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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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Gregory Goodwin Pincus (1903-1967)

Gregory Goodwin Pincus, one of the original researchers responsible for the development of the first oral contraceptive pill, was born in Woodbine, New Jersey, on 19 April 1903 to Russian Jewish parents. In 1924 Pincus received his BS degree from Cornell University, and in 1927 he received his MS and PhD from Harvard University, having studied under William Ernest Castle and William John Crozier.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Pope Gregory XIV (1535-1591)

Pope Gregory XIV, born Nicolo Sfondrati, reversed the bull of Pope Sixtus V, Effraenatum, under which an abortion at any time of gestation can be punished by excommunication. He supported the Aristotelian distinction between an "animated" and "unanimated" fetus, making abortion of an unanimated fetus punishable by lesser means. This decision contributed to the historical debates within the Roman Catholic Church on when a fetus has a soul, and when abortion was punishable by excommunication.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Enovid: The First Hormonal Birth Control Pill

Enovid was the first hormonal birth control pill. G. D. Searle and Company began marketing Enovid as a contraceptive in 1960. The technology was created by the joint efforts of many individuals and organizations, including Margaret Sanger, Katharine McCormick, Gregory Pincus, John Rock, Syntex, S.A. Laboratories, and G.D. Searle and Company Laboratories.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Seed Collection and Plant Genetic Diversity, 1900-1979

Farmers have long relied on genetic diversity to breed new crops, but in the early 1900s scientists began to study the importance of plant genetic diversity for agriculture. Scientists realized that seed crops could be systematically bred with their wild relatives to incorporate specific genetic traits or to produce hybrids for more productive crop yields.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Muriel Wheldale Onslow (1880-1932)

Muriel Wheldale Onslow studied flowers in England with genetic and biochemical techniques in the early twentieth century. Working with geneticist William Bateson, Onslow used Mendelian principles and biochemical analysis together to understand the inheritance of flower colors at the beginning of the twentieth century. Onslow's study of snapdragons, or Antirrhinum majus, resulted in her description of epistasis, a phenomenon in which the phenotypic effect of one gene is influenced by one or more other genes. She discovered several biochemicals related to color formation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Robert Geoffrey Edwards's Study of in vitro Mammalian Oocyte Maturation, 1960 to 1965

In a series of experiments between 1960 and 1965, Robert Geoffrey Edwards discovered how to make mammalian egg cells, or oocytes, mature outside of a female's body. Edwards, working at several research institutions in the UK during this period, studied in vitro fertilization (IVF) methods. He measured the conditions and timings for in vitro (out of the body) maturation of oocytes from diverse mammals including mice, rats, hamsters, pigs, cows, sheep, and rhesus monkeys, as well as humans.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

"Experiments on Embryonic Induction III. A Note on Inductions by Chick Primitive Streak Transplanted to the Rabbit Embryo" (1934), by Conrad Hal Waddington

Conrad Hal Waddington's "Experiments on Embryonic Induction III," published in 1934 in the Journal of Experimental Biology, describes the discovery that the primitive streak induces the mammalian embryo. Waddington's hypothesis was that a transplanted primitive streak could induce neural tissue in the ectoderm of the rabbit embryo. The primitive streak defines the axis of an embryo and is capable of inducing the differentiation of various tissues in a developing embryo during gastrulation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

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

Pope Sixtus V (1520-1590)

Known for dropping a long-held distinction in the Catholic Church between the animated and unanimated fetus, Felice Peretti was born in Grottamare, Italy, in 1521, son of a Dalmatian gardener. In his early years, Peretti worked as a swineherd, but soon became involved in the local Minorite convent in Montalto, where he served as a novice at the age of twelve. He went on to study in Montalto, Ferrara, and Bologna, continuing his devotion to religious life, and in 1547 Peretti was ordained as priest in the city of Siena.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Pope Pius IX (1792-1878)

Pope Pius IX, born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, marked his contribution to the abortion debate by removing the distinction between an "animated" and "unanimated" fetus from Catholic doctrine, and established the edict that a human should be protected starting from the moment of conception onward. This proclamation made abortion at any time of gestation punishable by excommunication. Pope Pius IX's decision became Canon Law of the Catholic Church.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Progestin: Synthetic Progesterone

Progestin is a synthetic form of progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone, which plays an important role in the female reproductive cycle. During the 1950s two types of progestin that were later used in birth control pills were created, norethindrone and norethynodrel. In 1951 Carl Djerassi developed norethindrone at Syntex, S.A. laboratories located in Mexico City, receiving a patent on 1 May 1956. In 1953 Frank Colton developed norethynodrel at G.D. Searle and Company laboratories located in Chicago, receiving a patent on 29 November 1955.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

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

Katharine McCormick (1876-1967)

Katharine Dexter McCormick, who contributed the majority of funding for the development of the oral contraceptive pill, was born to Josephine and Wirt Dexter on 27 August 1875 in Dexter, Michigan. After growing up in Chicago, Illinois, she attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she graduated in 1904 with a BS in biology. That same year, she married Stanley McCormick, the son of Cyrus McCormick, inventor and manufacturer of the mechanized reaper.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction

"Effraenatam" (1588), by Pope Sixtus V

"Effraenatam," the brain-child of Pope Sixtus V, was released as a papal bull in the year 1588. Papal bulls are formal declarations issued by the pope of the Roman Catholic Church and are named for their authenticating leaden seals (bullas). This particular document became famous for its official forbiddance of all procured abortions. "Effraenatam," meaning "without restraint," is often regarded as a specific response to increasing rates of prostitution and procured abortions in the Papal States, though this is not discussed in the actual document.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion, Reproduction

Ovum Humanum: Growth, Maturation, Nourishment, Fertilization and Early Development (1960), by Landrum Brewer Shettles

Ovum Humanum was written and compiled by Dr. Landrum Brewer Shettles while he worked as a doctor in New York. The publication contains an atlas of photographs of the human egg cell that Shettles took while working at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Stechert-Hafner, Inc, a publishing company based in New York City, published the book in 1960. The book presents a collection of color photographs that shows detail of the human egg that had never been seen before, providing a reference for scientists and doctors that documented the anatomy of these cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction

Francis Maitland Balfour (1851-1882)

During the 1870s and early 1880s, the British morphologist Francis Maitland Balfour contributed in important ways to the budding field of evolutionary embryology, especially through his comparative embryological approach to uncovering ancestral relationships between groups. As developmental biologist and historian Brian Hall has observed, the field of evolutionary embryology in the nineteenth century was the historical ancestor of modern-day evolutionary developmental biology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Experiments in Plant Hybridization" (1866), by Johann Gregor Mendel

During the mid-nineteenth century, Johann Gregor Mendel experimented with pea plants to develop a theory of inheritance. In 1843, while a monk in the Augustian St Thomas's Abbey in Brünn, Austria, now Brno, Czech Repubic, Mendel examined the physical appearance of the abbey's pea plants (Pisum sativum) and noted inconsistencies between what he saw and what the blending theory of inheritance, a primary model of inheritance at the time, predicted.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Johann Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)

Johann Gregor Mendel studied plants and their patterns of inheritance in Austria during the nineteenth century. Mendel experimented with the pea plant, Pisum, and his publication, 'Versuche uber Pflanzenhybriden' (“Experiments on Plant Hybridization”), published in 1866, revolutionized theories of trait inheritance. Mendel’s discoveries relating to factors, traits, and how they pass between generations of organisms enabled scientists in the twentieth century to build theories of genetics.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Jacques Loeb (1859-1924)

Jacques Loeb experimented on embryos in Europe and the United States at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. Among the first to study embryos through experimentation, Loeb helped found the new field of experimental embryology. Notably, Loeb showed scientists how to create artificial parthenogenesis, thus refuting the idea that spermatozoa alone were necessary to develop eggs into embryos and confirming the idea that the chemical constitution of embryos environment affected their development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Roman Catholic Church Quickening

Although the concept of quickening was not developed initially by the Roman Catholic Church, much of their histories are intertwined. Quickening, the point at which a pregnant woman can first feel the movements of the growing embryo or fetus, has long been a pivotal moment in pregnancy. Historically, it has also been a pivotal moment for law and the Church in deciding the criminal and religious sanctions for women who intentionally procured an abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion

Min Chueh Chang (1908-1991)

As one of the researchers involved in the development of the oral contraceptive pill, Min Chueh Chang helped to revolutionize the birth control movement. Although best known for his involvement with "the pill," Chang also made a number of discoveries throughout his scientific career involving a range of topics within the field of reproductive biology. He published nearly 350 articles in scientific journals.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

The Boys from Brazil (1978)

The Boys from Brazil is a science fiction film based on the novel of the same name by Ira Levin about an underground neo-Nazi society in South America trying to clone Adolf Hitler, the dictator of Nazi Germany during World War II, to restore the Nazi movement. The film was directed by Franklin Schaffner and released in 1978 by 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles, California. The Boys from Brazil is a film that was one of the first films to depict cloning, and to discuss the ethical implications of genetic engineering, cloning, and eugenics.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Nikolai Ivanovic Vavilov (1887-1943)

Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov proposed theories of plant genetic diversity and participated in the political debate about genetics in Soviet Russia in the early twentieth century. Vavilov collected plant species around the world, building one of the first and most comprehensive seed banks, and he spent much of his life researching plant breeding and genetics. Vavilov also developed a theory of the historical centers of origin of cultivated plants. Vavilov spent most of his scientific career in Russia, although he studied abroad and traveled extensively.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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