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John D. Gearhart

John D. Gearhart is a renowned American developmental geneticist best known for leading the Johns Hopkins University research team that first identified and isolated human pluripotent stem cells from human primordial germ cells, the precursors of fully differentiated germ cells. Born in Western Pennsylvania, Gearhart lived on the family farm located in the Allegheny Mountains for the first six years of his life.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ian Donald (1910–1987)

Ian Donald was an obstetrician who developed the technology and therapy of ultrasound diagnostics during the twentieth century in Europe. Ultrasound is a medical diagnostic technique that uses sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. During the early 1900s, physicians had no way to see inside a woman’s uterus during pregnancy. Donald developed the first method of scanning human internal anatomy in real time, which enabled doctors to diagnose potentially fatal tumors and cysts.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Evolution and Tinkering" (1977), by Francois Jacob

In his essay Evolution and Tinkering, published in
Science in 1977, Francois Jacob argued that a common analogy
between the process of evolution by natural selection and the
methods of engineering is problematic. Instead, he proposed to
describe the process of evolution with the concept of
bricolage (tinkering). In this essay, Jacob did not deny the
importance of the mechanism of natural selection in shaping complex
adaptations. Instead, he maintained that the cumulative effects of

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

The Germ-Plasm: a Theory of Heredity (1893), by August Weismann

Friedrich Leopold August Weismann published Das
Keimplasma: eine Theorie der Vererbung (The Germ-Plasm: a
Theory of Heredity, hereafter The Germ-Plasm) while
working at the University of Freiburg in Freiburg, Germany in 1892.
William N. Parker, a professor in the University College of South
Wales and Monmouthshire in Cardiff, UK, translated The
Germ-Plasm into English in 1893. In The Germ-Plasm,
Weismann proposed a theory of heredity based on the concept of the

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

Edward Donnall Thomas (1920-2012)

Edward Donnall Thomas, an American physician and scientist, gained recognition in the scientific community for conducting the first bone marrow transplant, a pioneering form of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Bone marrow transplants are considered to be the first successful example of tissue engineering, a field within regenerative medicine that uses hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) as a vehicle for treatment. Prior to Thomas's groundbreaking work, most blood-borne diseases, including certain inherited and autoimmune diseases, were considered lethal.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation (1979-1984)

In the legal case In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation of the early 1980s, US military veterans of the Vietnam War sued the US chemical companies that had produced the herbicide Agent Orange, and those companies settled with US veterans out of court. Agent Orange contains dioxin, a chemical later shown to disrupt the hormone system of the body and to cause cancer. As veterans returned to the US from Vietnam, scientists further confirmed that exposure to Agent Orange caused a variety of cancers in veterans and developmental problems in the veterans' children.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

James William Kitching (1922-2003)

James William Kitching collected and studied fossils of dinosaurs and early humans in the twentieth century. He worked at the Bernard Price Institute for Paleontological Research in South Africa. During the fifty-three years he worked at the institute, Kitching spent eighteen of those in the field uncovering fossils. Kitching recovered fossils of early human ancestors, later called Australopithecines, as well as fossils of dinosaurs and ancient mammals. When he died in 2003, the Bernard Price Institute housed one of the largest fossil collections in the southern hemisphere.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Presence of Fetal DNA in Maternal Plasma and Serum" (1997), by Dennis Lo, et al.

In the late 1990s researchers Yuk Ming Dennis Lo and his colleagues isolated fetal DNA extracted from pregnant woman’s blood. The technique enabled for more efficient and less invasive diagnoses of genetic abnormalities in fetuses, such as having too many copies of chromosomes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Malthusian League (1877–1927)

The Malthusian League, founded in London, England, in 1877 promoted the use of contraception to limit family size. Activists Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant established the Malthusian League after they were arrested and exonerated for publishing a pamphlet describing techniques to prevent pregnancy. Founders based the league on the principles of Thomas Malthus, a British nineteenth century economist, who wrote on the perils of a population growing beyond the resources available to support it.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Outreach, Reproduction

The Debate over DNA Replication Before the Meselson-Stahl Experiment (1953–1957)

Between 1953 and 1957, before the Meselson-Stahl experiment verified semi-conservative replication of DNA, scientists debated how DNA replicated. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick proposed that DNA was composed of two helical strands that wound together in a coil. Their model suggested a replication mechanism, later termed semi-conservative replication, in which parental DNA strands separated and served as templates for the replication of new daughter strands.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was born in Delft, the Netherlands, on 24 October 1632 to Margriet Jacobsdochter van den Berch and Philips Thooniszoon, both of whom were middle-class artisans. He attended grammar school in Warmond, and then temporarily moved to Benthuizen to live with relatives. Eventually Leeuwenhoek left for Amsterdam to work as a cloth merchant's apprentice. Returning to Delft, he married Barbara de Mey on 29 July 1654, and worked as a shopkeeper. The marriage resulted in five children, only one of whom, Maria, outlived Leeuwenhoek.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"The Developmental Capacity of Nuclei Taken from Intestinal Epithelium Cells of Feeding Tadpoles" (1962), by John B. Gurdon

In 1962 researcher John Bertrand Gurdon at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, conducted a series of experiments on the developmental capacity of nuclei taken from intestinal epithelium cells of feeding tadpoles. In the experiments, Gurdon conducted nuclear transplantation, or cloning, of differentiated cells, or cells that have already specialized to become one cell type or another, in tadpoles. Gurdon's experiment showed that differentiated adult cells could be induced to an undifferentiated state, where they could once again become multiple cell types.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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.

Subject: People

Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer in Mammals (1938-2013)

In the second half of the
twentieth century, scientists learned how to clone organisms in some
species of mammals. Scientists have applied somatic cell nuclear transfer to clone human and
mammalian embryos as a means to produce stem cells for laboratory
and medical use. Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is a technology applied in cloning, stem cell
research and regenerative medicine. Somatic cells are cells that
have gone through the differentiation process and are not germ
cells. Somatic cells donate their nuclei, which scientists

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Technologies, Processes

"A Genomic Regulatory Network for Development" (2002), by Eric H. Davidson, et al.

In 2002 Eric Davidson and his research team published 'A Genomic Regulatory Network for Development' in Science. The authors present the first experimental verification and systemic description of a gene regulatory network. This publication represents the culmination of greater than thirty years of work on gene regulation that began in 1969 with 'A Gene Regulatory Network for Development: A Theory' by Roy Britten and Davidson. The modeling of a large number of interactions in a gene network had not been achieved before.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

George Otto Gey (1899-1970)

George Otto Gey was a scientist in the US who studied cells and cultivated the first continuous human cell line in 1951. Gey derived the cells for that cell line, called the HeLa cell line, from a woman called Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who had cervical cancer. Cell lines are a cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the organism from which they originated. Gey developed new techniques for in vitro, or laboratory-based, maintenance of organs and hormonal tissue, created new methods for cell cultivation, and researched nutritional media, or cell food.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics (1924), by Paul Kammerer

The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics is a book published in 1924, written by Paul Kammerer, who studied developmental biology in Vienna, Austria, in the early twentieth century. The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics summarizes Kammerer's experiments, and explains their significance. In his book, Kammerer aims to explain how offspring inherit traits from their parents. Some scholars criticized Kammerer's reports and interpretations, arguing that they were inaccurate and misleading, while others supported Kammerer's work.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

Neural Crest

Early in the process of development, vertebrate embryos develop a fold on the neural plate where the neural and epidermal ectoderms meet, called the neural crest. The neural crest produces neural crest cells (NCCs), which become multiple different cell types and contribute to tissues and organs as an embryo develops. A few of the organs and tissues include peripheral and enteric (gastrointestinal) neurons and glia, pigment cells, cartilage and bone of the cranium and face, and smooth muscle.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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

The Cabinet of Frederik Ruysch

Frederik Ruysch's cabinet of curiosities, commonly referred to simply as the Cabinet, was a museum Ruysch created in the Netherlands in the late 160ss. The Cabinet filled a series of small houses that Ruysch rented in Amsterdam and contained over 2,000 specimens, including preserved fetuses and infants. The collection remained in Amsterdam until it was purchased by Tsar Peter the Great of Russia in 1717 and transferred to St. Petersburg, Russia.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Outreach

Alec John Jeffreys (1950–)

Alec John Jeffreys created a process called DNA fingerprinting in the UK during the twentieth century. For DNA fingerprinting, technicians identify a person as the source of a biological sample by comparing the genetic information contained in the person's DNA to the DNA contained in the sample. Jeffreys developed the technique in the 1980s while at the University of Leicester in Leicester, UK. Jeffreys's technique had immediate applications. In forensic science, DNA fingerprinting enabled police to identify suspects of crimes based on their genetic identities.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

George Frederic Still (1868–1941)

George Frederic Still studied pediatrics and childhood conditions in England during the early twentieth century. In Still’s time, pediatrics, or the branch of medicine that focuses on treating and caring for children, remained largely unexplored according to biographer Joseph deBettencourt. Still helped advance pediatrics as a field by classifying and writing about diseases and conditions that arose in children. In 1897, he discovered a unique type of arthritis in children, now referred to as Still’s disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"On the Origin of Mitosing Cells" (1967), by Lynn Sagan

On the Origin of Mitosing Cells by Lynn Sagan appeared in the March 1967 edition of the Journal of Theoretical Biology. At the time the article was published, Lynn Sagan had divorced astronomer Carl Sagan, but kept his last name. Later, she remarried and changed her name to Lynn Margulis, and will be referred to as such throughout this article. In her 1967 article, Margulis develops a theory for the origin of complex cells that have enclosed nuclei, called eukaryotic cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories