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In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation (1979-1984)

In the legal case In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation of the early 1980s, US military veterans of the Vietnam War sued the US chemical companies that had produced the herbicide Agent Orange, and those companies settled with US veterans out of court. Agent Orange contains dioxin, a chemical later shown to disrupt the hormone system of the body and to cause cancer. As veterans returned to the US from Vietnam, scientists further confirmed that exposure to Agent Orange caused a variety of cancers in veterans and developmental problems in the veterans' children.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

Bernard Sachs (1858-1944)

Bernard Sachs studied nervous system disorders in children in the
United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the
late 1880s, Sachs described the fatal genetic neurological disorder
called amaurotic family idiocy, later renamed Tay-Sachs disease. The
disorder degrades motor skills as well as mental abilities in
affected individuals. The expected lifespan of a child with
Tay-Sachs is three to five years. In addition to working on
Tay-Sachs disease, Sachs described other childhood neurological and

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Benjamin Harrison Willier (1890-1972)

Benjamin Harrison Willier is considered one of the most versatile embryologists to have ever practiced in the US. His research spanned most of the twentieth century, a time when the field of embryology evolved from being a purely descriptive pursuit to one of experimental research, to that of incorporating molecular biology into the research lab. Willier was born on 2 November 1890 near Weston, Ohio to Mary Alice Ricard. He spent his childhood doing farming chores and running the farm while his father, David Willier worked as a banker.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"The Limited In Vitro Lifetime of Human Diploid Cell Strains" (1964), by Leonard Hayflick

Leonard Hayflick in the US during the early 1960s showed that normal populations of embryonic cells divide a finite number of times. He published his results as 'The Limited In Vitro Lifetime of Human Diploid Cell Strains' in 1964. Hayflick performed the experiment with WI-38 fetal lung cells, named after the Wistar Institute, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Hayflick worked. Frank MacFarlane Burnet, later called the limit in capacity for cellular division the Hayflick Limit in 1974.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"A molecular wound response program associated with regeneration initiation in planarians" (2012), by Danielle Wenemoser et al.

In 2012, a team of scientists across the US conducted an experiment to find the mechanism that allowed a group of flatworms, planarians, to regenerate any body part. The group included Danielle Wenemoser, Sylvain Lapan, Alex Wilkinson, George Bell, and Peter Reddien. They aimed to identify genes that are expressed by planarians in response to wounds that initiated a regenerative mechanism. The researchers determined several genes as important for tissue regeneration.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

The Debate over DNA Replication Before the Meselson-Stahl Experiment (1953–1957)

Between 1953 and 1957, before the Meselson-Stahl experiment verified semi-conservative replication of DNA, scientists debated how DNA replicated. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick proposed that DNA was composed of two helical strands that wound together in a coil. Their model suggested a replication mechanism, later termed semi-conservative replication, in which parental DNA strands separated and served as templates for the replication of new daughter strands.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

William Keith Brooks (1848-1908)

Biologist William Keith Brooks studied embryological development in invertebrates and used his results as evidence for theories of evolution and ancestral heredity. He founded a marine biological laboratory where his and others' embryological studies took place. Later in life, Brooks became head of the Biology Department at Johns Hopkins University where he helped shape the minds of leading embryologists.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

John von Neumann's Cellular Automata

Cellular automata (CA) are mathematical models used to simulate complex systems or processes. In several fields, including biology, physics, and chemistry, CA are employed to analyze phenomena such as the growth of plants, DNA evolution, and embryogenesis. In the 1940s John von Neumann formalized the idea of cellular automata in order to create a theoretical model for a self-reproducing machine. Von Neumann's work was motivated by his attempt to understand biological evolution and self-reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Peter Mazur (1928–2015)

Peter Mazur was a researcher in the US who developed new ways of preserving biological material by freezing it, a process called cryopreservation. If done correctly, cryopreservation enables scientists to store or study biological material for an extended period of time. If done incorrectly, cryopreservation can easily harm or destroy biological material. Mazur worked to find the best ways to cryopreserve different cells, embryos, and organs in order to minimize the damage caused by freezing.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Alec Jeffreys’s Experiments to Identify Individuals by Their Beta-globin Genes (1977-1979)

In a series of experiments in the late 1970s, Alec J. Jeffreys in the UK and Richard A. Flavell in the Netherlands developed a technique to detect variations in the DNA of different individuals. They compared fragments of DNA from individuals’ beta-globin genes, which produce a protein in hemoglobin. Previously, to identify biological material, scientists focused on proteins rather than on genes. But evidence about proteins enabled scientists only to exclude, but not to identify, individuals as the sources of the biological samples.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945)

Although best known for his work with the fruit fly, for which he earned a Nobel Prize and the title "The Father of Genetics," Thomas Hunt Morgan's contributions to biology reach far beyond genetics. His research explored questions in embryology, regeneration, evolution, and heredity, using a variety of approaches.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954)

Alan Mathison Turing was a British mathematician and computer scientist who lived in the early twentieth century. Among important contributions in the field of mathematics, computer science, and philosophy, he developed a mathematical model of morphogenesis. This model describing biological growth became fundamental for research on the process of embryo development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799)

Lazzaro Spallanzani's imaginative application of experimental methods, mastery of microscopy, and wide interests led him to significant contributions in natural history, experimental biology, and physiology. His detailed and thoughtful observations illuminated a broad spectrum of problems ranging from regeneration to the genesis of thunderclouds.

Format: Articles

Subject: People