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Aristotle (384-322 BCE)
Aristotle studied developing organisms, among other things, in ancient Greece, and his writings shaped Western philosophy and natural science for greater than two thousand years. He spent much of his life in Greece and studied with Plato at Plato's Academy in Athens, where he later established his own school called the Lyceum. Aristotle wrote greater than 150 treatises on subjects ranging from aesthetics, politics, ethics, and natural philosophy, which include physics and biology. Less than fifty of Aristotle's treatises persisted into the twenty-first century.
Ernest John Christopher Polge (1926-2006)
Twentieth-century researcher Ernest John Christopher Polge studied the reproductive processes of livestock and determined a method to successfully freeze, thaw, and utilize viable sperm cells to produce offspring in animals. In 1949, Polge identified glycerol as a cryoprotectant, or a medium that enables cells to freeze without damaging their cellular components or functions. Several years later, Polge used glycerol in a freezing process called vitrification, which enabled him to freeze poultry sperm, thaw that sperm, and use it to fertilize vertebrate embryos.
Conjoined twins are twins whose bodies are anatomically joined in utero. The degree to which the twins are attached can range from simple, involving skin and cartilage, to complex, including fusion of the skull(s), brain(s), or other vital organs. There are more than a dozen classifications of conjoined twins but what they all tend to have in common is the sharing of the chorion, placenta, and amniotic sac.
Subject: Disorders, Reproduction
Plan B: Emergency Contraceptive Pill
Plan B is a progestin-only emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) that can be taken within seventy-two hours of unprotected sex in order to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Plan B was created in response to the United States Food and Drug Administration's (US FDA) 1997 request for new drug applications (NDAs) for a dedicated ECP product, and was approved for sales in the US in 1999. Duramed, a subsidiary of Barr Pharmaceuticals, manufactures Plan B for The Women's Capital Corporation (WCC), which owns the patent for Plan B.
Subject: Technologies, Reproduction
The Mechanistic Conception of Life (1912), by Jacques Loeb
Jacques Loeb published The Mechanistic Conception of Life in 1912. Loeb's goal for the book was to further disseminate his explanations of organic processes, such as embryonic development and organisms orientations to their environments, which relied on physics and chemistry. Loeb also wanted to provide an alternative explanatory framework to vitalism and what he called romantic evolutionism, then both widespread.
Kass v. Kass [Brief] (1998)
In a case of first impression in the state of New York, the highest state court decided that a priori written agreement between progenitors of frozen embryos regarding the disposition of their "pre-zygotes" in the event of divorce is binding. By copying the general result arrived at by the Tennessee Supreme Court in Davis v. Davis in 1992, the New York court magnified the weight of authority in favor of upholding prior written agreements for in vitro fertilization practices.
Subject: Legal, Reproduction
Min Chueh Chang (1908-1991)
As one of the researchers involved in the development of the oral contraceptive pill, Min Chueh Chang helped to revolutionize the birth control movement. Although best known for his involvement with "the pill," Chang also made a number of discoveries throughout his scientific career involving a range of topics within the field of reproductive biology. He published nearly 350 articles in scientific journals.
Subject: People, Reproduction
Calvin Blackman Bridges (1889-1938)
Calvin Blackman Bridges studied chromosomes and heredity in the US throughout the early twentieth century. Bridges performed research with Thomas Hunt Morgan at Columbia University in New York City, New York, and at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. Bridges and Morgan studied heredity in Drosophila, the common fruit fly. Throughout the early twentieth century, researchers were gathering evidence that genes, or what Gregor Mendel had called the factors that control heredity, are located on chromosomes.
Gregory Goodwin Pincus (1903-1967)
Gregory Goodwin Pincus, one of the original researchers responsible for the development of the first oral contraceptive pill, was born in Woodbine, New Jersey, on 19 April 1903 to Russian Jewish parents. In 1924 Pincus received his BS degree from Cornell University, and in 1927 he received his MS and PhD from Harvard University, having studied under William Ernest Castle and William John Crozier.
Subject: People, Reproduction
Benjamin Harrison Willier (1890-1972)
Benjamin Harrison Willier is considered one of the most versatile embryologists to have ever practiced in the US. His research spanned most of the twentieth century, a time when the field of embryology evolved from being a purely descriptive pursuit to one of experimental research, to that of incorporating molecular biology into the research lab. Willier was born on 2 November 1890 near Weston, Ohio to Mary Alice Ricard. He spent his childhood doing farming chores and running the farm while his father, David Willier worked as a banker.
Irving Freiler Stein Sr. (1887–1976)
Irving Freiler Stein Sr. was a physician who studied women’s reproductive health during the twentieth century in the United States. In partnership with his colleague, Michael Leventhal, Stein identified a women’s reproductive disorder related to elevated male sex hormones, or androgens. The syndrome was originally called Stein-Leventhal syndrome and later known as polycystic ovarian syndrome. While studying the syndrome, Stein also helped establish a treatment for the condition, through the surgical removal of ovarian tissues.
