman's most widely used vaccine was his measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Serial Cultivation of Human Diploid Cells in the Lab (1958–1961) by Leonard Hayflick and Paul S. Moorhead

From 1958 to 1961, Leonard Hayflick and Paul Moorhead in the US developed a way in the laboratory to cultivate strains of human cells with complete sets of chromosomes. Previously, scientists could not sustain cell cultures with cells that had two complete sets of chromosomes like normal human cells (diploid). As a result, scientists struggled to study human cell biology because there was not a reliable source of cells that represented diploid human cells. In their experiments, Hayflick and Moorhead created lasting strains of human cells that retained both complete sets of chromosomes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Stanley Alan Plotkin's Development of a Rubella Vaccine (1969)

In the US during the late 1960s, Stanley Alan Plotkin, John D. Farquhar, Michael Katz, and Fritz Buser isolated a strain of the infectious disease rubella and developed a rubella vaccine with a weakened, or attenuated, version of the virus strain. Rubella, also called German measles, is a highly contagious disease caused by the rubella virus that generally causes mild rashes and fever. However, in pregnant women, rubella infections can lead to developmental defects in their fetuses.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Alexis Carrel (1873-1944)

Alexis Carrel was a doctor and researcher who studied tissue cultures. He continued Ross Granville Harrison's research and produced many improvements in the field of tissue culture and surgery. He was the recipient of the 1912 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his development of surgical techniques to repair blood vessels. Carrel was born on 28 June 1873 in Sainte-Foy-les-Lyon, France, to Anne-Marie Ricard and Alexis Carrel Billiard. His father died when he was five years old.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Syncytial Theory

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Jane Marion Oppenheimer (1911-1966)

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Corticosteroids' Effect on Fetal Lung Maturation (1972), by Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins and Ross Howie

In a clinical trial from 1969 to 1972, Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins and Ross Howie showed that if doctors treat pregnant women with corticosteroids before those women deliver prematurely, then those women's infants have fewer cases of respiratory distress syndrome than do similarly premature infants of women not treated with corticosteroids. Prior to the study, premature infants born before 32 weeks of gestation often died of respiratory distress syndrome, or the inability to inflate immature lungs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“Traditional postpartum practices and rituals: a qualitative systematic review” (2007), by Cindy-Lee Dennis, Kenneth Fung, Sophie Grigoriadis, Gail Erlick Robinson, Sarah Romans and Lori Ross

In the 2007 paper “Traditional postpartum practices and rituals: a qualitative systematic review,” Toronto-based researchers showed that women from different cultures around the world follow similar postpartum practices after giving birth. At the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada, Cindy-Lee Dennis, Kenneth Fung, Sophie Grigoriadis, Gail Erlick Robinson, Sarah Romans, and Lori Ross examined fifty-one studies from over twenty countries that focused on traditional postpartum practices.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Hanging Drop Tissue Culture

The hanging drop tissue culture is a technique utilized in embryology and other fields to allow growth that would otherwise be restricted by the flat plane of culture dishes and also to minimize the surface area to volume ratio, slowing evaporation. The classic hanging drop culture is a small drop of liquid, such as plasma or some other media allowing tissue growth, suspended from an inverted watch glass. The hanging drop is then suspended by gravity and surface tension, rather than spreading across a plate.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Jane Maienschein (1950- )

Jane Maienschein is the daughter of Joyce Kylander and Fred Maienschein, and was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on 23 September 1950. She attended MIT as a freshman and then transferred to Yale University in 1969 when Yale decided to admit women undergraduates. In 1972 she graduated with an honors degree in History, the Arts, and Letters having written a thesis on the history of science. She then attended Indiana University and studied with historian of embryology Frederick B.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"On the Permanent Life of Tissues outside of the Organism" (1912), by Alexis Carrel

'On the Permanent Life of Tissues outside of the Organism' reports Alexis Carrel's 1912 experiments on the maintenance of tissue in culture media. At the time, Carrel was a French surgeon and biologist working at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City. In his paper, Carrel reported that he had successfully maintained tissue cultures, which derived from connective tissues of developing chicks and other tissue sources, by serially culturing them.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Alexis Carrel's Tissue Culture Techniques

Alexis Carrel, the prominent French surgeon, biologist, and 1912 Nobel Prize laureate for Physiology or Medicine, was one of the pioneers in developing and modifying tissue culture techniques. The publicized work of Carrel and his associates at the Rockefeller Institute established the practice of long-term tissue culture for a wide variety of cells. At the same time, some aspects of their work complicated the operational procedures of tissue culture.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Reassessment of Carrel's Immortal Tissue Culture Experiments

In the 1910s, Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon and biologist, concluded that cells are intrinsically immortal. His claim was based on chick-heart tissue cultures in his laboratory that seemed to be able to proliferate forever. Carrel's ideas about cellular immortality convinced his many contemporaries that cells could be maintained indefinitely. In the 1960s, however, Carrel's thesis about cell immortality was put into question by the discovery that human diploid cells can only proliferate for a finite period.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Theories

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