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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

Abraham Trembley (1710-1784)

Abraham Trembley's discovery of the remarkable regenerative capacity of the hydra caused many to question their beliefs about the generation of organisms. Born 3 September 1710 to a prominent Geneva family, Trembley studied at the Calvin Institute, now the University of Geneva, where he completed his thesis on calculus. He went on to become tutor for Count William Bentinck's two sons, and it was while teaching the boys natural history that Trembley came across a strange organism in a sample of pond water.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Estrogen and the Menstrual Cycle in Humans

Estrogen is the primary sex hormone in women and it functions during the reproductive menstrual cycle. Women have three major types of estrogen: estrone, estradiol, and estriol, which bind to and activate receptors within the body. Researchers discovered the three types of estrogen over a period of seven years, contributing to more detailed descriptions of the menstrual cycle. Each type of estrogen molecule contains a slightly different arrangement or number of atoms that in turn causes some of the estrogens to be more active than others.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Reproduction

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

Clinical Tests of Estrogen Injections on Women with Abnormal Menstrual Cycles During the Early 1920s by Jean Paul Pratt and Edgar Allen

In the early twentieth century US, Jean Paul Pratt and Edgar Allen conducted clinical experiments on women who had abnormal menstrual cycles. During the clinical tests, researchers injected the hormone estrogen into their patients to alleviate their menstrual ailments, which ranged from irregular cycles to natural menopause. The hormone estrogen plays a prominent role in the menstrual cycle by signaling the tissue lining the uterus (endometrium) to thicken in preparation for possible pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Edgar Allen (1892–1943)

Edgar Allen identified and outlined the role of female sex hormones and discovered estrogen in the early 1900s in the US. In 1923, Allen, through his research with mice, isolated the primary ovarian hormone, later renamed estrogen, from ovarian follicles and tested its effect through injections in the uterine tissues of mice. Allen’s work on estrogen, enabled researchers to further study hormones and the endocrine system.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Spermism

Spermism was one of two models of preformationism, a theory of embryo generation prevalent in the late seventeenth through the end of the eighteenth century. Spermist preformationism was the belief that offspring develop from a tiny fully-formed fetus contained within the head of a sperm cell. This model developed slightly later than the opposing ovist model because sperm cells were not seen under the microscope until about 1677.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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

Frederik Ruysch (1638-1731)

Frederik Ruysch made anatomical drawings and collected and preserved human specimens, many of which were infants and fetuses, in the Netherlands during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Ruysch had many interests, including anatomy, botany, and medicine, and he discovered structures of the lymphatic system and of the eye. His collection of preserved human specimens were used as educational tools for his students and for other physicians, and they were displayed in a museum of his own making that was open to the public.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Cabinet of Frederik Ruysch

Frederik Ruysch's cabinet of curiosities, commonly referred to simply as the Cabinet, was a museum Ruysch created in the Netherlands in the late 160ss. The Cabinet filled a series of small houses that Ruysch rented in Amsterdam and contained over 2,000 specimens, including preserved fetuses and infants. The collection remained in Amsterdam until it was purchased by Tsar Peter the Great of Russia in 1717 and transferred to St. Petersburg, Russia.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Outreach

Theodor Heinrich Boveri (1862-1915)

Theodor Boveri investigated the mechanisms of heredity. He developed the chromosomal theory of inheritance and the idea of chromosomal individuality. Boveri sought to provide a comprehensive explanation for the hereditary role and behavior of chromosomes. He hoped that his experiments would also help to distinguish the roles of the nucleus and the cytoplasm in embryogenesis. Boveri was particularly interested in how offspring are shaped by the attributes of their parents.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Wilhelm Friedrich Phillip Pfeffer (1845-1920)

Wilhelm Friedrich Phillip Pfeffer studied plants in Germany during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He started his career as an apothecary, but Pfeffer also studied plant physiology, including how plants move and react to changes in light, temperature, and osmotic pressure. He created the Pfeffer Zelle apparatus, also known as the Pfeffer Cell, to study osmosis in plants. PfefferÕs experiments led to new theories about the structure and development of plants.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564)

