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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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Gail Roberta Martin (1944– )

In the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Gail Roberta Martin specialized in biochemistry and embryology, more specifically cellular communication and the development of organs. In 1981, she named any cell taken from inside a human embryo at the blastocyst stage an “embryonic stem cell”. During development, an embryo goes through the blastocyst stage just before it implants in the uterus. Embryonic stem cells are useful for experiments because they are self-renewing and able to develop into almost any cell type in the body.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Homunculus

The term homunculus is Latin for "little man." It is used in neurology today to describe the map in the brain of sensory neurons in each part of the body (the somatosensory homunculus). An early use of the word was in the 1572 work by Paracelsus regarding forays into alchemy, De Natura Rerum, in which he gave instructions in how to create an infant human without fertilization or gestation in the womb. In the history of embryology, the homunculus was part of the Enlightenment-era theory of generation called preformationism.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Christian Heinrich Pander (1794-1865)

Christian Heinrich Pander, often remembered as the father of embryology, also explored the fields of osteology, zoology, geology, and anatomy. He was born in Riga, Latvia, on 24 July 1794. Pander, with an eclectic history of research, is best remembered for his discovery and explanation of the structure of the chick blastoderm, a term he coined. In doing so, Pander was able to achieve the goal set forth by his teacher, Ignaz Döllinger, to reinvigorate the study of the chick embryo as a means of further exploring the science of embryology as a whole.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Samuel Randall Detwiler (1890-1957)

Samuel Randall Detwiler was an embryologist who studied neural development in embryos and vertebrate retinas. He discovered evidence for the relationship between somites and spinal ganglia, that transplanted limbs can be controlled by foreign ganglia, and the plasticity of ganglia in response to limb transplantations. He also extensively studied vertebrate retinas during and after embryonic development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Leonard Hayflick (1928- )

Leonard Hayflick studied the processes by which cells age during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the United States. In 1961 at the Wistar Institute in the US, Hayflick researched a phenomenon later called the Hayflick Limit, or the claim that normal human cells can only divide forty to sixty times before they cannot divide any further. Researchers later found that the cause of the Hayflick Limit is the shortening of telomeres, or portions of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that slowly degrade as cells replicate.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“Use of reproductive technology for sex selection for nonmedical reasons” (2015), by the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine

In June 2015, the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, or ASRM, published “Use of reproductive technology for sex selection for nonmedical reasons” in Fertility and Sterility. In the report, the Committee presents arguments for and against the use of reproductive technology for sex selection for any reason besides avoiding sex-linked disorders, or genetic disorders that only affect a particular sex.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Methylmercury and Human Embryonic Development

Methylmercury (MeHg) is an organic form of mercury that can damage the developing brains of human fetuses. Women who consume methylmercury during pregnancy can bear children who have neurological issues because methylmercury has toxic effects on the nervous system during embryonic development. During the third week of gestation, the human nervous system begins to form in the embryo. During this gestational period, the embryo's nervous system is particularly susceptible to the influence of neurotoxins like methylmercury that can result in abnormalities.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

Pope John Paul II's views on abortion and embryology have been very influential to the Roman Catholic Church. He strictly forbade abortion and other threats to what he regarded as early human life in his encyclical entitled "Evangelium Vitae," meaning the "Gospel of Life." His authority on moral and social issues was highly regarded during his lifetime.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799)

Lazzaro Spallanzani's imaginative application of experimental methods, mastery of microscopy, and wide interests led him to significant contributions in natural history, experimental biology, and physiology. His detailed and thoughtful observations illuminated a broad spectrum of problems ranging from regeneration to the genesis of thunderclouds.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Experiments on Artificial Parthenogenesis in Annelids (Chaetopterus) and the Nature of the Process of Fertilization" (1901), by Jacques Loeb

Jacques Loeb showed that scientists could achieve artificial parthenogenesis with some types of annelid worm eggs through a series of experiments in 1900. Loeb published the results of his experiments in 1901 as "Experiments on Artificial Parthenogenesis in Annelids (Chaetopterus) and the Nature of the Process of Fertilization," in The American Journal of Physiology. Loeb 's results broadened the range of animals to which artificial parthenogenesis applied beyond sea urchins.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Morphogenesis

The term morphogenesis generally refers to the processes by which order is created in the developing organism. This order is achieved as differentiated cells carefully organize into tissues, organs, organ systems, and ultimately the organism as a whole. Questions centered on morphogenesis have aimed to uncover the mechanisms responsible for this organization, and developmental biology textbooks have identified morphogenesis as one of the main challenges in the field. The concept of morphogenesis is intertwined with those of differentiation, growth, and reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Anne Laura Dorinthea McLaren (1927-2007)

