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Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680)

Jan Swammerdam, known as the founder of the preformation theory based on his extensive research on insect development, was born on 12 February 1637 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Baertje Jans Corvers and Jan Jacobszoon Swammerdam. He began medical school on 11 October 1661 at the University of Leiden. A few of his classmates included Regnier de Graaf, Frederik Ruysch, Niels Stensen (Nicolaus Steno), and Robertus Padtbrugge. Padtbrugge would later join the East India Company and send Swammerdam exotic animals.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Jan Dembowski

Format: Photographs

Subject: People

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

Purkinje Cells

Purkinje cells, also called Purkinje neurons, are neurons in vertebrate animals located in the cerebellar cortex of the brain. Purkinje cell bodies are shaped like a flask and have many threadlike extensions called dendrites, which receive impulses from other neurons called granule cells. Each cell also has a single projection called an axon, which transmits impulses to the part of the brain that controls movement, the cerebellum. Purkinje cells are inhibitory neurons: they secrete neurotransmitters that bind to receptors that inhibit or reduce the firing of other neurons.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Regnier de Graaf (1641-1673)

Regnier de Graaf, a Dutch physician and anatomist, was born 30 July 1641 in Schoonhoven, the Netherlands. Though he published papers on both pancreatic and male reproductive anatomy, he is best known for his discovery of the mature ovarian follicles as well as his contributions to the general body of knowledge surrounding the female mammalian reproductive organs.

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

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

Frederik Ruysch (1638-1731)

Frederik Ruysch made anatomical drawings and collected and preserved human specimens, many of which were infants and fetuses, in the Netherlands during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Ruysch had many interests, including anatomy, botany, and medicine, and he discovered structures of the lymphatic system and of the eye. His collection of preserved human specimens were used as educational tools for his students and for other physicians, and they were displayed in a museum of his own making that was open to the public.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

A History of Embryology (1959), by Joseph Needham

In 1931 embryologist and historian Joseph Needham published a well-received three-volume treatise titled Chemical Embryology. The first four chapters from this work were delivered as lectures on Speculation, Observation, and Experiment, as Illustrated by the History of Embryology at the University of London. The same lectures were later released as a book published in 1934 titled A History of Embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840)

In eighteenth century Germany, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach studied how individuals within a species vary, and to explain such variations, he proposed that a force operates on organisms as they develop. Blumenbach used metrical methods to study the history of humans, but he was also a natural historian and theorist. Blumenbach argued for theories of the transformation of species, or the claim that new species can develop from existing forms.

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

Regeneration

Regeneration is a fascinating phenomenon. The fact that many organisms have the capacity to regenerate lost parts and even remake complete copies of themselves is difficult to fathom; so difficult, in fact, that for a very long time people were reluctant to believe regeneration actually took place. It seemed unbelievable that some organisms could re-grow lost limbs, organs, and other body parts. If only we could do the same!

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Reassessment of Carrel's Immortal Tissue Culture Experiments

In the 1910s, Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon and biologist, concluded that cells are intrinsically immortal. His claim was based on chick-heart tissue cultures in his laboratory that seemed to be able to proliferate forever. Carrel's ideas about cellular immortality convinced his many contemporaries that cells could be maintained indefinitely. In the 1960s, however, Carrel's thesis about cell immortality was put into question by the discovery that human diploid cells can only proliferate for a finite period.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Theories

Edward B. Lewis (1918-2004)

Edward B. Lewis studied embryonic development in Drosophila, including the discovery of the cis-trans test for recessive genes, and the identification of the bithorax complex and its role in development in Drosophila. He shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Eric F. Wieschaus for work on genetic control of early embryonic development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Endoscopy

Endoscopy is a medical procedure that enables the viewing and biopsy of, and surgery on, internal tissues and organs. Endoscopic examinations are characterized by the introduction of a tube containing a series of lenses into the body through either an incision in the skin or a natural opening or cavity. During the mid-twentieth century, photographer Lennart Nilsson used endoscopes to capture the now-familiar images of embryos and fetuses.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Fetal Surgery

