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Fortunio Liceti (1577–1657)

Fortunio Liceti studied natural philosophy and medicine in Italy during the first half of the seventeenth century. Liceti wrote greater than seventy works on a wide range of topics, including the human soul, reproduction, and birth defects observed in animals and human infants. In the seventeenth century, people commonly addressed birth defects using superstition and considered them as signs of evil, possibly caused by spiritual or supernatural entities. Liceti described infants with birth defects as prodigies and monsters to be admired and studied rather than feared.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Emma Goldman (1869–1940)

Emma Goldman was a traveling public speaker and writer known for her anarchist political views as well as her opinions on contraception and birth limiting in the late nineteenth century in the United States. Goldman identified as an anarchist, which she explained as being part of an ideology in which people use violence to provoke or demand social and political change. Goldman was involved in many anarchist social groups and published the anarchist magazine Mother Earth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Barbara Seaman (1935–2008)

Barbara Seaman was a writer, investigator, and advocate for female healthcare rights during the twentieth century in the United States. Seaman’s work addressed the gendered prejudice she observed in the US healthcare system and argued that women of the 1960s lacked the proper tools to make informed decisions about pregnancy care, breastfeeding, childbirth, and contraception. Seaman wrote the book The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill in 1969 to expose the dangers in prescribing and consuming high doses of estrogen in the form of birth control.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ina May Gaskin (1940– )

Ina May Gaskin is a certified professional midwife, or CPM, in the US during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. She worked at the Farm Midwifery Center in Summertown, Tennessee, a center well known for its low rates of intervention, which contributed to low rates of maternal and fetal mortality. One technique Gaskin used when assisting women with delivery helped resolve a complication called shoulder dystocia, which is when a part of the infant’s body is delivered, but the rest of the body is stuck in the birth canal.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Evelyn Lorraine Rothman (1932–2007)

Evelyn Lorraine Rothman advocated for women’s reproductive rights and invented at-home kits for women’s health concerns in the late twentieth century in Los Angeles, California. Rothman provided women in the Los Angeles area with the means to perform self-examinations, pregnancy tests, and abortions on their own without assistance from a medical professional. Along with Carol Downer, Rothman cofounded the Federation of Feminist Health Centers in Los Angeles, California, and spent her career educating women on reproductive health.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Norman Haire (1892-1952)

Norman Haire was a physician who advocated for eugenics, which is the betterment of human population by promoting positive traits, and birth control rights in the twentieth century in both Australia and the UK. In the UK, Haire joined the Malthusian League, a contraception advocacy organization, and helped the League open the first physician-supervised birth control clinic, called Walworth Women’s Welfare Centre in London, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Josef Warkany (1902–1992)

Josef Warkany studied the environmental causes of birth defects in the United States in the twentieth century. Warkany was one of the first researchers to show that factors in the environment could cause birth defects, and he helped to develop guidelines for the field of teratology, the study of birth defects. Prior to Warkany’s work, scientists struggled to explain if or how environmental agents could cause birth defects. Warkany demonstrated that a deficiency or excess of vitamin A in maternal nutrition could cause birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Sidney Q. Cohlan (1915-1999)

Sidney Q. Cohlan studied birth defects in the US during the twentieth century. Cohlan helped to discover that if a pregnant woman ate too much vitamin A her fetus faced a higher than normal risk of teratogenic effects, such as cleft palate. A teratogen is a substance that causes malformation of a developing organism. Cohlan also identified the teratogenic effects of several other substances including a lack of normal magnesium and prenatal exposure to the antibiotic tetracycline.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)

Virginia Apgar worked as an obstetrical anesthesiologist, administering drugs that reduce women’s pain during childbirth, in the US in the mid-twentieth century. In 1953, Apgar created a scoring system using five easily assessable measurements, including heart rate and breathing rate, to evaluate whether or not infants would benefit from medical attention immediately after birth. Apgar’s system showed that infants who were previously set aside as too sick to survive, despite low Apgar scores, could recover with immediate medical attention.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Otto Rank (1884–1939)

Otto Rank studied how birth impacts individuals’ psychology and creates anxiety throughout their lives in Europe and the US during the nineteenth century. In his book The Trauma of Birth, Rank stated that birth was extremely traumatic and that one spent his or her whole life trying to recover from the experience of being born and harshly separated from the peaceful womb. He argued that the trauma experienced at birth is the source of all human suffering and the key to understanding anxiety later in life.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Joseph Bolivar DeLee (1869–1942)

Joseph Bolivar DeLee was an obstetrician in the US between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who advocated for the specialized teaching of medical students in the field of obstetrics to address problems occurring during pregnancy. He claimed obstetricians maintained a wider skillset than midwives, and founded the Chicago Lying-In Hospital to provide affordable obstetric care to women in Chicago, Illinois.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Thomas Raphael Verny (1936– )