Dissertation: A Fetus By Any Other Name: How Words Shaped the Fetal Personhood Movement in US Courts and Society (1884-1973)
The 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was a significant event in the story of fetal personhood—the story of whether embryos and fetuses are legal persons. Roe legalized abortion care in the United States (US). However, the story of fetal personhood began long before the 1970s. People have been talking about embryos, fetuses, and their status in science, the law, and society for centuries.
Format: Essays and Theses
Subject: Reproduction, Ethics, Legal
40 Weeks (2014)
In 2014, Big Belli, a media and social networking brand, released a documentary called 40 Weeks online. The documentary, directed by Christopher Henze, followed multiple women during their pregnancies. The film predominantly features three women, though it includes the stories of many. Throughout the film, women detail their accounts of the physical and emotional changes that occur during pregnancy.
According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the standard American source on stem cell research, three characteristics of stem cells differentiate them from other cell types: (1) they are unspecialized cells that (2) divide for long periods, renewing themselves and (3) can give rise to specialized cells, such as muscle and skin cells, under particular physiological and experimental conditions. When allowed to grow in particular environments, stem cells divide many times. This ability to proliferate can yield millions of stem cells over several months.
Regeneration is a fascinating phenomenon. The fact that many organisms have the capacity to regenerate lost parts and even remake complete copies of themselves is difficult to fathom; so difficult, in fact, that for a very long time people were reluctant to believe regeneration actually took place. It seemed unbelievable that some organisms could re-grow lost limbs, organs, and other body parts. If only we could do the same!
The Whelan Method of Sex Selection
The Whelan Method of Sex Selection is a method for increasing a couple’s probability of conceiving an infant of the desired sex through timing intercourse. Elizabeth Whelan, a public health researcher, suggested that couples only have intercourse at specific times during the woman’s menstrual cycle based on whether they wanted a female or male infant. Whelan published her method in her book, Boy or Girl, in 1977.
Ethics and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
The recent development of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and related technologies has caught the attention of scientists, activists, politicians, and ethicists alike. IPSCs gained immediate international attention for their apparent similarity to embryonic stem cells after their successful creation in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka and in 2007 by James Thompson and others.
Subject: Technologies, Ethics
Parasitic twins, a specific type of conjoined twins, occurs when one twin ceases development during gestation and becomes vestigial to the fully formed dominant twin, called the autositic twin. The underdeveloped twin is called parasitic because it is only partially formed, is not functional, or is wholly dependent on the autositic twin.
Subject: Disorders, Reproduction
Process of Eukaryotic Embryonic Development
All sexually reproducing, multicellular diploid eukaryotes begin life as embryos. Understanding the stages of embryonic development is vital to explaining how eukaryotes form and how they are related on the tree of life. This understanding can also help answer questions related to morphology, ethics, medicine, and other pertinent fields of study. In particular, the field of comparative embryology is concerned with documenting the stages of ontogeny.
Robert William Briggs (1911-1983)
Robert William Briggs was a prolific developmental biologist. However, he is most identified with the first successful cloning of a frog by nuclear transplantation. His later studies focused on the problem of how genes influence development.
"Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Somatic Cells" (2007), by Junying Yu et al.
On 2 December 2007, Science published a report on creating human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from human somatic cells: "Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Somatic Cells." This report came from a team of Madison, Wisconsin scientists: Junying Yu, Maxim A. Vodyanik, Kim Smuga-Otto, Jessica Antosiewicz-Bourget, Jennifer L. Frane, Shulan Tian, Jeff Nie, Gudrun A. Jonsdottir, Victor Ruotti, Ron Stewart, Igor I. Slukvin, and James A. Thomson.
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.
William Harvey (1578-1657)
Renowned physician and scientist William Harvey is best known for his accurate description of how blood circulates through the body. While his published work on the circulation of blood is considered the most important of his academic life, Harvey also made significant contributions to embryology with the publication of his book Exercitationes de Generatione Animalium in 1651. In this book he established several theories that would set the stage for modern embryology and addressed many embryological issues including conception, embryogenesis, and spontaneous generation.
Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945)
Although best known for his work with the fruit fly, for which he earned a Nobel Prize and the title "The Father of Genetics," Thomas Hunt Morgan's contributions to biology reach far beyond genetics. His research explored questions in embryology, regeneration, evolution, and heredity, using a variety of approaches.
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (1991- )
In 1991, the
United Kingdom established the Human Fertilisation and Embryology
Authority (HFEA) as a response to technologies that used human embryos.
The HFEA is a regulatory power of the Health and Social Services
Department in London, UK, that oversees the implementation of
reproductive technologies and the use of embryos in research within the
United Kingdom. It establishes protocols by which researchers may use
human embryos, develops legislation on how human embryos are stored and