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Milan Vuitch (1915–1993)

Milan Vuitch was an abortion provider in the twentieth century, who performed thousands of abortions in Washington, DC, at a time when abortions were legal only if they preserved the life or health of the pregnant woman. Vuitch was a frequent critic of Washington DC’s anti-abortion law and was arrested multiple times for providing abortions that were not considered necessary to preserve the pregnant woman’s life. After several arrests, Vuitch challenged the law under which he had been arrested, and his case made its way to the Supreme Court in Vuitch v. United States.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274)

Widely known as a key contributor to the Roman Catholic Church's body of doctrine, St. Thomas Aquinas also published an opinion on the moral status of embryos and fetuses that seems contradictory to the Catholic Church's current standpoint on the matter. Born in Naples, Italy, around 1225 (scholars debate the exact year of many of his life events) to wealthy nobility, Thomas Aquinas quickly proved himself a pious and astute scholar with an insatiable desire for logic and understanding.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion

Nancy Goodman Brinker (1946– )

Nancy Goodman Brinker founded the largest breast cancer organization in the US, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, during the twentieth century. In 1982, Brinker created the organization, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, in memory of her sister, who had died of breast cancer two years earlier. During the early twentieth century, breast cancer was socially stigmatized, very few people discussed the disease, and there were limited treatment options available for those diagnosed with the disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

Mother Teresa, a Roman Catholic nun known for her charitable work and attention to the poor, was born 26 August 1910. The youngest child of Albanian parents Nikola and Drane Bojaxhiu, she was christened Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu and spent her early life in the place of her birth, present-day Skopje, in the Republic of Macedonia. In addition to her unwavering devotion to serve the sick and the poor, Mother Teresa firmly defended traditional Catholic teachings on more controversial issues, such as contraception and abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

Pope John Paul II's views on abortion and embryology have been very influential to the Roman Catholic Church. He strictly forbade abortion and other threats to what he regarded as early human life in his encyclical entitled "Evangelium Vitae," meaning the "Gospel of Life." His authority on moral and social issues was highly regarded during his lifetime.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, 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

Robert Geoffrey Edwards (1925-2013)

Robert Geoffrey Edwards worked with Patrick Christopher Steptoe to develop in-vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques during the 1960s and 1970s in the United Kingdom. Louise Brown, the world' s first "test-tube baby," was born as a result of Edwards and Steptoe's IVF techniques in 1978, and since then more than four million children have been born using IVF techniques. Publicity and controversy accompanied Edwards and Steptoe's work as conservative religious institutions expressed concern over the morality of the IVF procedure.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Zhang Lizhu (1921- )

Zhang Lizhu is a Chinese gynecologist and researcher. For most of her career, she worked in the Peking Medical College Third Hospital, renamed in 2000, Peking University Third Hospital. There, she led a team of researchers and physicians in the study of human in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET) technology. Zhang and her colleagues contributed to the birth of the first test-tube baby in Mainland China in 1988.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Bernard Nathanson (1926-2011)

Bernard Nathanson was an obstetrician and gynecologist in New York City, New York, who argued for, and later against, women's rights to abortion. Between 1970 and 1979, Nathanson oversaw at least 75,000 abortions, 5,000 of which he performed himself, earning him the nickname of abortion king. However, his views regarding abortion shifted in 1973, after he watched an abortion using ultrasound imaging technology. Afterwards, Nathanson began to oppose women's rights to abortion, and he published the anti-abortion book Aborting America and produced the film Silent Scream.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

John Charles Rock (1890-1984)

Born on 24 March 1890 in Marlborough, Massachusetts, to Ann and Frank Rock, John Charles Rock was both a devout Catholic and one of the leading investigators involved in the development of the first oral contraceptive pill. In 1925 he married Anna Thorndike, with whom he later had five children. He spent over thirty years of his career as a clinical professor of obstetrics at Harvard Medical School, and in 1964 the Center for Population Studies of the Harvard School of Public Health established the John Rock Professorship.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

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

Girolamo Fabrici (1537-1619)

Girolamo Fabrici, known as Hieronymus Fabricius in Latin, was given the surname Aquapendente from the city where he was born, near Orvieto, Italy. Born in 1533, Fabrici was the eldest son of a respected noble family, whose coat of arms appears as an illustration in the title page of Fabrici's book on embryology, De formato foetu. Little is known of Fabrici's parents. His father is recorded as Fabricio, and Fabrici is said to have been named for his paternal grandfather.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Georgeanna Seegar Jones (1912-2005)

