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Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You (2015), by the British Broadcasting Corporation and The Open University
In 2015, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) partnered with The Open University to produce the three-part documentary series, Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You. Michael Mosley, a British television producer and journalist, hosts the documentary. Along with narrating animated scenes of a growing fetus in the womb, Mosley meets with individuals around the world who experienced mutations that can arise in the womb. Introduced over the course of the three episodes, several people share their personal stories of how their bodies did not develop correctly prior to birth.
Moore v. Regents of the University of California (1990)
On 9 July 1990, in Moore v. Regents of the University of California, the Supreme Court of California ruled in a four-to-three decision that individuals do not have rights to a share in profits earned from research performed on their bodily materials. In its decision, the Supreme Court of California ruled that cancer patient John L. Moore did not have personal property rights to samples or fluids that his physicians took from his body for research purposes.
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (1929–1970)
Starting in 1929, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists was a professional association of physicians in the UK that aimed to improve the care of women in childbirth through training and education and to establish obstetrics and gynecology as a medical specialty. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has contributed to women’s reproductive health by fostering research, establishing standards for physicians specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, and influencing legislation.
Percivall Pott (1714-1788)
Percivall Pott was a physician in England during the eighteenth century who identified soot as the cause of chimney sweeps' scrotal cancer, later called testicular cancer. In the 1770s, Pott observed that scrotal cancer commonly afflicted chimney sweeps, the young boys sent up into chimneys to clean away the soot left over from fires, and he hypothesized that the soot inside chimneys might cause that type of cancer. Pott was one of the first doctors to identify some environmental factor as causing cancer.
Gavin Rylands de Beer (1899-1972)
Gavin de Beer was an English zoologist known for his contributions to evolution and embryology, in particular for showing the inadequacy of the germ layer theory as it was then proposed. He was born in London, England, on 1 November 1899, but was raised for his first thirteen years in France where his father worked for a telegraph company. He entered Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1917 but his studies were soon interrupted by World War I. After serving in the military, he returned to Oxford where he studied under Edwin Goodrich.
Leonard Colebrook (1883–1967)
Leonard Colebrook was a physician who researched bacteria and infections in England during the twentieth century. In 1936, Colebrook deployed the antibiotic Prontosil to treat puerperal fever, a disorder that results from bacterial infections in the uterine tracts of women after childbirth or abortions. Colebrook also advanced care for burn patients by advocating for the creation of burn units in hospitals and by using antisepsis medication for burn wound infections. Colebrook’s work on treatments for puerperal fever reduced cases of puerperal fever throughout the world.
Rosalind Elsie Franklin (1920-1958)
Rosalind Elsie Franklin worked with X-ray crystallography at King's College London, UK, and she helped determine the helical structure of DNA in the early 1950s. Franklin's research helped establish molecular genetics, a field that investigates how heredity works on the molecular level. The discovery of the structure of DNA also made future research possible into the molecular basis of embryonic development, genetic disorders, and gene manipulation.
Pearl Luella Kendrick (1890–1980)
Pearl Luella Kendrick researched prevention for pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during the mid-1900s. Pertussis is a respiratory disease that mainly affects infants and young children. During the 1920s, pertussis was responsible for more deaths in children in the United States than any other disease. In the 1930s, Kendrick created one of the first pertussis vaccines that underwent large-scale clinical trials.
Subject: People, Publications, Processes
Photograph 51, by Rosalind Franklin (1952)
On 6 May 1952, at King’s College London in London, England, Rosalind Franklin photographed her fifty-first X-ray diffraction pattern of deoxyribosenucleic acid, or DNA. Photograph 51, or Photo 51, revealed information about DNA’s three-dimensional structure by displaying the way a beam of X-rays scattered off a pure fiber of DNA. Franklin took Photo 51 after scientists confirmed that DNA contained genes. Maurice Wilkins, Franklin’s colleague showed James and Francis Crick Photo 51 without Franklin’s knowledge. Watson and Crick used that image to develop their structural model of DNA.
John Chassar Moir (1900–1977)
John Chassar Moir lived in Scotland during the twentieth century and helped develop techniques to improve the health of pregnant women. Moir helped to discover compounds that doctors could administer to women after childbirth to prevent life-threatening blood loss. Those compounds included the ergot alkaloid called ergometrine, also called ergonovine, and d-lysergic acid beta-propanolamide. Moir tested ergometrine in postpartum patients and documented that it helped prevent or manage postpartum hemorrhage in women.
Subject: People, Reproduction, Disorders
Ian Donald (1910–1987)
Ian Donald was an obstetrician who developed the technology and therapy of ultrasound diagnostics during the twentieth century in Europe. Ultrasound is a medical diagnostic technique that uses sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. During the early 1900s, physicians had no way to see inside a woman’s uterus during pregnancy. Donald developed the first method of scanning human internal anatomy in real time, which enabled doctors to diagnose potentially fatal tumors and cysts.
