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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

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

Ovism

Ovism was one of two models of preformationism, a theory of generation prevalent in the late seventeenth through the end of the eighteenth century. Contrary to the competing theory of epigenesis (gradual emergence of form), preformationism held that the unborn offspring existed fully formed in the eggs or sperm of its parents prior to conception. The ovist model held that the maternal egg was the location of this preformed embryo, while the other preformationism model known as spermism preferred the paternal germ cell, as the name implies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Charles Bonnet (1720-1793)

Charles Bonnet was a naturalist and philosopher in the mid eighteenth century. His most important contribution to embryology was the discovery of parthenogenesis in aphids, proving that asexual reproduction of offspring was possible. In his later life, he was an outspoken defender of the theory of generation now known as preformationism, which stated that offspring exist prior to conception preformed in the germ cell of one of their parents.

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

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

On the Generation of Animals, by Aristotle

Aristotle's On the Generation of Animals is referred to in Latin as De Generatione animalium. As with many of Aristotle's writings, the exact date of authorship is unknown, but it was produced in the latter part of the fourth century B.C. This book is the second recorded work on embryology that is treated as a subject of philosophy, being preceded by contributions in the Hippocratic corpus by about a century.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Sergio Cereceda Stone (1942- )

Sergio Cereceda Stone was born 16 April 1942 in the coastal city of Valparaiso, Chile. Stone's mother Luz was a housewife and caretaker for Sergio and his younger brother Lionel; his father Sergio served among the country's twenty appellate court judges. In the early 1950s Stone's father relocated the family to Santiago to further his law career.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction

Pearl Mao Tang (1922– )

A licensed obstetrician and gynecologist, Pearl Tang worked to improve the health of women and children in Maricopa County, Arizona, during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Her work with the Maricopa County Health Department ranged from immunizations to preventing cervical cancer. Tang obtained federal grants and community support to establish various child and maternal health clinics throughout Maricopa County as chief of the Maricopa County Bureau of Maternal and Child Health.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Outreach

South Korea's Bioethics and Biosafety Act (2005)

The South Korean government passed the Bioethics and Biosafety Act, known henceforth as the Bioethics Act, in 2003 and it took effect in 2005. South Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare proposed the law to the South Korean National Assembly to allow the progress of biotechnology and life sciences research in South Korea while protecting human research subjects with practices such as informed consent. The Bioethics Act establishes a National Bioethics Committee in Seoul, South Korea.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

Leo Kanner (1894-1981)

Leo Kanner studied and described early infantile autism in humans in the US during the twentieth century. Though Eugen Bleuler first coined the term autism in 1910 as a symptom of schizophrenia, Kanner helped define autism as a disease concept separate from schizophrenia. He helped found an early child psychiatry department in 1930 at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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.

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

Priscilla White (1900–1989)

Priscilla White studied
the treatment of diabetes in mothers, pregnant women, and
children during the twentieth century in the US. White began
working with children with Type 1 diabetes in 1924 at Elliott
Proctor Joslin’s practice in Boston, Massachusetts. Type 1
diabetes is an incurable disease where the pancreas produces
little to no insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows the body
to use sugar from food for energy and store sugars for future
use. Joslin and White co-authored many publications on children

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

The Magdalene Sisters (2002)

In 2002, Miramax Entertainment released The Magdalene Sisters, a film that portrays an interpretation of the true events experienced by four young women who were forcibly placed into a Magdalene asylum in Dublin, Ireland, in 1964. Catholic nuns ran Magdalene asylums throughout the world, where they forced women whom society deemed sexually promiscuous to perform hard labor in their laundry facilities. The film portrays the experiences of four women, Margaret, Bernadette, Rose, and Crispina, as they experienced negative treatment from the nuns and sought escape.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

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