Georgeanna Seegar Jones was a reproductive endocrinologist who created one of America' s most successful infertility clinics in West Virginia and eventually, along with her husband Howard W. Jones MD, performed the first in vitro fertilization in America, leading to the birth of Elizabeth Jordan Carr. Jones was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on 6 July 1912. Her father, Dr. John King Beck Emory Seegar, was a practicing physician at the time working in the field of obstetrics.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Pope Pius XII (1876-1958)

Pope Pius XII was born Eugenio Maria Giuseppi Giovanni Pacelli on 2 March 1876 in Rome, Italy, to Virginia and Filippo Pacelli. Known for his oft-disputed role in the Roman Catholic Church's approach to the Nazis and World War II, Pope Pius XII also contributed a number of important documents regarding conception, fertility, abortion, and reproductive control to the Vatican's collection of writings and doctrine on procreation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Lennart Nilsson (1922- )

Lennart Nilsson is a world-renowned photojournalist recognized for his exploratory images of the inside of the human body. Throughout his career, Nilsson has received a great deal of publicity for his images documenting the human reproductive system and the morphology of viruses. His photography was the first to capture early human development and the developmental stages of embryos and fetuses. These images have helped shape the way the public visualizes development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Outreach, 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

Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins (1926-2010)

Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins devoted much of his professional life to obstetric research. Liggins demonstrated that hormones created by the fetus helped initiate labor, rather than hormones originating solely from the mother. Liggins also discovered that cortisol given to pregnant mothers helped delay premature labor, and that it increased the likelihood that premature infants would breathe normally after birth. Prior to cortisol treatment, premature infants often died of respiratory distress syndrome characterized by the inability to inflate immature lungs.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Landrum Brewer Shettles (1909-2003)

Landrum Brewer Shettles is remembered as an important contributor to early in vitro fertilization research in the United States as well as a prolific author on the subject of choosing a child's sex before conception. Shettles was born in Pontotoc County, Mississippi on 21 November 1909 to Sue Mounce and Brazil Manly. Shettles trained and worked as a gynecologist at Columbia University Presbyterian Medical Center, after receiving his MD in 1943 from Johns Hopkins University.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Pope Pius XI (1857-1939)

Pope Pius XI, born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, was born to the wealthy owner of a silk factory on 31 May 1857 in Desio, Italy. He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of eighteen, at which time he began a long life devoted to study, peacekeeping, and the betterment of societies around the world. Pius XI is noted here for his contribution to the Roman Catholic Church's early twentieth century approach to issues regarding contraception and abortion, which was presented in his December 1930 encyclical "Casti Connubii."

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Abraham Trembley (1710-1784)

Abraham Trembley's discovery of the remarkable regenerative capacity of the hydra caused many to question their beliefs about the generation of organisms. Born 3 September 1710 to a prominent Geneva family, Trembley studied at the Calvin Institute, now the University of Geneva, where he completed his thesis on calculus. He went on to become tutor for Count William Bentinck's two sons, and it was while teaching the boys natural history that Trembley came across a strange organism in a sample of pond water.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

José Pedro Balmaceda (1948- )

José Pedro Balmaceda was born 22 August 1948 in Santiago, Chile. His mother Juanita owned a women's boutique in the city and his father José was a successful owner of several timber mills. He grew up with five sisters who remained in Santiago all their lives. Balmaceda attended the college preparatory school San Ignatius where he met Sergio Stone, his future partner at the Center for Reproductive Health fertility clinic in the University of California Irvine Medical Center.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

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

Pope Paul VI (1897-1978)

Pope Paul VI, born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, has been crucial to the clarification of Roman Catholic views on embryos and abortion in recent history. His 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae" spoke to the regulation of birth through various methods of contraception and sterilization. This encyclical, a result of Church hesitancy to initiate widespread discussion of the issue in a council of the Synod of Bishops, led to much controversy in the Church but established a firm Catholic position on the issues of birth control and family planning.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Father Frank Pavone (1959- )

Father Frank Pavone, a key proponent of the Roman Catholic Church's pro-life movement, has devoted his life's work to ending abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and other techniques and procedures that he believes threaten human life from conception to death. His contributions to the pro-life movement include founding a new religious order called the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life and participating in high-profile protests and television interviews for the pro-life cause.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes (1880-1958)

Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 15 October 1880 to Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, a suffragist, and Henry Stopes, an archaeologist and anthropologist. A paleobotanist best known for her social activism in the area of sexuality, Stopes was a pioneer in the fight to gain sexual equality for women. Her activism took many forms including writing books and pamphlets, giving public appearances, serving on panels, and, most famously, co-founding the first birth control clinic in the United Kingdom.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction