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Life's Greatest Miracle (2001), by Julia Cort and NOVA
The Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) documentary Life's Greatest Miracle (abbreviated Miracle, available at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/miracle/program.html), is arguably one of the most vivid illustrations of the making of new human life. Presented as part of the PBS television series NOVA, Miracle is a little less than an hour long and was first aired 20 November 2001. The program was written and produced by Julia Cort and features images by renowned Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson.
Subject: Outreach, Reproduction
Paul Kammerer (1880-1926)
Paul Kammerer conducted experiments on amphibians and marine animals at the Vivarium, a research institute in Vienna, Austria, in the early twentieth century. Kammerer bred organisms in captivity, and he induced them to develop particular adaptations, which Kammerer claimed the organismss offspring would inherit. Kammerer argued that his results demonstrated the inheritance of acquired characteristics, or Lamarckian inheritance. The Lamarckian theory of inheritance posits that individuals transmit acquired traits to their offspring.
Subject: Experiments, People
A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery, (1752-1764) by William Smellie
A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery is a three volume collection of patient accounts that William Smellie published from 1752 to 1764. Smellie, a physician and instructor in obstetrics in Great Britain, published these compilations to share his expertise in reproductive medicine, while also providing his students and colleagues with a source of reference in their own medical practices. Smellie wrote these books to shift obstetrics from a discipline practiced by midwives with limited medical training to one practiced in a medical context by physicians.
David Michael Rorvik (1944–)
David Michael Rorvik is a science journalist who publicized advancements in the field of reproductive medicine during the late twentieth century. Rorvik wrote magazine articles and books in which he discussed emerging methods and technologies that contributed to the progression of reproductive health, including sex determination, in vitro fertilization, and human cloning. During that time, those topics were controversial and researchers often questioned Rorvik’s work for accuracy.
Alfred Day Hershey (1908–1997)
During the twentieth century in the United States, Alfred Day Hershey studied phages, or viruses that infect bacteria, and experimentally verified that genes were made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Genes are molecular, heritable instructions for how an organism develops. When Hershey started to study phages, scientists did not know if phages contained genes, or whether genes were made of DNA or protein. In 1952, Hershey and his research assistant, Martha Chase, conducted phage experiments that convinced scientists that genes were made of DNA.
Pfeffer Cell Apparatus
The Pfeffer Zelle (Pfeffer Cell Apparatus), invented by Wilhelm Pfeffer in 1877, measured the minimum pressure needed to prevent a pure solvent from passing into a solution across a semi-permeable membrane, called osmotic pressure. The apparatus provided Pfeffer with a way to quantitatively measure osmotic pressure. Pfeffer devised the apparatus in the 1870s at the University of Basel in Basel, Switzerland, and he described the Pfeffer Cell Apparatus in his 1877 book Osmotische Untersuchungen: Studien Zur Zellmechanik (Osmotic Investigations: Studies on Cell Mechanics).
The Hershey-Chase Experiments (1952), by Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase
In 1951 and 1952, Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase conducted a series of experiments at the Carnegie Institute of Washington in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, that verified genes were made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Hershey and Chase performed their experiments, later named the Hershey-Chase experiments, on viruses that infect bacteria, also called bacteriophages. The experiments followed decades of scientists’ skepticism about whether genetic material was composed of protein or DNA.
“Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate” (1953), by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling
In April 1953, Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling, published “Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate,” in the scientific journal Nature. The article contained Franklin and Gosling’s analysis of their X-ray diffraction pattern of thymonucleate or deoxyribonucleic acid, known as DNA. In the early 1950s, scientists confirmed that genes, the heritable factors that control how organisms develop, contained DNA. However, at the time scientists had not determined how DNA functioned or its three-dimensional structure.
The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness (1912), by Henry Herbert Goddard
In 1912, Henry Herbert Goddard published The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness, hereafter The Kallikak Family, in which he argues that people inherit feeble-mindedness, which is presently known as intellectual disability. Feeble-mindedness, according to Goddard, is the source of, what he refers to as, degeneracy, including behaviors such as alcoholism, criminal behavior, prostitution, and sexual promiscuity.
All cells that have a nucleus, including plant, animal, fungal cells, and most single-celled protists, also have mitochondria. Mitochondria are particles called organelles found outside the nucleus in a cell's cytoplasm. The main function of mitochondria is to supply energy to the cell, and therefore to the organism. The theory for how mitochondria evolved, proposed by Lynn Margulis in the twentieth century, is that they were once free-living organisms.
Emil von Behring (1854–1917)
Emil von Behring researched treatments for the common childhood disease diphtheria in Germany in the 1890s and early 1900s. Diphtheria is a lethal disease that infected approximately 40,000 people in Germany between 1886 and 1888 with a general mortality rate of twenty-five percent. Behring investigated treatment of diphtheria using serum therapy, which is an alternative to vaccination that uses protective agents from other people’s blood to defend a patient against disease. Behring termed those protective agents antitoxins.
The Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology (1984), by Mary Warnock and the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology
The Report of the Committee of Inquiry
into Human Fertilisation and Embryology, commonly called the Warnock
Report after the chair of the committee Mary Warnock, is the 1984
publication of a UK governmental inquiry into the social impacts of
infertility treatment and embryological research. The birth of Louise
Brown in 1978 in Oldham, UK, sparked debate about reproductive and
embryological technologies. Brown was conceived through in vitro
fertilization (IVF), a process of fertilization that occurs outside of
Subject: Publications, Legal, Ethics
A Series of YouTube Videos Detailing the “CRISPR Babies” Experiment (2018), by He Jiankui
In 2018, He Jiankui uploaded a series of videos to a YouTube channel titled “The He Lab” that detailed one of the first instances of a successful human birth after genome editing had been performed on an embryo using CRISPR-cas9. CRISPR-cas9 is a genome editing tool derived from bacteria that can be used to cut out and replace specific sequences of DNA. He genetically modified embryos at his lab in Shenzhen, China, to make them immune to contracting HIV through indirect perinatal transmission from their father, who was infected with the virus.
Subject: Publications, Experiments, Ethics
Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (2016)
In the 2016 case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the US Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the Texas requirements that abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that abortion facilities meet ambulatory surgical center standards. Whole Woman’s Health represented abortion care providers in Texas and brought the case against the commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services, John Hellerstedt.
Subject: Legal, Reproduction
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1890- )
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is a non-profit research institution that specializes in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology, quantitative biology, and genomics. The organization is located on the shores of Cold Spring Harbor in Laurel Hollow, New York. The Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences established the CSHL in 1890, to provide scientists with facilities to research Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory. The first mission of CSHL was biological science education.
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) is a human disorder in which an individual's genetic sex (genotype) differs from that individual's observable secondary sex characteristics (phenotypes). A fetus with AIS is genetically male with a 46,XY genotype. The term 46,XY refers to the chromosomes found in most cells of the fetus. Most cells have a total of 46 autosomes, or non-sex chromosomes, and a pair sex chromosomes, XX for genetic females, or XY for genetic males.
Matthew Stanley Meselson (1930– )
Matthew Stanley Meselson conducted DNA and RNA research in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He also influenced US policy regarding the use of chemical and biological weapons. Meselson and his colleague Franklin Stahl demonstrated that DNA replication is semi-conservative. Semi-conservative replication means that every newly replicated DNA double helix, which consists of two individual DNA strands wound together, contains one strand that was conserved from a parent double helix and that served as a template for the other strand.
The Human Genome Project (1990-2003)
The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international scientific effort to sequence the entire human genome, that is, to produce a map of the base pairs of DNA in the human chromosomes, most of which do not vary among individuals. The HGP started in the US in 1990 as a public effort and included scientists and laboratories located in France, Germany, Japan, China, and the United Kingdom.
The US President's Council on Bioethics (2001-2009)
The US President's Council on Bioethics was an organization headquartered in Washington D.C. that was chartered to advise then US President George W. Bush on ethical issues related to biomedical science and technology. In November 2001, US President George W. Bush created the President's Council on Bioethics (PCB). Convened during a nationwide cloning and embryonic stem cell research debate, the Council stated that it worked to address arguments about ethics from many different perspectives.
Subject: Organizations, Legal, Ethics
Franklin William Stahl (1929– )
Franklin William Stahl studied DNA replication, bacteriophages, and genetic recombination in the US during the mid-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. With his colleague Matthew Meselson, Stahl performed an experiment called the Meselson-Stahl experiment, which provided evidence for a process called semi-conservative DNA replication. Semi-conservative replication is a process in which each strand of a parental DNA double helix serves as a template for newly replicated daughter strands, so that one parental strand is conserved in every daughter double helix.
Reduction of Maternal-Infant Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus with Zidovudine Treatment
In 1994, Edward M. Connor and colleagues published “Reduction of Maternal-Infant Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 with Zidovudine Treatment.” Their study summarized how to reduce the transfer of human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, from pregnant women to their fetuses with Zidovudine, otherwise known as AZT. HIV is a virus that weakens the immune system by destroying white blood cells, a part of the body’s immune system. Fifteen to forty percent of infants born to HIV-positive mothers become infected during fetal development, labor and delivery, or breast-feeding.
“Relationship between Ultrasound Viewing and Proceeding to Abortion” (2014), by Mary Gatter, Katrina Kimport, Diana Greene Foster, Tracy A. Weitz, and Ushma D. Upadhyay
In January 2014, Mary Gatter and colleagues published “Relationship between Ultrasound Viewing and Proceeding to Abortion” in Obstetrics and Gynecology hereafter “Ultrasound Viewing.” As of 2021, ten states require women to undergo an ultrasound before they may consent to having an abortion. Self-described pro-life organizations assert that viewing an image of the fetus will dissuade women from having an abortion.
Subject: Publications, Reproduction
Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA)
Transposition of the great arteries or TGA is a potentially fatal congenital heart malformation where the pulmonary artery and the aorta are switched. The switch means that the aorta, which normally carries oxygenated blood, carries deoxygenated blood. There are two types of the malformation, d-TGA where no oxygen reaches the body and l-TGA where some oxygenated blood circulates. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that about 1,901 infants are born each year with TGA, or about one for every 2,000 births.
Ernst Gräfenberg (1881–1957)
Ernst Gräfenberg was a physician and researcher who studied sexology, the study of human sexuality, in both Germany and the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. Gräfenberg researched the use of intrauterine devices as a form of contraception, and he developed the Gräfenberg ring. The Gräfenberg ring was one of the first intrauterine devices that effectively prevented pregnancy without causing infection, and it became the forerunner of all modern intrauterine devices, or IUDs. Gräfenberg also studied the role of the urethra in female orgasm.
Subject: People, Technologies, Reproduction
"Safety and Immunogenicity of Tdap Immunization During Pregnancy in Mothers and Infants" (2014), by Flor M. Munoz et al
In 2014, Flor M. Munoz and colleagues published “Safety and Immunogenicity of Tetanus Diphtheria and Acellular Pertussis (Tdap) Immunization During Pregnancy in Mothers and Infants: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” hereafter “Tdap Immunization During Pregnancy,” in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors conducted a study to determine how Tdap immunization affected the mother and infant’s immune response to the common childhood diseases tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. They found that Tdap immunization did not lead to an increased risk of adverse health events.
Subject: Publications, Technologies, Reproduction