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John von Neumann's Cellular Automata

Cellular automata (CA) are mathematical models used to simulate complex systems or processes. In several fields, including biology, physics, and chemistry, CA are employed to analyze phenomena such as the growth of plants, DNA evolution, and embryogenesis. In the 1940s John von Neumann formalized the idea of cellular automata in order to create a theoretical model for a self-reproducing machine. Von Neumann's work was motivated by his attempt to understand biological evolution and self-reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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

Syncytial Theory

The syncytial theory of neural development was proposed by Victor Hensen in 1864 to explain the growth and differentiation of the nervous system. This theory has since been discredited, although it held a significant following at the turn of the twentieth century. Neural development was well studied but poorly understood, so Hensen proposed a simple model of development. The syncytial theory predicted that the nervous system was composed of many neurons with shared cytoplasm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Gradient Theory

The gradient theory is recognized as Charles Manning Child's most significant scientific contribution. Gradients brought together Child's interest in development and his fascination with the origins of individuality and organization. The gradient theory grew from his studies of regeneration, which were largely based on work he conducted with marine invertebrates, such as the ascidian flat worm, planaria and the hydroid, tubularia.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Charles Darwin's Theory of Pangenesis

In 1868 in England, Charles Darwin proposed his pangenesis theory to describe the units of inheritance between parents and offspring and the processes by which those units control development in offspring. Darwin coined the concept of gemmules, which he said referred to hypothesized minute particles of inheritance thrown off by all cells of the body. The theory suggested that an organism's environment could modify the gemmules in any parts of the body, and that these modified gemmules would congregate in the reproductive organs of parents to be passed on to their offspring.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Formation of Reticular Theory

In the nineteenth century, reticular theory aimed to describe the properties of neurons, the specialized cells which make up the nervous system, but was later disconfirmed by evidence. Reticular theory stated that the nervous system was composed of a continuous network of specialized cells without gaps (synapses), and was first proposed by researcher Joseph von Gerlach in Germany in 1871.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Lynn Petra Alexander Sagan Margulis (1938-2011)

Lynn Petra Alexander Sagan Margulis was an American biologist, whose work in the mid-twentieth century focused on cells living together in a mutually advantageous relationship, studied cells and mitochondria in the US during the second half of the twentieth century. She developed a theory for the origin of eukaryotic cells, that proposed two kinds of structures found in eukaryotic cells mitochondria in animals, and plastids in plantsÑwere once free-living bacteria that lived harmoniously and in close proximity to larger cells, a scenario called symbiosis.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Theories

Germ Layers

A germ layer is a group of cells in an embryo that interact with each other as the embryo develops and contribute to the formation of all organs and tissues. All animals, except perhaps sponges, form two or three germ layers. The germ layers develop early in embryonic life, through the process of gastrulation. During gastrulation, a hollow cluster of cells called a blastula reorganizes into two primary germ layers: an inner layer, called endoderm, and an outer layer, called ectoderm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Processes

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

Early Infantile Autism and the Refrigerator Mother Theory (1943-1970)

In 1943, child psychiatrist Leo Kanner in the US gave the first account of Early Infantile Autism that encouraged psychiatrists to investigate what they called emotionally cold mothers, or refrigerator mothers. In 1949, Kanner published Problems of Nosology and Psychodynamics of Early Infantile Autism. In that article, Kanner described autistic children as reared in emotional refrigerators. US child psychiatrists claimed that some psychological or behavioral conditions might have origins in emotional or mental stress, meaning that they might be psychogenic.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Theories

DNA and X and Y Chromosomes

Y-chromosomes exist in the body cells of many kinds of male animals. Found in the nucleus of most living animal cells, the X and Y-chromosomes are condensed structures made of DNA wrapped around proteins called histones. The individual histones bunch into groups that the coiled DNA wraps around called a nucleosome, which are roughly 10 nano-meters (nm) across. The histones bunch together to form a helical fiber (30 nm) that spins into a supercoil (200 nm). During much of a cell's life, DNA exists in the 200 nm supercoil phase.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Theories, Processes

Preformationism in the Enlightenment

Preformationism was a theory of embryological development used in the late seventeenth through the late eighteenth centuries. This theory held that the generation of offspring occurs as a result of an unfolding and growth of preformed parts. There were two competing models of preformationism: the ovism model, in which the location of these preformed parts prior to gestation was the maternal egg, and the spermism model, in which a preformed individual or homunculus was thought to exist in the head of each sperm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Ovism

