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Viktor Hamburger's Study of Central-Peripheral Relations in the Development of Nervous System
An important question throughout the history of embryology is whether the formation of a biological structure is predetermined or shaped by its environment. If both intrinsic and environmental controls occur, how exactly do the two processes coordinate in crafting specific forms and functions? When Viktor Hamburger started his PhD study in embryology in the 1920s, few neuroembryologists were investigating how the central neurons innervate peripheral organs.
James Alexander Thomson (1958- )
James Alexander Thomson, affectionately known as Jamie Thomson, is an American developmental biologist whose pioneering work in isolating and culturing non-human primate and human embryonic stem cells has made him one of the most prominent scientists in stem cell research. While growing up in Oak Park, Illinois, Thomson's rocket-scientist uncle inspired him to pursue science as a career. Born on 20 December 1958, Thomson entered the nearby University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign nineteen years later as a National Merit Scholar majoring in biophysics.
Oswald Theodore Avery (1877-1955)
Oswald Theodore Avery studied strains of pneumococcus of the genus Streptococcus in the US in the first half of the twentieth century. This bacterium causes pneumonia, a common cause of death at the turn of the twentieth century. In a 1944 paper, Avery demonstrated with colleagues Colin Munro MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty that deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, instead of protein, formed the material of heritable transformation in bacteria. Avery helped untangle some of the relationships between genes and developmental processes.
William Bateson (1861-1926)
At the turn of the twentieth century, William Bateson studied organismal variation and heredity of traits within the framework of evolutionary theory in England. Bateson applied Gregor Mendel's work to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and coined the term genetics for a new biological discipline. By studying variation and advocating Mendelian genetics, Bateson furthered the field of genetics, encouraged the use of experimental methodology to study heredity, and contributed to later theories of genetic inheritance.
The Cell in Development and Inheritance (1900), by Edmund Beecher Wilson
The Cell in Development and Inheritance, by Edmund Beecher Wilson, provided a textbook introduction to cell biology for generations of biologists in the twentieth century. In his book, Wilson integrated information about development, inheritance, chromosomes, organelles, and the structure and functions of cells. First published in 1896, the book started with 371 pages, grew to 483 pages in the second edition that appeared in 1900, and expanded to 1,231 pages by the third and final edition in 1925.
“Maternal Stress Responses and Anxiety During Pregnancy: Effects on Fetal Heart Rate” (2000), by Catherine Monk, William Fifer, Michael Myers, Richard Sloan, Leslie Trien, and Alicia Hurtado
In 2000, Catherine Monk, William Fifer, Michael Myers, Richard Sloan, Leslie Trien, and Alicia Hurtado published “Maternal stress responses and anxiety during pregnancy: Effects on fetal heart rate,” in which the authors conducted a study on how pregnant women’s stress and anxiety affects the health of their fetuses. Previous studies had shown that stress and anxiety during pregnancy could cause fetal abnormalities.
Subject: Publications, Disorders
Agent Orange as a Cause of Spina Bifida
Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the spines of developing fetuses and infants, and research in the 20th century indicated that chemicals in the herbicide Agent Orange likely lead to the birth defect. People with spina bifida can have nerve damage, paralysis, and mental disabilities. During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, the US military employed Agent Orange and other herbicides to destroy enemy crops and forest cover until 1970.
Hermann Joseph Muller's Study of X-rays as a Mutagen, (1926-1927)
Hermann Joseph Muller conducted three experiments in 1926 and 1927 that demonstrated that exposure to x-rays, a form of high-energy radiation, can cause genetic mutations, changes to an organism's genome, particularly in egg and sperm cells. In his experiments, Muller exposed fruit flies (Drosophila) to x-rays, mated the flies, and observed the number of mutations in the offspring. In 1927, Muller described the results of his experiments in "Artificial Transmutation of the Gene" and "The Problem of Genic Modification".
Austin Bradford Hill (1897-1991)
During the twentieth century, Austin Bradford Hill researched diseases and their causes in England and developed the Bradford Hill criteria, which comprise the minimal requirements that must be met for a causal relationship to be established between a factor and a disease. Hill also suggested that researchers should randomize clinical trials to evaluate the effects of a drug or treatment by monitoring large groups of people.
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.
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
The Miracle of Life (1983), by NOVA
The most-watched NOVA documentary ever made and a revolution in the understanding of human development, The Miracle of Life (abbreviated Life) employs the most current developments in endoscopic and microscopic technology to capture the intricacies of human development. Narrated by Anita Sangiolo and vividly illustrating the most minute and hard-to-reach parts and processes of living systems, this film truly flexes the muscles of the newest photographic technology of its time, with esteemed photographer Lennart Nilsson behind the camera.
Subject: Outreach, Reproduction
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.
Subject: People, Reproduction
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.
Harry Hamilton Laughlin (1880-1943)
Harry Hamilton Laughlin helped lead the eugenics
movement in the United States during the early twentieth century.
The US eugenics movement of the early twentieth century sought to
reform the genetic composition of the United States population through
sterilization and other restrictive reproductive measures. Laughlin
worked as superintendent and assistant director of the Eugenics
Research Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold
Spring Harbor, New York, alongside director Charles Davenport.
Subject: People, Reproduction
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990)
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 established the legal framework that governs infertility treatment, medical services ancillary to infertility treatment such as embryo storage, and all human embryological research performed in the UK. The law also defines a legal concept of the parent of a child conceived with assisted reproductive technologies.
Subject: Legal, Reproduction, Ethics
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.
Images of Embryos in Life Magazine in the 1950s
Embryonic images displayed in Life magazine during the mid-twentieth century serve as a representation of technological advances and the growing public interest in the stages of embryological development. These black-and-white photographs portray skeletal structures and intact bodies of chicken embryos and human embryos and fetuses obtained from collections belonging to universities and medical institutions.
Subject: Outreach, Publications, Reproduction
Mizuko Kuyo is a Japanese Buddhist ceremony that focuses on a deceased fetus or stillborn child. This ceremony was originally developed to honor Jizo, a god believed to be responsible for transporting dead fetuses or children to the other world. The practice has become more popular in the last half century due to the growing number of abortions taking place and the particular views that Japanese Buddhists have about fetuses and abortion.
Subject: Religion, Reproduction
Humanae Vitae (1968), by Pope Paul VI
The "Humanae Vitae," meaning "Of Human Life" and subtitled "On the Regulation of Birth," was an encyclical promulgated in Rome, Italy, on 25 July 1968 by Pope Paul VI. This encyclical defended and reiterated the Roman Catholic Church's stance on family planning and reproductive issues such as abortion, sterilization, and contraception. The document continues to have a controversial reputation today, as its statements regarding birth control strike many Catholics as unreasonable.
Subject: Religion, Reproduction
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.
The Case of Lydia Fairchild and Her Chimerism (2002)
In 2002, after applying for government assistance in the state of Washington, Lydia Fairchild was told that her two children were not a genetic match with her and that therefore, biologically, she could not be their mother. Researchers later determined that the genetic mismatch was due to chimerism, a condition in which two genetically distinct cell lines are present in one body. The state accused Fairchild of fraud and filed a lawsuit against her.
Hodgson v. Minnesota (1990)
In the 1990 case Hodgson v. Minnesota, the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., upheld Minnesota statute 144.343, which required physicians to notify both biological parents of minors seeking abortions forty-eight hours prior to each procedure. The US Supreme Court determined that a state could legally require physicians to notify both parents of minors prior to performing abortions as long as they allowed for a judicial bypass procedure, in which courts could grant exceptions. The Supreme Court’s decision in Hodgson v.
Environment and Birth Defects (1973), by James G. Wilson
Environment and Birth Defects by James Graves Wilson in the US was published in 1973. The book summarized information on the causes of malformations in newborns and aimed to acquaint policy makers with Wilson's suggestions for predicting the risks of environmental causes of birth defects, called teratogens. Wilson also provided six principles for researching teratogens, a framework revised from his 1959 article Experimental Studies on Congenital Malformations. The book has ten chapters.
US Regulatory Response to Thalidomide (1950-2000)
Thalidomide, a drug capable of causing fetal abnormalities (teratogen), has caused greater than ten thousand birth defects worldwide since its introduction to the market as a pharmaceutical agent. Prior to discovering thalidomide's teratogenic effects in the early 1960s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not place regulations on drug approval or monitoring as it later did. By 1962, approximately 20,000 patients in the US had taken thalidomide as part of an unregulated clinical trial before any actions were taken to stop thalidomide's distribution.
Subject: Legal, Reproduction