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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.
Frank Rattray Lillie's research on freemartins from 1914 to 1920 in the US led to the theory that hormones partly caused for sex differentiation in mammals. Although sometimes applied to sheep, goats, and pigs, the term freemartin most often refers to a sterile cow that has external female genitalia and internal male gonads and was born with a normal male twin.
The American Eugenics Society (AES) was established in the US by
Madison Grant, Harry H. Laughlin, Henry Crampton, Irving Fisher, and
Henry F. Osborn in 1926 to promote eugenics education programs for
the US public. The AES described eugenics as the study of improving
the genetic composition of humans through controlled reproduction of
different races and classes of people. The AES aided smaller eugenic
efforts such as the Galton Society in New York, New York, and the
At the turn of the twentieth century, Edmund B. Wilson
performed experiments to show where germinal
matter was located in molluscs. At Columbia University in New York City,
New York, Wilson studied what causes cells to differentiate during
development. In 1904 he conducted his experiments on molluscs, and he modified the
theory about the location of germinal matter in the succeeding years. Wilson and others modified the
theory of germinal localization to accommodate results that showed
Mesoderm is one of the three germ layers, groups of cells that interact early during the embryonic life of animals and from which organs and tissues form. As organs form, a process called organogenesis, mesoderm interacts with endoderm and ectoderm to give rise to the digestive tract, the heart and skeletal muscles, red blood cells, and the tubules of the kidneys, as well as a type of connective tissue called mesenchyme. All animals that have only one plane of symmetry through the body, called bilateral symmetry, form three germ layers.
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
Bacteria of the genus Wolbachia are
bacteria that live within the cells of their hosts. They infect a
wide range of arthropods (insects, arachnids, and crustaceans) and
some nematodes (parasitic roundworms). Scientists estimate that
Wolbachia exist in between seventeen percent and seventy-six percent of
arthropods and nematodes. The frequency of the bacteria makes them
one of the most widespread parasites. In general, they are divided
into five groups, from A to E, depending of the species of their
A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery is a three volume collection of patient accounts that William Smellie published from 1752 to 1764. Smellie, a physician and instructor in obstetrics in Great Britain, published these compilations to share his expertise in reproductive medicine, while also providing his students and colleagues with a source of reference in their own medical practices. Smellie wrote these books to shift obstetrics from a discipline practiced by midwives with limited medical training to one practiced in a medical context by physicians.
Hormone releasing intrauterine devices or hormonal IUDs are contraceptive devices placed in a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy by continuously releasing a low dose of certain hormones. Jouri Valter Tapani Luukkainen, a medical researcher at the University of Helsinki, introduced the first hormonal IUD in 1976. Luukkainen’s IUD was a plastic device shaped like a capital T.
On 26 April 2014, Gravitas Ventures released the documentary The Milky Way, a film directed by Jon Fitzgerald that compares breastfeeding in the US with breastfeeding in European countries. The film was produced by Piece of My Heart Productions and Cause Pictures. In the film, producers Jennifer Davidson and Chantal Molnar travel to Berlin, Germany, and Stockholm, Sweden, to observe how people perceive breastfeeding there, compared to in the US.
Stephen Jay Gould studied snail fossils and worked at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the latter half of the twentieth century. He contributed to philosophical, historical, and scientific ideas in paleontology, evolutionary theory, and developmental biology. Gould, with Niles Eldredge, proposed the theory of punctuated equilibrium, a view of evolution by which species undergo long periods of stasis followed by rapid changes over relatively short periods instead of continually accumulating slow changes over millions of years.
“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.
In April 1953, Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling, published “Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate,” in the scientific journal Nature. The article contained Franklin and Gosling’s analysis of their X-ray diffraction pattern of thymonucleate or deoxyribonucleic acid, known as DNA. In the early 1950s, scientists confirmed that genes, the heritable factors that control how organisms develop, contained DNA. However, at the time scientists had not determined how DNA functioned or its three-dimensional structure.
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.
“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.
In 2005, Ernest McCulloch and James Till published the article “Perspectives on the Properties of Stem Cells,” which discusses the various properties and future possibilities for the use of stem cells. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can develop into several different cell types. In the article published in the journal Nature on 1 October 2005, the authors say they wrote the article to dispel misconceptions about what stem cells are, what they do, address some controversies surrounding stem cells, and discuss potential uses of stem cells.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Roger Sperry performed experiments on cats, monkeys, and humans to study functional differences between the two hemispheres of the brain in the United States. To do so he studied the corpus callosum, which is a large bundle of neurons that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Sperry severed the corpus callosum in cats and monkeys to study the function of each side of the brain. He found that if hemispheres were not connected, they functioned independently of one another, which he called a split-brain.
Henrietta Lacks, born Loretta Pleasant, had terminal cervical cancer in 1951, and was diagnosed at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where researchers collected and stored her cancer cells. Those cells went on to become the first immortal human cell line, which the researchers named HeLa. An immortal cell line is an atypical cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the organism from which they came, often due to a mutation.
In the 1989 case Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, the
US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a Missouri law regulating abortion care. The
Missouri law prohibited the use of public facilities, employees, or
funds to provide abortion counseling or services. The law also placed restrictions on physicians who provided
abortions. A group of physicians affected by the law challenged the
constitutionality of certain sections of it. The US federal district
court that first heard the case ruled many of the challenged sections of
The Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology (1984), by Mary Warnock and the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology
The Report of the Committee of Inquiry
into Human Fertilisation and Embryology, commonly called the Warnock
Report after the chair of the committee Mary Warnock, is the 1984
publication of a UK governmental inquiry into the social impacts of
infertility treatment and embryological research. The birth of Louise
Brown in 1978 in Oldham, UK, sparked debate about reproductive and
embryological technologies. Brown was conceived through in vitro
fertilization (IVF), a process of fertilization that occurs outside of
In the 2013 case Isaacson v. Horne, the US Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit ruled that Arizona House Bill (HB) 2036, which prohibited abortions after twenty weeks of gestation, was unconstitutional. The Arizona State Legislature passed the law in 2012, which was then challenged by three physicians who filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that the law violated women's constitutionally protected rights to abortions, rights that may only be infringed once fetuses are viable outside of the womb.
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.
In its 1993 decision Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the US Supreme Court established the Daubert Standard for evaluating the admissibility of scientific knowledge as evidence in US federal courts. When it began in trial court, the case addressed whether or not Bendectin, an anti-nausea medication taken during pregnancy, caused birth defects. However, after the trial court dismissed the case for lack of admissible evidence, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
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.
Teratogens are substances that may produce physical or functional defects in the human embryo or fetus after the pregnant woman is exposed to the substance. Alcohol and cocaine are examples of such substances. Exposure to the teratogen affects the fetus or embryo in a variety of ways, such as the duration of exposure, the amount of teratogenic substance, and the stage of development the embryo or fetus is in during the exposure.