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Alfred Day Hershey (1908–1997)

During the twentieth century in the United States, Alfred Day Hershey studied phages, or viruses that infect bacteria, and experimentally verified that genes were made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Genes are molecular, heritable instructions for how an organism develops. When Hershey started to study phages, scientists did not know if phages contained genes, or whether genes were made of DNA or protein. In 1952, Hershey and his research assistant, Martha Chase, conducted phage experiments that convinced scientists that genes were made of DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Altruism and the Origin of the Worker Caste" from The Ants (1990), by Bert Hölldobler and Edward Osborne Wilson

In 'Altruism and the Origin of the Worker Caste,' Bert Hölldobler and Edward Osborne Wilson explore the evolutionary origins of worker ants. 'Altruism and the Origin of the Worker Caste' is the fourth chapter of Hölldobler and Wilson's book, The Ants, which was published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1990. In 'Altruism and the Origin of the Worker Caste,' Hölldobler and Wilson evaluate various explanations for how a non-reproductive caste of ant evolved.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

The Sex Side of Life (1919) by Mary Ware Dennett

Mary Ware Dennett, an activist in the US for birth control and sex education in the early twentieth century, wrote an educational pamphlet in 1915 called “The Sex Side of Life, and it was published in 1919. The pamphlet defined the functions of the sex organs, emphasized the role of love and pleasure in sex, and described other sexual processes of the body not usually discussed openly.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

David Reimer and John Money Gender Reassignment Controversy: The John/Joan Case

In the mid-1960s, psychologist John Money encouraged the gender reassignment of David Reimer, who was born a biological male but suffered irreparable damage to his penis as an infant. Born in 1965 as Bruce Reimer, his penis was irreparably damaged during infancy due to a failed circumcision. After encouragement from Money, Reimer’s parents decided to raise Reimer as a girl. Reimer underwent surgery as an infant to construct rudimentary female genitals, and was given female hormones during puberty.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Pfeffer Cell Apparatus

The Pfeffer Zelle (Pfeffer Cell Apparatus), invented by Wilhelm Pfeffer in 1877, measured the minimum pressure needed to prevent a pure solvent from passing into a solution across a semi-permeable membrane, called osmotic pressure. The apparatus provided Pfeffer with a way to quantitatively measure osmotic pressure. Pfeffer devised the apparatus in the 1870s at the University of Basel in Basel, Switzerland, and he described the Pfeffer Cell Apparatus in his 1877 book Osmotische Untersuchungen: Studien Zur Zellmechanik (Osmotic Investigations: Studies on Cell Mechanics).

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

“Sierra Leone’s Former Child Soldiers: A Longitudinal Study of Risk, Protective Factors, and Mental Health” (2010), by Theresa S. Betancourt, Robert T. Brennan, Julia Rubin-Smith, Garrett M. Fitzmaurice, and Stephen E. Gilman

In 2010, Theresa S. Betancourt, Robert T. Brennan, Julia Rubin-Smith, Garrett M. Fitzmaurice, and Stephen E. Gliman, published “Sierra Leone’s Former Child Soldiers: A Longitudinal Study of Risk, Protective Factors, and Mental Health” in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The paper describes the results of a longitudinal study of former Sierra Leone child soldiers that examines how protective and risk factors affect children’s post-conflict mental health outcomes over several years of development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Alec Jeffreys’s Experiments to Identify Individuals by Their Beta-globin Genes (1977-1979)

In a series of experiments in the late 1970s, Alec J. Jeffreys in the UK and Richard A. Flavell in the Netherlands developed a technique to detect variations in the DNA of different individuals. They compared fragments of DNA from individuals’ beta-globin genes, which produce a protein in hemoglobin. Previously, to identify biological material, scientists focused on proteins rather than on genes. But evidence about proteins enabled scientists only to exclude, but not to identify, individuals as the sources of the biological samples.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Plowman v. Fort Madison Community Hospital (2017)