Andreas Vesalius, also called Andries van Wesel, studied anatomy during the sixteenth century in Europe. Throughout his career, Vesalius thoroughly dissected numerous human cadavers, and took detailed notes and drawings of his research. Compiling his research, Vesalius published an anatomy work titled De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the fabric of the human body in seven books). The Fabrica included illustrations of dissected men, women, and uteruses with intact fetuses.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“Diethylstilbestrol in the Prevention and Treatment of Complications of Pregnancy” (1948), by Olive Watkins Smith

In 1948, Olive Watkins Smith published 'Diethylstilbestrol in the Prevention and Treatment of Complications of Pregnancy' in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In 632 women treated with diethylstilbestrol, Smith demonstrated that the drug stimulated the production of progesterone, a hormone that regulates the uterine condition during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Osmotic Investigations: Studies on Cell Mechanics (1877), by Wilhelm Pfeffer

Wilhelm Pfeffer published his book Osmotische Untersuchungen: Studien Zur Zellmechanik (Osmotic Investigations: Studies on Cell Mechanics) in 1877 during his time as a professor of botany at the University of Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Gordon R. Kepner and Eduard J. Stadelmann translated the book into English in 1985. Verlag von Wilhelm Engelmann in Leipzig, Germany, published the original book in German in 1877 and Van Nostrand Reinhold Company in New York, New York, published the English version in 1985.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Dinosaur Egg Parataxonomy

Dinosaur egg parataxonomy is a classification system that organizes dinosaur eggs by descriptive features such as shape, size, and shell thickness. Though egg parataxonomy originated in the nineteenth century, Zi-Kui Zhao from Beijing, China, developed a modern parataxonomic system in the late twentieth century. Zhao's system, published in 1975, enabled scientists to organize egg specimens according to observable features, and to communicate their findings.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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

Regeneration

Regeneration is a fascinating phenomenon. The fact that many organisms have the capacity to regenerate lost parts and even remake complete copies of themselves is difficult to fathom; so difficult, in fact, that for a very long time people were reluctant to believe regeneration actually took place. It seemed unbelievable that some organisms could re-grow lost limbs, organs, and other body parts. If only we could do the same!

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Homunculus

The term homunculus is Latin for "little man." It is used in neurology today to describe the map in the brain of sensory neurons in each part of the body (the somatosensory homunculus). An early use of the word was in the 1572 work by Paracelsus regarding forays into alchemy, De Natura Rerum, in which he gave instructions in how to create an infant human without fertilization or gestation in the womb. In the history of embryology, the homunculus was part of the Enlightenment-era theory of generation called preformationism.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

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

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

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) is a rare placental disease that can occur at any time during pregnancy involving identical twins. TTTS occurs when there is an unequal distribution of placental blood vessels between fetuses, which leads to a disproportionate supply of blood delivered. This unequal allocation of blood leads to developmental problems in both fetuses that can range in severity depending on the type, direction, and number of interconnected blood vessels.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Regnier de Graaf (1641-1673)

Regnier de Graaf, a Dutch physician and anatomist, was born 30 July 1641 in Schoonhoven, the Netherlands. Though he published papers on both pancreatic and male reproductive anatomy, he is best known for his discovery of the mature ovarian follicles as well as his contributions to the general body of knowledge surrounding the female mammalian reproductive organs.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014) by Mary Dore

In 2014, Mary Dore directed the documentary 'She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,' which details the events and accomplishments of the women’s liberation movement from 1966 to the early 1970s in the United States. The film features commentaries from more than thirty activists who worked to advance the women’s movement. Throughout the film, the activists describe the timeline of events that led to women’s improved access to reproductive healthcare and a reduction in sexual discrimination in the US.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Free Hospital for Women Scrapbook by Harvard University Library

This scrapbook is part of the Harvard University Library's collection on "Working Women, 1800-1930," which is itself part of the Open Collections Program. The print version is located at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. It contains information about the hospital, including articles from newspapers, magazines, and other publications; photographs of the hospital, employees, and special events; lecture announcements; letters and other forms of correspondence; ration cards; tickets; forms; certificates; posters; programs; and playbills.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Ethics, Reproduction

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