Fetal surgeries are a range of medical interventions performed in utero on the developing fetus of a pregnant woman to treat a number of congenital abnormalities. The first documented fetal surgical procedure occurred in 1963 in Auckland, New Zealand when A. William Liley treated fetal hemolytic anemia, or Rh disease, with a blood transfusion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Ethics, Reproduction

Charles Benedict Davenport (1866-1944)

Charles Benedict Davenport was an early twentieth-century experimental zoologist. Davenport founded both the Station for Experimental Evolution and the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor in New York. Though he was a talented statistician and skilled scientist, Davenport's scientific achievements are eclipsed by his lasting legacy as the scientific leader of the eugenics movement in the US.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Victor Jollos (1887-1941)

Victor Jollos studied fruit flies and
microorganisms in Europe and the US, and he introduced the concept of
Dauermodifikationen in the early 1900s. The concept of
Dauermodifikationen refers to environmentally-induced traits that are
heritable for only a limited number of generations. Some scientists
interpreted the results of Jollos's work on Paramecium and Drosophila as
evidence for cytoplasmic inheritance. Jollos was forced to emigrate from
Germany to the United States due to anti-semitic government policies in

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) is a rare placental disease that can occur at any time during pregnancy involving identical twins. TTTS occurs when there is an unequal distribution of placental blood vessels between fetuses, which leads to a disproportionate supply of blood delivered. This unequal allocation of blood leads to developmental problems in both fetuses that can range in severity depending on the type, direction, and number of interconnected blood vessels.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Chorionic Villus Sampling

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a test used for prenatal diagnosis. Safe to perform at an earlier stage in pregnancy than amniocentesis, CVS is another invasive prenatal diagnostic test that can be performed as early as ten weeks after the woman's last menstrual cycle. While this test does carry some risks, it is generally very effective at predicting heritable diseases during or soon after the embryonic stage of development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Wilhelm Johannsen's Genotype-Phenotype Distinction

Wilhelm Johannsen in Denmark first proposed the distinction between genotype and phenotype in the study of heredity in 1909. This distinction is between the hereditary dispositions of organisms (their genotypes) and the ways in which those dispositions manifest themselves in the physical characteristics of those organisms (their phenotypes). This distinction was an outgrowth of Johannsen's experiments concerning heritable variation in plants, and it influenced his pure line theory of heredity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen (1857-1927)

Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen studied plants and helped found the field of genetics, contributing methods and concepts to the study of heredity around the turn of the twentieth century in Denmark. His experiments on heredity and variation in plants influenced the methods and techniques of geneticists, and his distinction between the genotype of an organism-its hereditary disposition-and its phenotype-its observable characteristics-remains at the core of contemporary biology. Johannsen criticized biological explanations that relied on concepts such as vitalism and teleology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Alexis Carrel (1873-1944)

Alexis Carrel was a doctor and researcher who studied tissue cultures. He continued Ross Granville Harrison's research and produced many improvements in the field of tissue culture and surgery. He was the recipient of the 1912 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his development of surgical techniques to repair blood vessels. Carrel was born on 28 June 1873 in Sainte-Foy-les-Lyon, France, to Anne-Marie Ricard and Alexis Carrel Billiard. His father died when he was five years old.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Lap-Chee Tsui (1950-)

Lap-Chee Tsui is a geneticist who discovered the cystic fibrosis (CF) gene, and his research team sequenced human chromosome 7. As the location of the cystic fibrosis gene is now known, it is possible for doctors and specialists to identify in human fetuses the mutation that causes the fatal disease. Tsui's research also outlined the mechanisms for the development of cystic fibrosis, which were previously unknown.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Alexis Carrel's Immortal Chick Heart Tissue Cultures (1912-1946)

In an effort to develop tissue culture techniques for long-term tissue cultivation, French surgeon and biologist Alexis Carrel, and his associates, produced and maintained a series of chick heart tissue cultures at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City. From 1912 to 1946, this series of chick heart tissue cultures remained alive and dividing. Since the duration of this culture greatly exceeded the normal chick life span, the cells were deemed immortal.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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