Minnie Joycelyn Elders (1933–)
Minnie Joycelyn Elders, known as Joycelyn Elders, is a pediatrician and professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1953, Elders began to work with the US Army, where she trained as a physical therapist, being the only African American woman in her training class. Elders eventually became a medical doctor in 1956, specializing in pediatric endocrinology. In 1993, then US President Bill Clinton appointed Elders as the Surgeon General for the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which she served as until 1994.
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.
Subject: People, Reproduction
Matthew Howard Kaufman (1942–2013)
Matthew Kaufman was a professor of anatomy at the University of Edinburgh, in Edinburgh, UK, who specialized in mouse anatomy, development, and embryology during the late twentieth century. According to the The Herald, he was the first, alongside his colleague Martin Evans, to isolate and culture embryonic stem cells. Researchers initially called those cells Evans-Kaufman cells. In 1992, Kaufman published The Atlas of Mouse Development, a book that included photographs of mice development and mice organs over time.
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.
Subject: Publications, Theories, Disorders
The Mothers' Clinic
The Mothers' Clinic for Constructive Birth Control was established on 17 March 1921. The first family planning clinic ever established in Great Britain, it was co-founded by Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes and her husband Humphrey Verdon Roe at Number 61, Marlborough Road in Holloway, North London. The Mothers' Clinic was one of the highlights of Stopes's extensive career as a proponent of available birth control and women's sexual equality.
Subject: Organizations, Reproduction
Norbert Freinkel (1926–1989)
During the twentieth century, Norbert Freinkel studied hormones and diabetes in the US. Freinkel conducted many experiments that enabled him to determine the factors that influence hormones of the thyroid gland to bind to proteins and to determine the effects that those thyroid hormones have on surrounding tissues. Furthermore, Freinkel researched gestational diabetes, which is diabetes that occurs for the first time during a women’s pregnancy. That type of diabetes is caused by a change in the way a woman’s body responds to insulin, a hormone made in the body.
Harold Delf Gillies (1882-1960)
Harold Delf Gillies performed one of the first sexual reassignment surgeries, termed gender affirmation surgeries as of 2022, on record in 1946 in London, England. He also practiced modern plastic surgery and helped distinguish it as a new branch of medicine in London, England, starting in the early 1900s. Gillies’s work focused initially on facial reconstructive surgery, particularly during both World War I and World War II. Gillies created newer and more efficient techniques that later became standard procedures for reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries.
Subject: People, Technologies
James Young Simpson (1811–1870)
James Young Simpson was one of the first obstetricians to administer anesthesia during childbirth in nineteenth century Scotland. Before his work in the 1800s, physicians had few ways to reduce the pain of childbirth. Simpson experimented with the use of ether and chloroform, both gaseous chemicals, to temporarily relieve pain. He found that those chemicals both successfully inhibited the pain women felt during childbirth and pain during other surgeries. Patients under the influence of chloroform fell asleep and were unaware of the intense pain of childbirth.
John Hunter (1728–1793)
John Hunter studied human reproductive anatomy, and in eighteenth century England, performed one of the earliest described cases of artificial insemination. Hunter dissected thousands of animals and human cadavers to study the structures and functions of organ systems. Much of his anatomical studies focused on the circulatory, digestive, and reproductive systems. He helped to describe the exchange of blood between pregnant women and their fetuses. Hunter also housed various natural collections, as well as thousands of preserved specimens from greater than thirty years of anatomy work.
Subject: People, Reproduction
Amanda Sims Memorial Fund (1930–1935)
In 1930, physician Joseph Colt Bloodgood founded the Amanda Sims Memorial Fund, or the ASMF, a United States cancer awareness organization that focused on spreading information about ways to detect and prevent cervical cancer in women, in Baltimore, Maryland. In partnership with nurse Florence Serpell Deakins Becker, Bloodgood promoted awareness of the early symptoms of cervical cancer among women and advocated for regular pelvic exams. The ASMF partnered with numerous women’s organizations throughout the United States, providing educational information to women of varying backgrounds.
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
Subject: Publications, Theories
George Linius Streeter (1873-1948)
George Linius Streeter was born on 12 January 1873 in Johnstown, New York, to Hannah Green Anthony and George Austin Streeter. He completed his undergraduate studies at Union College in 1895 and received his MD degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in 1899. At Columbia, Professor George S. Huntington sparked Streeter's interest in anatomy, and Streeter also interned at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. He then went on to Albany to teach anatomy at the Albany Medical College and to work with neurologist Henry Hun.
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.
Subject: People, Reproduction
George Frederic Still (1868–1941)
George Frederic Still studied pediatrics and childhood conditions in England during the early twentieth century. In Still’s time, pediatrics, or the branch of medicine that focuses on treating and caring for children, remained largely unexplored according to biographer Joseph deBettencourt. Still helped advance pediatrics as a field by classifying and writing about diseases and conditions that arose in children. In 1897, he discovered a unique type of arthritis in children, now referred to as Still’s disease.