Anne Laura Dorinthea McLaren was a developmental biologist known for her work with embryology in the twentieth century. McLaren was the first researcher to grow mouse embryos outside of the womb. She experimented by culturing mouse eggs and successfully developing them into embryos, leading to advancements with in vitro fertilization.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Endoderm

Endoderm is one of the germ layers-- aggregates of cells that organize early during embryonic life and from which all organs and tissues develop. All animals, with the exception of sponges, form either two or three germ layers through a process known as gastrulation. During gastrulation, a ball of cells transforms into a two-layered embryo made of an inner layer of endoderm and an outer layer of ectoderm. In more complex organisms, like vertebrates, these two primary germ layers interact to give rise to a third germ layer, called mesoderm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840)

In eighteenth century Germany, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach studied how individuals within a species vary, and to explain such variations, he proposed that a force operates on organisms as they develop. Blumenbach used metrical methods to study the history of humans, but he was also a natural historian and theorist. Blumenbach argued for theories of the transformation of species, or the claim that new species can develop from existing forms.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Fortunio Liceti (1577–1657)

Fortunio Liceti studied natural philosophy and medicine in Italy during the first half of the seventeenth century. Liceti wrote greater than seventy works on a wide range of topics, including the human soul, reproduction, and birth defects observed in animals and human infants. In the seventeenth century, people commonly addressed birth defects using superstition and considered them as signs of evil, possibly caused by spiritual or supernatural entities. Liceti described infants with birth defects as prodigies and monsters to be admired and studied rather than feared.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

The landmark Supreme Court case, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), gave women more control over their reproductive rights while also bringing reproductive and birth control issues into the public realm and more importantly, into the courts. Bringing these issues into the public eye allowed additional questions about the reproductive rights of women, such as access to abortion, to be asked. This court case laid the groundwork for later cases such as Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) and Roe v. Wade (1973).

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Viktor Hamburger's Study of Central-Peripheral Relations in the Development of Nervous System

An important question throughout the history of embryology is whether the formation of a biological structure is predetermined or shaped by its environment. If both intrinsic and environmental controls occur, how exactly do the two processes coordinate in crafting specific forms and functions? When Viktor Hamburger started his PhD study in embryology in the 1920s, few neuroembryologists were investigating how the central neurons innervate peripheral organs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Ernest Everett Just (1883-1941)

Ernest Everett Just was an early twentieth century American experimental embryologist involved in research at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and the Stazione Zoologica in Naples, Italy. Just was known for simple but elegant experiments that supported the "fertilizing" theory of Frank R. Lillie and served as an antagonist to Jacques Loeb's work with artificial parthenogenesis.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen (1857-1927)

Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen studied plants and helped found the field of genetics, contributing methods and concepts to the study of heredity around the turn of the twentieth century in Denmark. His experiments on heredity and variation in plants influenced the methods and techniques of geneticists, and his distinction between the genotype of an organism-its hereditary disposition-and its phenotype-its observable characteristics-remains at the core of contemporary biology. Johannsen criticized biological explanations that relied on concepts such as vitalism and teleology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Jesse Bennett (1769–1842)

Jesse Bennett, sometimes spelled Bennet, practiced medicine in the US during the late eighteenth century and performed one of the first successful cesarean operations, later called cesarean sections, in 1794. Following complications during his wife’s childbirth, Bennett made an incision through her lower abdomen and uterus to deliver their infant. Bennett’s biographers report that his operation was the first cesarean section where both the pregnant woman and the infant survived.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

John Tyler Bonner (1920- )

The establishment and growth of developmental-evolutionary biology owes a great debt to the work of John Tyler Bonner. Bonner's studies of cellular slime molds have shed light on some of the big questions of biology including the origins of multicellularity and the nature of morphogenesis. The second child of Lilly Marguerite Stehli and Paul Bonner, John Tyler was born 12 May 1920 in New York City and spent his early years in Locust Valley, Long Island (late 1920s), France (1930), and London (1932).

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Edward Stuart Russell (1887-1954)

Edward Stuart Russell was born 23 March 1887 to Helen Cockburn Young and the Reverend John N. Russell in Port Glasgow, Scotland. Friends and co-workers alike knew Russell as a quiet and focused, though always kind and helpful person. Trained in classics and biology, Russell's interests drew him to the study of historical and philosophical issues in the biological sciences, particularly morphology and animal behavior. According to Nils Roll-Hansen, Russell was one of the most influential philosophers of biology in the second third of the twentieth century.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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