During the twentieth century, Thomas Raphael Verny studied the way that environment affects a developing fetus’s character and psychological development. Verny studied the concept of memory before birth and covered both the prenatal and perinatal periods, meaning the time the fetus is in the womb and the weeks immediately before or after birth, respectively. During those times, Verny claimed that patterns of maternal attitudes and experiences, such as affection and stress-related emotions, impact the development of the child.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

William John Little (1810–1894)

William John Little was one of the first orthopedic surgeons to research congenital malformations and their causes in the nineteenth century and presented preliminary research on a condition modernly known as cerebral palsy, a condition of varying severity that affects a person’s ability to move. Little worked throughout the United Kingdom for the majority of the time he practiced medicine, and eventually founded one of the first orthopedic infirmaries, the Royal Orthopedic Hospital in London, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Disorders

Ernest John Christopher Polge (1926-2006)

Twentieth-century researcher Ernest John Christopher Polge studied the reproductive processes of livestock and determined a method to successfully freeze, thaw, and utilize viable sperm cells to produce offspring in animals. In 1949, Polge identified glycerol as a cryoprotectant, or a medium that enables cells to freeze without damaging their cellular components or functions. Several years later, Polge used glycerol in a freezing process called vitrification, which enabled him to freeze poultry sperm, thaw that sperm, and use it to fertilize vertebrate embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Margaret Higgins Sanger (1879-1966)

Margaret Higgins Sanger advocated for birth control in the United States and Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although people used contraceptives prior to the twentieth century, in the US the 1873 Comstock Act made the distribution of information relating to the use of contraceptives illegal, and similar state-level Comstock laws also classified discussion and dissemination of contraceptives as illegal.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproductive Health Arizona, Reproduction, Outreach

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

Margaret Ann Bulkley (James Barry) (1789−1865)

Margaret Ann Bulkley, under the male pseudonym James Barry, was one of the first female obstetricians in early nineteenth century British Empire. She was the first person to perform a cesarean section in South Africa. Cesarean section is a procedure in which a doctor cuts into the uterus of a pregnant woman to retrieve the fetus during complicated births. Bulkley hid her gender and lived life as the male Barry to practice medicine, an opportunity not allowed to women at the time.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

James Marion Sims (1813-1883)

James Marion Sims developed a surgical cure for ruptures of the wall separating the bladder from the vagina during labor, ruptures called vesico-vaginal fistulas, and he developed techniques and tools used to improve reproductive examinations and health care for women in the US during the nineteenth century. Sims's lateral examination position allowed doctors to better see the vaginal cavity, and his speculum, a spoon-like object used for increased view into the vagina, helped to make gynecological examinations more thorough.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Stanley Alan Plotkin (1932– )

Stanley Alan Plotkin developed vaccines in the United States during the mid to late twentieth century. Plotkin began his research career at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he studied the rubella virus. In pregnant women, the rubella virus caused congenital rubella syndrome in the fetus, which led to various malformations and birth defects. Using WI-38 cells, a line of cells that originated from tissues of aborted fetuses, Plotkin successfully created RA27/3, a weakened strain of the rubella virus, which he then used to develop a rubella vaccine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Jesse Bennett (1769–1842)

Jesse Bennett, sometimes spelled Bennet, practiced medicine in the US during the late eighteenth century and performed one of the first successful cesarean operations, later called cesarean sections, in 1794. Following complications during his wife’s childbirth, Bennett made an incision through her lower abdomen and uterus to deliver their infant. Bennett’s biographers report that his operation was the first cesarean section where both the pregnant woman and the infant survived.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Henry Morgentaler (1923-2013)

Henry Morgentaler was a physician who performed abortions, acted as a reproductive rights activist, and advocated for legal access to abortions in Canada during the twentieth century. In 1969, he opened his first abortion clinic in Canada and participated in the legal/court case of R v. Morgentaler (1988), which led Canada to decriminalize abortion. Morgentaler helped establish legal access to abortions for women in Canada and advocated for the protection of women's reproductive choices under the law.

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

Marshall Henry Klaus (1927–2017)

Marshall Henry Klaus was a scientist and pediatrician who studied maternal-infant bonding in the twentieth century in the United States. Maternal-infant bonding is the psychological and chemical attachment between mother and infant. Klaus cofounded DONA International, an organization that trains birthing aides, called doulas, to provide physical and emotional support to laboring mothers. He also studied the differences between the layouts and quality of care provided in nurseries and birthing centers in different countries and compared them to those found in the United States.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Mary Coffin Ware Dennett (1872-1947)

Mary Coffin Ware Dennett advocated for social reform in the United States in the early twentieth century, particularly regarding sex education and women's rights to access contraception. Dennett authored several publications on sex education and birth control laws. She also worked to repeal the Comstock Act, a federal law that made it illegal to distribute obscene materials through the US Postal Services.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

John George Children (1777–1852)

John George Children described several species of insects and animals while working at the British Museum in London, England, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Children also conducted research on chemical batteries called voltaic cells and briefly studied and manufactured gunpowder. One of the species he described, the Children’s python, or Antaresia children, was used in the twenty-first century as the subject of experiments that involved the biological cost of reproduction in snakes.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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