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Leonardo da Vinci's Embryological Annotations

Among his myriad scientific and artistic contributions, Leonardo da Vinci's work in embryology was groundbreaking. He observed and diagramed the previously undemonstrated position of the fetus in the womb with detailed accompanying annotations of his observations. Leonardo was highly paranoid of plagiarism and wrote all of his notes in mirror-like handwriting laden with his own codes, making his writing difficult to discern and delaying its impact.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Caspar Friedrich Wolff (1734-1794)

Caspar Friedrich Wolff is most famous for his 1759 doctoral dissertation, Theoria Generationis, in which he described embryonic development in both plants and animals as a process involving layers of cells, thereby refuting the accepted theory of preformation: the idea that organisms develop as a result of the unfolding of form that is somehow present from the outset, as in a homunculus. This work generated a great deal of controversy and discussion at the time of its publication but was an integral move in the reemergence and acceptance of the theory of epigenesis.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Hartsoeker's Homunculus Sketch from Essai de Dioptrique

This embryology image is a pencil sketch by Nicolaas Hartsoeker, published as part of his 1694 French-language paper entitled Essai de Dioptrique, a semi-speculative work describing the sorts of new scientific observations that could be done using magnifying lenses. Dioptrique was published in Paris by the publishing house of Jean Anisson. The image depicts a curled up infant-like human, now referred to as a homunculus, inside the head of a sperm cell.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Processes

Gavin Rylands de Beer (1899-1972)

Gavin de Beer was an English zoologist known for his contributions to evolution and embryology, in particular for showing the inadequacy of the germ layer theory as it was then proposed. He was born in London, England, on 1 November 1899, but was raised for his first thirteen years in France where his father worked for a telegraph company. He entered Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1917 but his studies were soon interrupted by World War I. After serving in the military, he returned to Oxford where he studied under Edwin Goodrich.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (MRM)

Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (MRM) is an imaging method that allows the visualization of internal body structures. Using powerful magnets to send energy into cells, MRM picks up signals from inside a specimen and translates them into detailed computer images. MRM is a useful tool for scientists because of its ability to generate digital slices of scanned specimens that can be constructed into virtual 3D images without destroying the specimens. MRM has become an increasingly prevalent imaging technique in embryological studies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Dietrich v. Inhabitants of Northampton [Brief] (1884)

This influential opinion by famed jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was copied by courts throughout the United States. For over sixty years, courts refused to recognize a cause of action on behalf of a child who died before or after birth as a result of injuries suffered in the womb because the fetus was considered legally a part of its mother and thus did not possess personhood. This policy changed after the decision in Bonbrest v. Kotz in 1946.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

"On the Induction of Embryonic Primordia by Implantation of Organizers from Different Species" (1924), Hilde Mangold's Dissertation

Hilde Proscholdt Mangold was a doctoral student at the Zoological Institute at the University of Freiburg in Freiburg, Germany, from 1920-1923. Mangold conducted research for her dissertation 'On the Induction of Embryonic Primordia by Implantation of Organizers from Different Species' ('Ueber Induktion von Embryonanlagen durch Implantation artfremder Organisatoren'), under the guidance of Hans Spemann, a professor of zoology at the University of Freiburg.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

Karl Wilhelm Theodor Richard von Hertwig (1850-1937)

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Artificial Parthenogenesis and Fertilization (1913), by Jacques Loeb

Jacques Loeb is best known for his embryological work investigating parthenogenesis in invertebrates. Artificial Parthenogenesis and Fertilization is a revised and English-translated work from his earlier book, Die chemische Entwicklungserregung des tierischen Eies (1900). Artificial Parthenogenesis describes Loeb's many and varied methodical experiments to initiate egg development without fertilization by sperm. As is true with much of science, some of Loeb's experiments were successful and many were not.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Nicolaas Hartsoeker (1656-1725)

Nicolaas Hartsoeker, a Dutch astronomer, optics manufacturer, and naturalist, was born 26 March 1656 in Gouda, Netherlands, and died 10 December 1725. His mother was Anna van der Mey and his father was Christiaan Hartsoeker, a prominent evangelical minister. His major contribution to embryology was his observations of human sperm cells, which he claimed to be the first to see under a microscope. His sketch of the homunculus, a tiny preformed human he believed to exist in the head of spermatazoa, is his lasting scientific legacy in the field of embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Preformationism in the Enlightenment

Preformationism was a theory of embryological development used in the late seventeenth through the late eighteenth centuries. This theory held that the generation of offspring occurs as a result of an unfolding and growth of preformed parts. There were two competing models of preformationism: the ovism model, in which the location of these preformed parts prior to gestation was the maternal egg, and the spermism model, in which a preformed individual or homunculus was thought to exist in the head of each sperm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Wilhelm Roux (1850-1924)

Wilhelm Roux was a nineteenth-century experimental embryologist who was best known for pioneering Entwicklungsmechanik, or developmental mechanics. Roux was born in Jena, Germany, on 9 June 1850, the only son of Clotilde Baumbach and a university fencing master, F. A. Wilhelm Ludwig Roux. Roux described himself as an aloof child, but when he was fourteen he cultivated a passion for science that was encouraged by the director at Oberrealschule in Meiningen.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Carl Gottfried Hartman (1879-1968)

