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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

Francesco Redi (1626-1698)

Francesco Redi, son of Florentine physician Cecilia de' Ghinci and Gregorio Redi, was born in Arezzo, Italy, on 18 February 1626. He studied philosophy and medicine at the University of Pisa, graduating on 1 May 1647. A year later, Redi moved to Florence and registered at the Collegio Medico. There he served at the Medici Court as both the head physician and superintendent of the ducal pharmacy and foundry. Redi was also a member of the Accademia del Cimento, which flourished from 1657-1667. It was during this decade that Redi produced his most important works.

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

Ignacio Vives Ponseti (1914-2009)

Ignacio Vives Ponseti developed a noninvasive method for treating congenital club foot in the US during the late 1940s. Congenital club foot is a birth deformity in which one or both of an infant's feet are rotated inward beneath the ankle, making normal movement rigid and painful. Ponseti developed a treatment method, later called the Ponseti method, that consisted of a series of manipulations and castings of the club foot performed in the first few months of life.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Paul Kammerer's Experiments on the Midwife Toad (1905-1910)

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Paul Kammerer, a zoologist working at the Vivarium in Vienna, Austria, conducted research on developmental mechanisms, including a series of breeding experiments on toads (Alytes obstetricans). Kammerer claimed that his results demonstrated that organisms could transmit acquired characteristics to their offspring.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

The Ponseti Method to Treat Club Foot

Ignacio Vives Ponseti developed a noninvasive method for treating congenital club foot in the US during the late 1940s. Congenital club foot is a birth deformity in which one or both of an infant's feet are rotated inward beneath the ankle, making normal movement rigid and painful. Ponseti developed a treatment method, later called the Ponseti method, that consisted of a series of manipulations and castings of the club foot performed in the first few months of life.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Jan Evangelista Purkyne (1787-1869)

Jan Evangelista Purkyne, also called Johannes or Johann Evangelist Purkinje, studied cells in the cerebellum, fibers of the heart, subjective visual phenomenon, and germinal vesicle, in eastern Europe during the early nineteenth century. His investigations provided insights into various mechanisms and structures of the human body. Purkyne introduced techniques for decalcification of bones and teeth, embedding of tissue specimens, and eye examinations.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772-1844)

Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, commonly known as Geoffroy, studied animals, their anatomy and their embryos, and teratogens at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Geoffroy also helped develop several specialized fields in the life sciences, including experimental embryology. In his efforts to experimentally demonstrate the theory of recapitulation, Geoffroy developed techniques to intervene in the growth of embryos to see whether they would develop into different kinds of organisms.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Chernobyl Heart (2003)

In 2003, HBO Original Programming released the documentary Chernobyl Heart. Maryann De Leo directed and produced the film, which is about the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident and how the radiation from that accident has affected people living in the area. Side effects have included mental disabilities, physical disabilities, and genetic mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

Paul Kammerer (1880-1926)

Paul Kammerer conducted experiments on amphibians and marine animals at the Vivarium, a research institute in Vienna, Austria, in the early twentieth century. Kammerer bred organisms in captivity, and he induced them to develop particular adaptations, which Kammerer claimed the organismss offspring would inherit. Kammerer argued that his results demonstrated the inheritance of acquired characteristics, or Lamarckian inheritance. The Lamarckian theory of inheritance posits that individuals transmit acquired traits to their offspring.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, People

Paul Kammerer's Experiments on Salamanders (1903-1912)

In the early twentieth century, Paul Kammerer conducted a series of experiments to demonstrate that organisms could transmit characteristics acquired in their lifetimes to their offspring. In his 1809 publication, zoologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck had hypothesized that living beings can inherit features their parents or ancestors acquired throughout life. By breeding salamanders, as well as frogs and other organisms, Kammerer tested Lamarck's hypothesis in an attempt to provide evidence for Lamarck's theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Paul Kammerer's Experiments on Sea-squirts in the Early Twentieth Century