In June 2017, the Iowa Supreme Court decided the case Plowman v. Fort Madison Community Hospital, or Plowman v. FMCH, and ruled that women who gave birth to children with severe disabilities could sue for wrongful birth in Iowa. Specifically, after Plowman v. FMCH, a woman could sue for wrongful birth if she believed that her physicians failed to disclose evidence of fetal abnormalities that may have prompted her to terminate the pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Vegas Baby (2016)

In 2016, Runaway Films released the documentary Vegas Baby. The film, directed by Amanda Micheli, follows three women who struggle with infertility problems as they undergo in vitro fertilization, or IVF treatment, to become pregnant. In IVF treatment, a woman’s egg is fertilized by a sperm outside of the woman’s body. Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, a fertility doctor places the fertilized egg back into the woman’s uterus. The three women in the film enter the I Believe contest hosted by the Sher Institute of Reproductive Medicine in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

The Hershey-Chase Experiments (1952), by Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase

In 1951 and 1952, Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase conducted a series of experiments at the Carnegie Institute of Washington in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, that verified genes were made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Hershey and Chase performed their experiments, later named the Hershey-Chase experiments, on viruses that infect bacteria, also called bacteriophages. The experiments followed decades of scientists’ skepticism about whether genetic material was composed of protein or DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“Studies on the Chemical Nature of the Substance Inducing Transformation of Pneumococcal Types: Induction of Transformation by a Desoxyribonucleic Acid Fraction Isolated from Pneumococcus Type III” (1944) by Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty

In 1944, Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty published an article in which they concluded that genes, or molecules that dictate how organisms develop, are made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. The article is titled “Studies on the Chemical Nature of the Substance Inducing Transformation of Pneumococcal Types: Induction of Transformation by a Desoxyribonucleic Acid Fraction Isolated from Pneumococcus Type III,” hereafter “Transformation.” The authors isolated, purified, and characterized genes within bacteria and found evidence that those genes were made of DNA and not protein.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Bellotti v. Baird (1979)

On 2 July 1979, the United States Supreme Court decided Bellotti v. Baird, ruling that a Massachusetts law that prohibited minors from obtaining abortions without parental consent was unconstitutional. That law prohibited minors from receiving abortions without permission from both of their parents or a superior court judge. Under that law, if one or both of the minor’s parents denied consent, the minor could petition a superior court judge who would determine whether the minor was competent enough to make the decision to abort on her own.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Otto Rank (1884–1939)

Otto Rank studied how birth impacts individuals’ psychology and creates anxiety throughout their lives in Europe and the US during the nineteenth century. In his book The Trauma of Birth, Rank stated that birth was extremely traumatic and that one spent his or her whole life trying to recover from the experience of being born and harshly separated from the peaceful womb. He argued that the trauma experienced at birth is the source of all human suffering and the key to understanding anxiety later in life.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Sex in a Cold Climate (1998)

In 1998, Testimony Films released the documentary Sex in a Cold Climate, which reported the true stories of four survivors from the Magdalene asylums in Ireland in the twentieth century. Magdalene asylums, also called Magdalene laundries and homes, were institutions of the Catholic Church that sought to reform women engaged in prostitution and those who birthed children out of wedlock by forcing the women to do hard labor.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Publications

Karl Freiherr von Rokitansky (1804–1878)

During the nineteenth century, Karl Freiherr von Rokitansky conducted research on the causes of disease by performing approximately 30,000 autopsies, a practice that many people opposed at the time. Rokitansky performed his research in pathology, or the study of disease, and morbid anatomy, or the study of dead bodies, in Vienna, then part of the Austrian Empire and later part of Austria.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“A Proposed Structure for the Nucleic Acids” (1953) by Linus Pauling and Robert Brainard Corey

In February 1953, Linus Pauling and Robert Brainard Corey, two scientists working at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, proposed a structure for deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in their article “A Proposed Structure for the Nucleic Acids,” henceforth “Nucleic Acids.” In the article, Pauling and Corey suggest a model for nucleic acids, including DNA, that consisted of three nucleic acid strands wound together in a triple helix.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, later Our Bodies Ourselves (1969–)

The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective was a women’s health organization headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, that published the informational book Our Bodies Ourselves, which sold over 4.5 million copies. Initially called the Doctor’s Group, the Collective formed in response to the insufficiency of women-specific health information during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Members of the organization participated in the women’s liberation movement in Boston, Massachusetts, and conducted research on women’s health using resources such as medical textbooks.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Categorization of Conservative, Semi-Conservative, and Dispersive DNA Replication Theories (1953–1956)

In 1956, Gunther Stent, a scientist at the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, California, coined the terms conservative, semi-conservative, and dispersive to categorize the prevailing theories about how DNA replicated. Stent presented a paper with Max Delbrück titled “On the Mechanism of DNA Replication” at the McCollum-Pratt Symposium at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In response to James Watson and Francis Crick’s proposed structure of DNA in 1953, scientists debated how DNA replicated.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

“General Considerations for the Clinical Evaluation of Drugs” (1977), by the United States Food and Drug Administration

The United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, published 'General Considerations for the Clinical Evaluation of Drugs,' in September 1977. The document defined acceptable practices for investigators who studied new drugs. Specifically, the document outlined the common clinical trial methods. Clinical trials are studies to test whether a new drug is safe before doctors can prescribe it to patients. Prior to 1977, the Protection of Human Subjects Rule primarily regulated clinical drug trials, but it did not specify who could and could not be included in clinical trials.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

“Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” (1953), by James Watson and Francis Crick

In April 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick published “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” or “A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,” in the journal Nature. In the article, Watson and Crick propose a novel structure for deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA. In 1944, Oswald T. Avery and his group at Rockefeller University in New York City, New York published experimental evidence that DNA contained genes, the biological factors called genes that dictate how organisms grow and develop.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Reduction of Maternal-Infant Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus with Zidovudine Treatment

In 1994, Edward M. Connor and colleagues published “Reduction of Maternal-Infant Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 with Zidovudine Treatment.” Their study summarized how to reduce the transfer of human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, from pregnant women to their fetuses with Zidovudine, otherwise known as AZT. HIV is a virus that weakens the immune system by destroying white blood cells, a part of the body’s immune system. Fifteen to forty percent of infants born to HIV-positive mothers become infected during fetal development, labor and delivery, or breast-feeding.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

United States v. Milan Vuitch (1971)

In the 1971 court case United States v. Milan Vuitch, hereafter US v. Vuitch, the US Supreme Court ruled that a Washington, DC law was constitutional by overturning a 1969 district court decision. Beginning in the early twentieth century, Washington, DC, prohibited abortions except for abortions performed to preserve the life or health of the pregnant woman. In 1969, Milan Vuitch, a physician in Washington, DC, was convicted of criminal abortion for providing an abortion when the woman’s life was not endangered.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

“Genetical Implications of the Structure of Deoxyribonucleic Acid” (1953), by James Watson and Francis Crick

In May 1953, scientists James Watson and Francis Crick wrote the article “Genetical Implications of the Structure of Deoxyribonucleic Acid,” hereafter “Genetical Implications,” which was published in the journal Nature.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Sheldon Clark Reed (1910-2003)

Sheldon Clark Reed helped establish the profession of genetic counseling in the US during the twentieth century. In 1947 Reed coined the term genetic counseling to describe the interaction of a doctor explaining to a patient the likelihood of passing a certain trait to their offspring. With physicians being able to test for genetic abnormalities like cystic fibrosis, Reed helped trained individuals give patients the tools to make informed decisions. In 1955 Reed published the book Counseling in Medical Genetics.

Format: Articles

Subject: People