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George Wells Beadle (1903-1989)
George Wells Beadle studied corn, fruit flies, and funguses in the US during the twentieth century. These studies helped Beadle earn the 1958 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Beadle shared the prize with Edward Tatum for their discovery that genes help regulate chemical processes in and between cells. This finding, initially termed the one gene-one enzyme hypothesis, helped scientists develop new techniques to study genes and DNA as molecules, not just as units of heredity between generations of organisms.
Calvin Blackman Bridges (1889-1938)
Calvin Blackman Bridges studied chromosomes and heredity in the US throughout the early twentieth century. Bridges performed research with Thomas Hunt Morgan at Columbia University in New York City, New York, and at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. Bridges and Morgan studied heredity in Drosophila, the common fruit fly. Throughout the early twentieth century, researchers were gathering evidence that genes, or what Gregor Mendel had called the factors that control heredity, are located on chromosomes.
Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen (1857-1927)
Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen studied plants and helped found the field of genetics, contributing methods and concepts to the study of heredity around the turn of the twentieth century in Denmark. His experiments on heredity and variation in plants influenced the methods and techniques of geneticists, and his distinction between the genotype of an organism-its hereditary disposition-and its phenotype-its observable characteristics-remains at the core of contemporary biology. Johannsen criticized biological explanations that relied on concepts such as vitalism and teleology.
Ian Hector Frazer (1953– )
Ian Hector Frazer studied the human immune system and vaccines in Brisbane, Australia, and helped invent and patent the scientific process and technology behind what later became the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccinations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the US, or CDC, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and can lead to genital warts, as well as cervical, head, mouth, and neck cancers.
Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)
Barbara McClintock worked on genetics in corn (maize) plants and spent most of her life conducting research at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Laurel Hollow, New York. McClintock's research focused on reproduction and mutations in maize, and described the phenomenon of genetic crossover in chromosomes. Through her maize mutation experiments, McClintock observed transposons, or mobile elements of genes within the chromosome, which jump around the genome. McClintock received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1983 for her research on chromosome transposition.
Dennis Lo (1963- )
Dennis Lo, also called Yuk Ming Dennis Lo, is a
professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong,
China. In 1997, Lo discovered fetal DNA in maternal
plasma, which is the liquid component of a pregnant woman's
blood. By 2002, Lo distinguished the DNA differences between pregnant women
and their fetuses, enabling scientists to identify fetal DNA in pregnant
women's blood. Lo used his discoveries to develop several
non-invasive and prenatal genetic tests, including tests for blood
Subject: People, Reproduction
Theophilus Shickel Painter (1889-1969)
Theophilus Shickel Painter studied the structure and
function of chromosomes in the US during in the early to mid-twentieth century. Painter worked at
the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas. In the 1920s
and 1930s, Painter studied the chromosomes of the salivary gland
giant chromosomes of the fruit fly (Drosophila
melanogaster), with Hermann J. Muller. Muller and Painter
studied the ability of X-rays to cause changes in the chromosomes
of fruit flies. Painter also studied chromosomes in mammals.
Muriel Wheldale Onslow (1880-1932)
Muriel Wheldale Onslow studied flowers in England with genetic and biochemical techniques in the early twentieth century. Working with geneticist William Bateson, Onslow used Mendelian principles and biochemical analysis together to understand the inheritance of flower colors at the beginning of the twentieth century. Onslow's study of snapdragons, or Antirrhinum majus, resulted in her description of epistasis, a phenomenon in which the phenotypic effect of one gene is influenced by one or more other genes. She discovered several biochemicals related to color formation.
Ernest Everett Just (1883-1941)
Ernest Everett Just was an early twentieth century American experimental embryologist involved in research at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and the Stazione Zoologica in Naples, Italy. Just was known for simple but elegant experiments that supported the "fertilizing" theory of Frank R. Lillie and served as an antagonist to Jacques Loeb's work with artificial parthenogenesis.
Leo Loeb (1869-1959)
Leo Loeb developed an experimental approach to studying cancer and pioneered techniques for tissue culture and in vitro tissue transplantation which impacted early-to-mid twentieth century experimental embryology. Loeb received his medical degree from the University of Zurich in 1897. As part of his doctorate, he completed a thesis on the outcomes of tissue transplantation in guinea pigs. Loeb's thesis inspired a life-long interest in tissue transplantation.
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
Pope Pius XII (1876-1958)
Pope Pius XII was born Eugenio Maria Giuseppi Giovanni Pacelli on 2 March 1876 in Rome, Italy, to Virginia and Filippo Pacelli. Known for his oft-disputed role in the Roman Catholic Church's approach to the Nazis and World War II, Pope Pius XII also contributed a number of important documents regarding conception, fertility, abortion, and reproductive control to the Vatican's collection of writings and doctrine on procreation.
Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction
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.
Subject: People, Reproduction, Legal, Religion
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.
Karl Freiherr von Rokitansky (1804–1878)
During the nineteenth century, Karl Freiherr von Rokitansky conducted research on the causes of disease by performing approximately 30,000 autopsies, a practice that many people opposed at the time. Rokitansky performed his research in pathology, or the study of disease, and morbid anatomy, or the study of dead bodies, in Vienna, then part of the Austrian Empire and later part of Austria.
Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921-2011)
Rosalyn Sussman Yalow co-developed the radioimmunoassay (RIA), a method used to measure minute biological compounds that cause immune systems to produce antibodies. Yalow and research partner Solomon A. Berson developed the RIA in the early 1950s at the Bronx Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital, in New York City, New York. Yalow and Berson's methods expanded scientific research, particularly in the medical field, and contributed to medical diagnostics. For this achievement, Yalow received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1977.
Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954)
Alan Mathison Turing was a British mathematician and computer scientist who lived in the early twentieth century. Among important contributions in the field of mathematics, computer science, and philosophy, he developed a mathematical model of morphogenesis. This model describing biological growth became fundamental for research on the process of embryo development.
Christiane Nusslein-Volhard (1942- )
Christiane Nusslein-Volhard studied how genes control embryonic development in flies and in fish in Europe during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In the 1970s, Nusslein-Volhard focused her career on studying the genetic control of development in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. In 1988, Nusslein-Volhard identified the first described morphogen, a protein coded by the gene bicoid in flies. In 1995, along with Eric F. Wieschaus and Edward B.
Harry Clay Sharp (1870-1940)
Harry Clay Sharp was a surgeon who performed one of the first recorded vasectomies with the purpose of sterilizing a patient. Sterilization is the practice that makes a person unable to reproduce, and vasectomy accomplishes that by severing the vasa deferentia, the sperm-carrying tubes in the male reproductive system. Historically, sterilization procedures have varied in techniques, goals, and risks, but Sharp’s method of vasectomy allowed restriction of a patient’s reproductive functions without significantly affecting other bodily functions.
Subject: Legal, Ethics, People, Organizations, Technologies
St. Augustine (354-430)
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.
Pope Pius XI (1857-1939)
Pope Pius XI, born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, was born to the wealthy owner of a silk factory on 31 May 1857 in Desio, Italy. He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of eighteen, at which time he began a long life devoted to study, peacekeeping, and the betterment of societies around the world. Pius XI is noted here for his contribution to the Roman Catholic Church's early twentieth century approach to issues regarding contraception and abortion, which was presented in his December 1930 encyclical "Casti Connubii."
Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction
Allan Charles Wilson (1934-1991)
Allan C. Wilson studied genes, proteins, and body structures of animals and humans in the US during the second half of the twentieth century. Wilson also studied human evolution. Although morphology and behaviors of humans (Homo sapiens) and great apes differ, Wilson found that they have biochemical and genetic similarities. Wilson and his colleagues calculated the time period of humans' and African apes' common ancestor.
Julia Clifford Lathrop (1858–1932)
Julia Clifford Lathrop was an activist and social reformer in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries and the first chief of the United States Children’s Bureau. In that capacity, she conducted demographic studies to identify links between socioeconomic factors and infant mortality rates. Lathrop mobilized the effort to increase birth registration and designed programs and publications to promote infant and maternal health throughout the US.
Biological Sex and Gender in the United States
In the United States, most people are assigned both a biological sex and gender at birth based on their chromosomes and reproductive organs. However, there is an important distinction between biological sex and gender. Biological sex, such as male, female, or intersex, commonly refers to physical characteristics. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, and actions people take on, usually in relation to expectations of masculinity or femininity. As of 2022, there is disagreement over the relation between sex and gender.
Subject: Organizations, People, Processes, Ethics
Kurt Benirschke (1924-)
Kurt Benirschke studied cells, placentas, and endangered species in Germany and the US during the twentieth century. Benirschke was professor at the University of California in San Diego, California, and a director of the research department at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California. He also helped form the research department of the San Diego Zoo and its sister organization, the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species.