Ovism was one of two models of preformationism, a theory of generation prevalent in the late seventeenth through the end of the eighteenth century. Contrary to the competing theory of epigenesis (gradual emergence of form), preformationism held that the unborn offspring existed fully formed in the eggs or sperm of its parents prior to conception. The ovist model held that the maternal egg was the location of this preformed embryo, while the other preformationism model known as spermism preferred the paternal germ cell, as the name implies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Edward Drinker Cope's Law of Acceleration of Growth

The Law of Acceleration of Growth is a theory proposed by Edward Drinker Cope in the US during the nineteenth century. Cope developed it in an attempt to explain the evolution of genera by appealing to changes in the developmental timelines of organisms. Cope proposed this law as an additional theory to natural selection.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Ernst Haeckel's Biogenetic Law (1866)

The biogenetic law is a theory of development and evolution proposed by Ernst Haeckel in Germany in the 1860s. It is one of several recapitulation theories, which posit that the stages of development for an animal embryo are the same as other animals' adult stages or forms. Commonly stated as ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, the biogenetic law theorizes that the stages an animal embryo undergoes during development are a chronological replay of that species' past evolutionary forms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Neuron Doctrine (1860-1895)

The neuron doctrine is a concept formed during the turn of the twentieth century that describes the properties of neurons, the specialized cells that compose the nervous system. The neuron doctrine was one of two major theories on the composition of the nervous system at the time. Advocates of the neuron doctrine claimed that the nervous system was composed of discrete cellular units. Proponents of the alternative reticular theory, on the other hand, argued that the entire nervous system was a continuous network of cells, without gaps or synapses between the cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

George W. Beadle's One Gene-One Enzyme Hypothesis

The one gene-one enzyme hypothesis, proposed by George Wells Beadle in the US in 1941, is the theory that each gene directly produces a single enzyme, which consequently affects an individual step in a metabolic pathway. In 1941, Beadle demonstrated that one gene in a fruit fly controlled a single, specific chemical reaction in the fruit fly, which one enzyme controlled.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Karl Ernst von Baer's Laws of Embryology

In 1828, while working at the University of Konigsberg in Konigsberg, Germany Karl Ernst von Baer proposed four laws of animal development, which came to be called von Baer's laws of embryology. With these laws, von Baer described the development (ontogeny) of animal embryos while also critiquing popular theories of animal development at the time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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

The Source-Sink Model

The source-sink model, first proposed by biologist Francis Crick in 1970, is a theoretical system for how morphogens distribute themselves across small fields of early embryonic cells. A morphogen is a substance that determines the fate and phenotype of a group of cells through a concentration gradient of itself across that group. Crick’s theory has been experimentally confirmed with several morphogens, most notably with the protein bicoid , the first discovered morphogen. The model provides a theoretical structure for the understanding of some features of early embryonic development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Hayflick Limit

The Hayflick Limit is a concept that helps to explain the
mechanisms behind cellular aging. The concept states that a normal human
cell can only replicate and divide forty to sixty times before it
cannot divide anymore, and will break down by programmed cell death
or apoptosis. The concept of the Hayflick Limit revised Alexis
Carrel's earlier theory, which stated that cells can replicate
themselves infinitely. Leonard Hayflick developed the concept while
at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia,

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Wilhelm Johannsen's Genotype-Phenotype Distinction

Wilhelm Johannsen in Denmark first proposed the distinction between genotype and phenotype in the study of heredity in 1909. This distinction is between the hereditary dispositions of organisms (their genotypes) and the ways in which those dispositions manifest themselves in the physical characteristics of those organisms (their phenotypes). This distinction was an outgrowth of Johannsen's experiments concerning heritable variation in plants, and it influenced his pure line theory of heredity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Spermism

Spermism was one of two models of preformationism, a theory of embryo generation prevalent in the late seventeenth through the end of the eighteenth century. Spermist preformationism was the belief that offspring develop from a tiny fully-formed fetus contained within the head of a sperm cell. This model developed slightly later than the opposing ovist model because sperm cells were not seen under the microscope until about 1677.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Meckel-Serres Conception of Recapitulation

Johann Friedrich Meckel and Antoine Etienne Reynaud Augustin Serres developed in the early 1800s the basic principles of what later became called the Meckel-Serres Law. Meckel and Serres both argued that fetal deformities result when development prematurely stops, and they argued that these arrests characterized lower life forms, through which higher order organisms progress during normal development. The concept that the embryos of higher order organisms progress through successive stages in which they resemble lower level forms is called recapitulation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Essay: The Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate

In 1830, a dispute erupted in the halls of lÕAcad mie des Sciences in Paris between the two most prominent anatomists of the nineteenth century. Georges Cuvier and tienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, once friends and colleagues at the Paris Museum, became arch rivals after this historical episode. Like many important disputes in the history of science, this debate echoes several points of contrasts between the two thinkers.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Theories

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