In the early twentieth century, Paul Kammerer, a zoologist working at the Vivarium in Vienna, Austria, experimented on sea-squirts (Ciona intestinalis). Kammerer claimed that results from his experiments demonstrated that organisms could transmit characteristics that they had acquired in their lifetimes to their offspring. Kammerer conducted breeding experiments on sea-squirts and other organisms at a time when Charles Darwin's 1859 theory of evolution lacked evidence to explain how offspring inherited traits from their parents.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Organisms

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

The Meckel-Serres Conception of Recapitulation

Johann Friedrich Meckel and Antoine Etienne Reynaud Augustin Serres developed in the early 1800s the basic principles of what later became called the Meckel-Serres Law. Meckel and Serres both argued that fetal deformities result when development prematurely stops, and they argued that these arrests characterized lower life forms, through which higher order organisms progress during normal development. The concept that the embryos of higher order organisms progress through successive stages in which they resemble lower level forms is called recapitulation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Experiments on the Reproductive Costs of a Pure Capital Breeder, the Children’s Python (Antaresia childreni) (2013), by Olivier Lourdais, Sophie Lorioux, and Dale F. DeNardo

In 2013, Olivier Lourdais, Sophie Lorioux, and Dale DeNardo conducted a study on the impact of the reproductive effort on the muscle size and the constriction strength of female Children’s pythons. Children’s pythons are pure capital breeders, meaning that they do not eat during vitellogenesis, a process in which egg-laying or oviparous species allocate bodily resources including fat, water, and protein to follicles in the ovary that develop into eggs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Etienne Stephane Tarnier (1828–1897)

Etienne Stephane Tarnier was a physician who worked with premature infants in France during the nineteenth century. He worked at the Maternité Port-Royal in
Paris, France, a hospital for poor pregnant women. Tarnier developed and introduced prototypes of
infant incubators to the Maternité in 1881. Tarnier's incubators became standard in neonatal care,
especially for premature infants, enabling doctors to save many such infants that previously would
have died.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Pierre Budin (1846-1907)

Pierre Constant Budin worked in France to improve the lives of newborns and their mothers during the late nineteenth century. Budin stressed the importance of proper nutrition in infants and educated new mothers on breastfeeding and infant care. Budin established infant care facilities and created a nutritional check-up system for infants. Budin helped design early artificial nipples, breast pumps, and incubators for premature newborns. He also began the practice of consulting with new mothers after they gave birth, redefining the roles of obstetricians.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia (1921–1996)

Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia studied fetal health in Uruguay during the second half of the twentieth century. Caldeyro-Barcia developed Montevideo units, which are used to quantify intrauterine pressure, or the force of contractions during labor. Intrauterine pressure is a useful measure of the progression of labor and the health of a fetus.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Charles Darwin's Theory of Pangenesis

In 1868 in England, Charles Darwin proposed his pangenesis theory to describe the units of inheritance between parents and offspring and the processes by which those units control development in offspring. Darwin coined the concept of gemmules, which he said referred to hypothesized minute particles of inheritance thrown off by all cells of the body. The theory suggested that an organism's environment could modify the gemmules in any parts of the body, and that these modified gemmules would congregate in the reproductive organs of parents to be passed on to their offspring.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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

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

Santiago Felipe Ramon y Cajal (1852-1934)

Santiago Felipe Ramon y Cajal investigated brains in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Spain. He identified and individuated many components of the brain, including the neuron and the axon. He used chick embryos instead of adult animals, then customary in brain research, to study the development and physiology of the cerebellum, spinal cord, and retina. Ramon y Cajal received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1906, along with Camillo Golgi, for his work on the structure of the nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860-1948)

Known by many for his wide-reaching interests and keen thinking, D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson was one of Britain's leading scientific academics in the first few decades of the twentieth century. A prodigious author, Thompson published some 300 papers, books, and articles in the biological sciences, classics, oceanography, and mathematics. He was a famous lecturer and conversationalist-a true "scholar-naturalist," as his daughter wrote in her biography of her father.

Format: Articles

Subject: People