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A History of Embryology (1959), by Joseph Needham

In 1931 embryologist and historian Joseph Needham published a well-received three-volume treatise titled Chemical Embryology. The first four chapters from this work were delivered as lectures on Speculation, Observation, and Experiment, as Illustrated by the History of Embryology at the University of London. The same lectures were later released as a book published in 1934 titled A History of Embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Viktor Hamburger's Study of Central-Peripheral Relations in the Development of Nervous System

An important question throughout the history of embryology is whether the formation of a biological structure is predetermined or shaped by its environment. If both intrinsic and environmental controls occur, how exactly do the two processes coordinate in crafting specific forms and functions? When Viktor Hamburger started his PhD study in embryology in the 1920s, few neuroembryologists were investigating how the central neurons innervate peripheral organs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Neurocristopathies

Neurocristopathies are a class of pathologies in vertebrates,
including humans, that result from abnormal expression, migration,
differentiation, or death of neural crest cells (NCCs) during embryonic development. NCCs are cells
derived from the embryonic cellular structure called the neural crest.
Abnormal NCCs can cause a neurocristopathy by chemically affecting the
development of the non-NCC tissues around them. They can also affect the
development of NCC tissues, causing defective migration or

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Telomerase in Human Development

Telomerase is an enzyme that regulates the lengths of telomeres in the cells of many organisms, and in humans it begins to function int the early stages of embryonic development. Telomeres are repetitive sequences of DNA on the ends of chromosomes that protect chromosomes from sticking to each other or tangling. In 1989, Gregg Morin found that telomerase was present in human cells. In 1996, Woodring Wright and his team examined human embryonic cells and found that telomerase was active in them. Scientists manipulate telomerase in cells to give cells the capacity to replicate infinitely.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Embryology

The Carnegie Institution of Washington's (CIW) Embryology Department was opened in 1914 and remains one of six departments in the CIW. The department quickly became, and remains, world renowned for its many embryonic development discoveries. In 1913 Franklin P. Mall, Professor of Anatomy at Johns Hopkins Medical School, applied for a Carnegie grant to support his research with human embryos. Mall had a collection of over 800 human embryo specimens and was at the point of wanting to do more than just collect.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Edgar Allen and Edward A. Doisy's Extraction of Estrogen from Ovarian Follicles, (1923)

In the early 1920s, researchers Edgar Allen and Edward Adelbert Doisy conducted an experiment that demonstrated that ovarian follicles, which produce eggs in mammals, also contain and produce what they called the primary ovarian hormone, later renamed estrogen. In their experiment, Doisy and Allen extracted estrogen from the ovarian follicles of hogs and proved that they had isolated estrogen by using a measurement later renamed the Allen-Doisy test.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Bernard Sachs (1858-1944)

Bernard Sachs studied nervous system disorders in children in the
United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the
late 1880s, Sachs described the fatal genetic neurological disorder
called amaurotic family idiocy, later renamed Tay-Sachs disease. The
disorder degrades motor skills as well as mental abilities in
affected individuals. The expected lifespan of a child with
Tay-Sachs is three to five years. In addition to working on
Tay-Sachs disease, Sachs described other childhood neurological and

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Litowitz v. Litowitz (2002)

In a dispute over the allocation of cryopreserved preembryos, the Supreme Court of Washington resolved the case of David J. Litowitz v. Becky M. Litowitz (2002) by reaching a decision that neither party wanted. David Litowitz sought to find adoptive parents for two cryopreserved preembryos created during his marriage to Becky Litowitz when the couple was attempting to have children using in vitro fertilization (IVF). Becky sought to implant the preembryos in a surrogate in an effort to parent a child.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Whitner v. South Carolina (1997)

In the case Whitner v. South Carolina in 1997, the South Carolina State Supreme Court defined the concept of a child to include viable fetuses. This allowed grounds for prosecution of a pregnant womanÕs prenatal activity if those activities endangered or could potentially endanger the fetus within her. The case brought the issue of fetal rights versus pregnant womenÕs rights to light.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Victor Jollos (1887-1941)

Victor Jollos studied fruit flies and
microorganisms in Europe and the US, and he introduced the concept of
Dauermodifikationen in the early 1900s. The concept of
Dauermodifikationen refers to environmentally-induced traits that are
heritable for only a limited number of generations. Some scientists
interpreted the results of Jollos's work on Paramecium and Drosophila as
evidence for cytoplasmic inheritance. Jollos was forced to emigrate from
Germany to the United States due to anti-semitic government policies in

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Andrew Zachary Fire (1959- )

Andrew Zachary Fire is a professor at Stanford University and Nobel Laureate. Fire worked at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Embryology in Baltimore, Maryland, with colleague Craig Mello, where they discovered that RNA molecules could be used to turn off or knock out the expression of genes. Fire and Mello called the process RNA interference (RNAi), and won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2006 for their discovery.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Viktor Hamburger (1900-2001)

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

William Keith Brooks (1848-1908)

Biologist William Keith Brooks studied embryological development in invertebrates and used his results as evidence for theories of evolution and ancestral heredity. He founded a marine biological laboratory where his and others' embryological studies took place. Later in life, Brooks became head of the Biology Department at Johns Hopkins University where he helped shape the minds of leading embryologists.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Images of Embryos in Life Magazine in the 1950s

Embryonic images displayed in Life magazine during the mid-twentieth century serve as a representation of technological advances and the growing public interest in the stages of embryological development. These black-and-white photographs portray skeletal structures and intact bodies of chicken embryos and human embryos and fetuses obtained from collections belonging to universities and medical institutions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Publications, Reproduction

George Washington Corner (1889-1981)

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Zhang Lizhu (1921- )

Zhang Lizhu is a Chinese gynecologist and researcher. For most of her career, she worked in the Peking Medical College Third Hospital, renamed in 2000, Peking University Third Hospital. There, she led a team of researchers and physicians in the study of human in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET) technology. Zhang and her colleagues contributed to the birth of the first test-tube baby in Mainland China in 1988.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

The Discovery of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

The term Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was first published in 1973 in an article published in the British medical journal The Lancet. In that article, a group of pediatricians and psychiatrists at the University of Washington Medical School helped to define the morphological defects and developmental delays that can affect children born to alcoholic mothers. Those observations include pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies, minor facial abnormalities, and damage to the developing brain that can result in behavioral, learning, and cognitive abnormalities.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Karl Ernst von Baer's Laws of Embryology

In 1828, while working at the University of Konigsberg in Konigsberg, Germany Karl Ernst von Baer proposed four laws of animal development, which came to be called von Baer's laws of embryology. With these laws, von Baer described the development (ontogeny) of animal embryos while also critiquing popular theories of animal development at the time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680)

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Adib Jatene (1929–2014)

Adib Jatene in Brazil was the first surgeon to successfully perform the arterial switch operation in 1975. The operation corrected a heart condition in infants called transposition of the great arteries (TGA). Left untreated, infants with TGA die, as their blood cannot supply oxygen to their bodies. Jatene’s operation became widely used to correct the condition. Aside from medical research, Jatene worked for years in politics and education, serving as Brazil’s minister of health and teaching thoracic surgery at the University of São Paulo.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The French Flag Model

The French flag model represents how embryonic cells receive and respond to genetic information and subsequently differentiate into patterns. Created by Lewis Wolpert in the late 1960s, the model uses the French tricolor flag as visual representation to explain how embryonic cells can interpret genetic code to create the same pattern even when certain pieces of the embryo are removed. Wolpert's model has provided crucial theoretical framework for investigating universal mechanisms of pattern formation during development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Theories

"The Development of the Turtle Carapace" (1989), by Ann Campbell Burke

Ann Campbell Burke examines the development and evolution of vertebrates, in particular, turtles. Her Harvard University experiments, described in Development of the Turtle Carapace: Implications for the Evolution of a Novel Bauplan, were published in 1989. Burke used molecular techniques to investigate the developmental mechanisms responsible for the formation of the turtle shell.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

Margaret (Peggy) Goldwater (1909–1985)

Margaret Goldwater advocated for birth control and reproductive rights in the United States during the twentieth century. Goldwater was a socialite and philanthropist and was married to Barry Goldwater, US Senator from Arizona. She spent much of her life working to further the women's reproductive rights movement, which sought to expand women's legal, social, and physical access to reproductive healthcare, including contraception and abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Outreach

Barry Morris Goldwater (1909–1998)

Barry Morris Goldwater was a Republican Arizona Senator and US presidential candidate in the twentieth-century whose policies supported the women's reproductive rights movement. Goldwater, a businessman and Air Force reservist, transitioned into politics in the 1950s. He helped align popular support for a conservative Republican Party in the 1960s. Throughout his life, he worked to maintain personal liberty and to limit governmental intrusion into citizens' private lives. Goldwater, influenced by his wife Margaret (Peggy) Goldwater, supported women's rights to abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Legal, Religion

"The Developmental Capacity of Nuclei Taken from Intestinal Epithelium Cells of Feeding Tadpoles" (1962), by John B. Gurdon

In 1962 researcher John Bertrand Gurdon at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, conducted a series of experiments on the developmental capacity of nuclei taken from intestinal epithelium cells of feeding tadpoles. In the experiments, Gurdon conducted nuclear transplantation, or cloning, of differentiated cells, or cells that have already specialized to become one cell type or another, in tadpoles. Gurdon's experiment showed that differentiated adult cells could be induced to an undifferentiated state, where they could once again become multiple cell types.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments