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Essay: Review of Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos

To Lynn M. Morgan, the Mary E. Woolley Professor of Anthropology at Mt. Holyoke College, nothing says life more than a dead embryo. In her easily readable book, Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos, Morgan brings together cultural phenomena, ethics, and embryology to show that even dead embryos and fetuses have their own stories to tell. As an anthropologist, Morgan is interested in many things, including the science of embryology and its history. But she also wants to know how culture influences our views on embryos and the material practices that accompany their study.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Publications

China's One-Child Policy

In September 1979, China's Fifth National People's Congress passed a policy that encouraged one-child families. Following this decision from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), campaigns were initiated to implement the One-Child Policy nationwide. This initiative constituted the most massive governmental attempt to control human fertility and reproduction in human history. These campaigns prioritized reproductive technologies for contraception, abortion, and sterilization in gynecological and obstetric medicine, while downplaying technologies related to fertility treatment.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics, Legal, Reproduction

Abortion

Abortion is the removal of the embryo or fetus from the womb, before birth can occur-either naturally or by induced labor. Prenatal development occurs in three stages: the zygote, or fertilized egg; the embryo, from post-conception to eight weeks; and the fetus, from eight weeks after conception until the baby is born. After abortion, the infant does not and cannot live. Spontaneous abortion is the loss of the infant naturally or accidentally, without the will of the mother. It is more commonly referred to as miscarriage.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Ethics, Reproduction

Bowen v. American Hospital Association (1986)

The 1986 US Supreme Court decision Bowen v. American Hospital Association rejected the federal government's use of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to intervene in a hospital's treatment for neonates born with severe congenital defects. This case set a precedent for the role of government involvement in cases where parents refused consent for care of disabled newborns.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Medical Vibrators for Treatment of Female Hysteria

During the late 1800s through the early 1900s, physicians administered pelvic massages involving clitoral stimulation by early electronic vibrators as treatments for what was called female hysteria. Until the early 1900s, physicians used female hysteria as a diagnosis for women who reported a wide range of complaints and symptoms unexplainable by any other diagnosis at the time. According to historian Rachel Maines, physicians provided pelvic massages for thousands of years to female patients without it being considered erotic or sexually stimulating.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Technologies, Ethics

In the Womb: Identical Twins (2009), by National Geographic

National Geographic's documentary In the Womb: Identical Twins focuses on the prenatal development of human identical twins. Director Lorne Townend uses three-dimensional (3D) and four-dimensional (4D) ultrasound imaging and microscopy to depict twin development , genetic and epigenetic variations in the fetuses, and methods of fetal survival in the confines of the womb. Artist renditions of scientific data fill in areas of development inaccessible to the imaging tools.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction

A. Z. v. B. Z. (2000)

In A.Z. v. B.Z. (2000), the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in Boston, Massachusetts, affirmed a lower courtÕs decision, ruling that contracts that require a party to become a parent against his or her will are unenforceable and contrary to public policy. The case centered around A.Z. and B.Z., a divorced couple who had previously used in vitro fertilization (IVF) to start a family together during their marriage and had several preembryos cryopreserved as part of the process.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

“A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation” (1993), by Dean H. Hamer and Charles A. Thomas.

In 1993, Dean H. Hamer and colleagues in the US published results from their research that indicated that men with speicifc genes were more likely to be homosexual than were men without those genes. The study hypothesized that some X chromosomes contain a gene, Xq28, that increases the likelihood of an individual to be homosexual. Prior to those results, researchers had argued that the cause of homosexuality was environmental and that homosexuality could be altered or reversed. Hamer’s research suggested a possible genetic cause of homosexuality.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990)

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 established the legal framework that governs infertility treatment, medical services ancillary to infertility treatment such as embryo storage, and all human embryological research performed in the UK. The law also defines a legal concept of the parent of a child conceived with assisted reproductive technologies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction, Ethics

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

"Sheep Cloned by Nuclear Transfer from a Cultured Cell Line" (1996), by Keith Campbell, Jim McWhir, William Ritchie, and Ian Wilmut

In 1995 and 1996, researchers at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, cloned mammals for the first time. Keith Campbell, Jim McWhir, William Ritchie, and Ian Wilmut cloned two sheep, Megan and Morag, using sheep embryo cells. The experiments indicated how to reprogram nuclei from differentiated cells to produce live offspring, and that a single population of differentiated cells could produce multiple offspring. They reported their results in the article 'Sheep Cloned by Nuclear Transfer from a Cultured Cell Line' in March 1996.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

The Singapore Bioethics Advisory Committee

Established in tandem with Singapore's national Biomedical Sciences Initiatives, the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) was established by the Singapore Cabinet in December 2000 to examine the potential ethical, legal, and social issues arising from Singapore's biomedical research sector, and to recommend policy to Singapore's government.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Ethics, Legal

David Baltimore (1938– )

David Baltimore studied viruses and the immune system in the US during the twentieth century. In 1975, Baltimore was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering reverse transcriptase, the enzyme used to transfer information from RNA to DNA. The discovery of reverse transcriptase contradicted the central dogma of biology at the time, which stated that the transfer of information was unidirectional from DNA, RNA, to protein.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Embryo Blotting Paper Models

Anatomical models have always been a mainstay of descriptive embryology. As the training of embryologists grew in the late 1800s, so too did the need for large-scale teaching models. Embryo wax models, such as those made by Adolf Ziegler and Gustav Born, were popular in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century as a way to visualize, in three dimensions, the fine detail of embryos without the aid of a microscope.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Beal v. Doe (1977)

In the case of Beal v. Doe, tried in 1977, the US Supreme Court ruled that states could constitutionally restrict money from Medicaid from funding elective abortions. After the 1973 case Roe v. Wade, in which the US Supreme Court had ruled women have the rights to terminate pregnancies within the first trimester, the state of Pennsylvania passed legislation that restricted the use of Medicaid funds for abortion procedures. In 1977, several Medicaid eligible women who were unable to receive coverage for a non-therapeutic abortion brought a case against Frank S.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

David Edwin Wildt (1950- )

David Edwin Wildt developed and applied assisted reproductive technologies to conserve rare and endangered wildlife species in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He advocated genome resource banks to help preserve biodiversity, and he advocated for practical ethics to guide wildlife reproductive biologists when they use technology and environmental planning. Wildt often focused on the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), but he researched greater than fifty vertebrate species.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Isaacson v. Horne (2013)

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Your Baby’s Sex: Now You Can Choose (1970), by David M. Rorvik and Landrum B. Shettles

In the book Your Baby’s Sex: Now You Can Choose, David Michael Rorvik and Landrum Brewer Shettles describe methods that couples can use prior to and during conception that will increase the chances of producing a child of their desired sex. Rorvik, a science writer, and Shettles, an obstetrics and gynecology researcher and physician, co-wrote the book. Shettles developed the methods detailed in the book during the 1960s. Although the authors claim a high success rate, some researchers have contested the validity of the methods proposed in Your Baby’s Sex: Now You Can Choose.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Muriel Wheldale Onslow (1880-1932)

Muriel Wheldale Onslow studied flowers in England with genetic and biochemical techniques in the early twentieth century. Working with geneticist William Bateson, Onslow used Mendelian principles and biochemical analysis together to understand the inheritance of flower colors at the beginning of the twentieth century. Onslow's study of snapdragons, or Antirrhinum majus, resulted in her description of epistasis, a phenomenon in which the phenotypic effect of one gene is influenced by one or more other genes. She discovered several biochemicals related to color formation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex (1998), by Alice Domurat Dreger

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, by historian of science Alice Domurat Dreger, was published in 1998 by Harvard University Press. In the book, Dreger describes how many doctors and scientists treated human hermaphrodites from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. She states that during this time period, many physicians and scientists struggled to determine the nature sex, and to support a classification of sex as male or female, many physicians and scientists resorted to viewing a person's gonads for identification of his or her sex.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories, Disorders

“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

Turpin v. Sortini (1982)

The Supreme Court of California reversed the Superior Court of Fresno County's decision to dismiss the Turpins' claims in the case Turpin v. Sortini on 3 May 1982. The case was based upon a wrongful life claim, in which a disabled child sues physicians for neglecting to inform its parents of potential genetic defects, resulting in harm to the child when it is born. The Turpin case determined tha a physician could be liable for failing to inform parents of potential birth defects in the fetus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

"Genetic Control of Biochemical Reactions in Neurospora" (1941), by George W. Beadle and Edward L. Tatum

George Wells Beadle and Edward Lawrie Tatum's 1941 article Genetic Control of Biochemical Reactions in Neurospora detailed their experiments on how genes regulated chemical reactions, and how the chemical reactions in turn affected development in the organism. Beadle and Tatum experimented on Neurospora, a type of bread mold, and they concluded that mutations to genes affected the enzymes of organisms, a result that biologists later generalized to proteins, not just enzymes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“Miscarriage of Medicine: The Growth of Catholic Hospitals and the Threat to Reproductive Health Care” (2013), by Lois Uttley, Sheila Reynertson, Larraine Kenny, and Louise Melling

In 2013, Lois Uttley, Sheila Reynertson, Larraine Kenny, and Louise Melling published “Miscarriage of Medicine: The Growth of Catholic Hospitals and the Threat to Reproductive Health Care,” in which they analyzed the growth of Catholic hospitals in the United States from 2001 to 2011 and the impact those hospitals had on reproductive health care. In the US, Catholic hospitals are required to abide by the US Catholic Church's Ethical Guidelines for Health Care Providers, also called the Directives.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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