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Essay: Homology

Homology is a central concept of comparative and evolutionary biology, referring to the presence of the same bodily parts (e.g., morphological structures) in different species. The existence of homologies is explained by common ancestry, and according to modern definitions of homology, two structures in different species are homologous if they are derived from the same structure in the common ancestor.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Processes

Hans Asperger (1906-1980)

Hans Asperger studied mental abnormalities in children in
Vienna, Austria, in the early twentieth century. Asperger was one of
the early researchers who studied the syndrome that was later named
after him, Asperger's Syndrome. Asperger described the syndrome in
his 1944 publication Die Autistischen Psychopathen im
Kindesalter (Autistic Psychopathy in Childhood). At that time,
the syndrome was called autistic psychopathy, and Asperger noted
that characteristics of the syndrome included lack of sympathy,

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Leo Loeb (1869-1959)

Leo Loeb developed an experimental approach to studying cancer and pioneered techniques for tissue culture and in vitro tissue transplantation which impacted early-to-mid twentieth century experimental embryology. Loeb received his medical degree from the University of Zurich in 1897. As part of his doctorate, he completed a thesis on the outcomes of tissue transplantation in guinea pigs. Loeb's thesis inspired a life-long interest in tissue transplantation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Hans Spemann (1869-1941)

Hans Spemann was an experimental embryologist best known for his transplantation studies and as the originator of the "organizer" concept. One of his earliest experiments involved constricting the blastomeres of a fertilized salamander egg with a noose of fine baby hair, resulting in a partially double embryo with two heads and one tail.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Karl Ernst von Baer's Laws of Embryology

In 1828, while working at the University of Konigsberg in Konigsberg, Germany Karl Ernst von Baer proposed four laws of animal development, which came to be called von Baer's laws of embryology. With these laws, von Baer described the development (ontogeny) of animal embryos while also critiquing popular theories of animal development at the time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Walter Stanborough Sutton (1877-1916)

Walter Stanborough Sutton studied grasshoppers and connected the phenomena of meiosis, segregation, and independent assortment with the chromosomal theory of inheritance in the early twentieth century in the US. Sutton researched chromosomes, then called inheritance mechanisms. He confirmed a theory of Wilhelm Roux, who studied embryos in Breslau, Germany, in the late 1880s, who had argued that chromosomes and heredity were linked. Theodor Boveri, working in Munich, Germany, independently reached similar conclusions about heredity as Sutton.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Seed Banking 1979-1994

In the early twentieth century, scientists and agriculturalists collected plants in greenhouses, botanical gardens, and fields. Seed collection efforts in the twentieth century coincided with the professionalization of plant breeding. When scientists became concerned over the loss of plant genetic diversity due to the expansion of a few agricultural crops around mid-century, countries and organizations created seed banks for long-term seed storage.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

George Wells Beadle (1903-1989)

George Wells Beadle studied corn, fruit flies, and funguses in the US during the twentieth century. These studies helped Beadle earn the 1958 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Beadle shared the prize with Edward Tatum for their discovery that genes help regulate chemical processes in and between cells. This finding, initially termed the one gene-one enzyme hypothesis, helped scientists develop new techniques to study genes and DNA as molecules, not just as units of heredity between generations of organisms.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Walter Jakob Gehring (1939-2014)

Walter Jakob Gehring discovered the homeobox, a DNA segment found in a specific cluster of genes that determine the body plan of animals, plants, and fungi. Gehring identified the homeobox in 1983, with the help of colleagues while isolating the Antennapedia (Antp) gene in fruit flies (Drosophila) at the University of Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Hox genes, a family of genes that have the homeobox, determine the head-to-tail (anterior-posterior) body axis of both vertebrates and invertebrates.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Curt Jacob Stern (1902-1981)

Curt Jacob Stern studied radiation and chromosomes in humans and fruit flies in the United States during the twentieth century. He researched the mechanisms of inheritance and of mitosis, or the process in which the chromosomes in the nucleus of a single cell, called the parent cell, split into identical sets and yield two cells, called daughter cells. Stern worked on the Drosophila melanogaster fruit fly, and he provided early evidence that chromosomes exchange genetic material during cellular reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Estrogen and the Menstrual Cycle in Humans

Estrogen is the primary sex hormone in women and it functions during the reproductive menstrual cycle. Women have three major types of estrogen: estrone, estradiol, and estriol, which bind to and activate receptors within the body. Researchers discovered the three types of estrogen over a period of seven years, contributing to more detailed descriptions of the menstrual cycle. Each type of estrogen molecule contains a slightly different arrangement or number of atoms that in turn causes some of the estrogens to be more active than others.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Reproduction

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818-1865)

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis demonstrated that the use of disinfectants could reduce the occurrence of puerperal fever in patients in nineteenth century Austria. Puerperal fever is a bacterial infection that can occur in the uterine tract of women after giving birth or undergoing an abortion. Semmelweis determined that puerperal fever is contagious and argued that the unhygienic practices of physicians, like examining patients after performing autopsies, caused the spread of puerperal fever.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Hermann Joseph Muller (1890-1967)

Hermann Joseph Muller studied the effects of x-ray radiation on genetic material in the US during the twentieth century. At that time, scientists had yet to determine the dangers that x-rays presented. In 1927, Muller demonstrated that x-rays, a form of high-energy radiation, can mutate the structure of genetic material. Muller warned others of the dangers of radiation, advising radiologists to protect themselves and their patients from radiation. He also opposed the indiscriminate use of radiation in medical and industrial fields.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Katharina Dorothea Dalton (1916–2004)

Katharina Dorothea Dalton was a physician in England in the twentieth century who defined premenstrual syndrome (PMS) as a cluster of symptoms suspected to begin one to two weeks before menstruation and disappear upon the onset of a new menstrual cycle. Prior to Dalton, there was little research on pre-menstrual issues and those that existed linked the problem to excessive water retention or estrogen. Dalton hypothesized that PMS resulted from a deficiency in the hormone progesterone and advocated for hormone replacement therapy to lessen the symptoms of the syndrome.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Mitochondria

All cells that have a nucleus, including plant, animal, fungal cells, and most single-celled protists, also have mitochondria. Mitochondria are particles called organelles found outside the nucleus in a cell's cytoplasm. The main function of mitochondria is to supply energy to the cell, and therefore to the organism. The theory for how mitochondria evolved, proposed by Lynn Margulis in the twentieth century, is that they were once free-living organisms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms, Theories

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

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

Francois Jacob (1920-2013)

Francois Jacob studied in
bacteria and bacteriophages at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France,
in the second half of the twentieth century. In 1965, Jacob won the
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Andre M. Lwoff and
Jacques L. Monod for their work on the genetic control of enzyme
synthesis. Jacob studied how genes control and regulate metabolic
enzymes in the bacterium Escherichia
coli (E. coli) and in lysogenic
bacterial systems. He contributed to theories of transcriptional gene

Format: Articles

Subject: People

August Friedrich Leopold Weismann (1834-1914)

August Friedrich Leopold Weismann studied how the traits of organisms developed and evolved in a variety of organisms, mostly insects and aquatic animals, in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Weismann proposed the theory of the continuity of germ-plasm, a theory of heredity. Weismann postulated that germ-plasm was the hereditary material in cells, and parents transmitted to their offspring only the germ-plasm present in germ-cells (sperm and egg cells) rather than somatic or body cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Max Ludwig Henning Delbruck (1906–1981)

Max Ludwig Henning Delbrick applied his knowledge of theoretical physics to biological systems such as bacterial viruses called bacteriophages, or phages, and gene replication during the twentieth century in Germany and the US. Delbrück demonstrated that bacteria undergo random genetic mutations to resist phage infections. Those findings linked bacterial genetics to the genetics of higher organisms. In the mid-twentieth century, Delbrück helped start the Phage Group and Phage Course in the US, which further organized phage research.

Format: Articles

Subject: People