Carl Gottfried Hartman researched the reproductive physiology of opossums and rhesus monkeys. He was the first to extensively study the embryology and physiology of reproduction in opossums when little was known about this mammal. Hartman worked in Texas where opossums, the only marsupial that lives in North America, were abundant. The female opossum delivers her fetal opossums in her pouch, where one can easily observe their development. After studying opossums for thirteen years, Hartman investigated the reproductive physiology of rhesus monkeys, also known as macaques.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Rosalind Elsie Franklin (1920-1958)

Rosalind Elsie Franklin worked with X-ray crystallography at King's College London, UK, and she helped determine the helical structure of DNA in the early 1950s. Franklin's research helped establish molecular genetics, a field that investigates how heredity works on the molecular level. The discovery of the structure of DNA also made future research possible into the molecular basis of embryonic development, genetic disorders, and gene manipulation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Endoderm

Endoderm is one of the germ layers-- aggregates of cells that organize early during embryonic life and from which all organs and tissues develop. All animals, with the exception of sponges, form either two or three germ layers through a process known as gastrulation. During gastrulation, a ball of cells transforms into a two-layered embryo made of an inner layer of endoderm and an outer layer of ectoderm. In more complex organisms, like vertebrates, these two primary germ layers interact to give rise to a third germ layer, called mesoderm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination in Reptiles

The sex of a reptile embryo partly results from the production of sex hormones during development, and one process to produce those hormones depends on the temperature of the embryo's environment. The production of sex hormones can result solely from genetics or from genetics in combination with the influence of environmental factors. In genotypic sex determination, also called genetic or chromosomal sex determination, an organism's genes determine which hormones are produced.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

General Embryological Information Service, published annually by the Hubrecht Laboratory, 1949-1981

The General Embryological Information Service (GEIS) was an annual report published by the Hubrecht Laboratory in Utrecht, The Netherlands from 1949 to 1981 that disseminated contemporary research information to developmental biologists. The purpose of the annual report was to catalog the names, addresses, and associated research of every developmental biologist in the world. Pieter Nieuwkoop edited each issue from 1949 until 1964, when Job Faber began assisting Nieuwkoop. Bert Z. Salome joined the editing team in 1968 before Nieuwkoop ceased editing duties in 1971.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

The inductive capacity of oral mesenchyme and its role in tooth development (1969-1970), by Edward J. Kollar and Grace R. Baird

Between February 1969 and August 1970 Edward Kollar and Grace Baird, from the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, published three papers that established the role of the mesenchyme in tooth induction. Drawing upon a history of using tissue interactions to understand differentiation, Kollar and Baird designed their experiments to understand how differentiated structures become specified. Their work overturned a widely accepted model that epithelium controls the identity of the structure, a phenomenon called structural specificity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"The Cell-Theory" (1853), by Thomas Henry Huxley

The Cell-Theory was written by Thomas Henry Huxley in Britain and published in 1853 by The British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review. The twenty-two page article reviews twelve works on cell theory, including those in Germany by Caspar Friedrich Wolff in the eighteenth century and by Karl Ernst von Baer in the nineteenth century. Huxley spends much of The Cell-Theory on a cell theory proposed in the late 1830s by Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann in Germany.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

In re Marriage of Witten (2003)

In re Marriage of Witten, decided by the Iowa Supreme Court in 2003, held that neither Tamera nor Arthur (Trip) Witten could use or destroy several cryopreserved preembryos created during their marriage using in vitro fertilization (IVF), unless the former couple could reach a mutual agreement. Tamera and Trip Witten, unable to conceive conventionally during their marriage, had attempted to start a family together using IVF at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha, Nebraska.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Ectoderm

Ectoderm is one of three germ layers--groups of cells that coalesce early during the embryonic life of all animals except maybe sponges, and from which organs and tissues form. As an embryo develops, a single fertilized cell progresses through multiple rounds of cell division. Eventually, the clump of cells goes through a stage called gastrulation, during which the embryo reorganizes itself into the three germ layers: endoderm, ectoderm, and mesoderm. After gastrulation, the embryo goes through a process called neurulation, which starts the development of nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Possums (1952), by Carl G. Hartman

Possums is a 174-page book consisting of a series of essays written about the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), the only living marsupial in the US. The essays were written by Carl Gottfried Hartman, an embryologist at the Carnegie Institute of Washington (CIW), in Baltimore, Maryland, who also worked with another mammal, the rhesus monkey. Possums was published in 1952 by Hartman's alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Beginning in 1913, while as a graduate student, and later as an instructor at UT, Hartman captured and raised opossums.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Genetic Evidence Equating SRY and the Testis-Determining Factor" (1990), by Phillippe Berta et al.

In the late 1980s, Peter Goodfellow in London, UK led a team of researchers who showed that the SRY gene in humans codes a protein that causes testes to develop in embryos. During this time, scientists in London and Paris, including Peter Koompan and John Gubbay, proposed that SRY was the gene on the Y chromosome responsible for encoding the testis-determining factor (TDF) protein. The TDF is a protein that initiates embryo to develop male characteristics.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments