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The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine was created by Maurice Hilleman in 1971 at the Merck Institute of Therapeutic Research, a pharmaceutical company in West Point, Pennsylvania. It combined three separate vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella, common and sometimes fatal diseases. Measles causes a red skin rash and severe fevers that can be fatal. Mumps causes fever and swelling of the salivary glands in the mouth and jaw, while rubella causes milder fevers and skin rashes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

The Meselson-Stahl Experiment (1957–1958), by Matthew Meselson and Franklin Stahl

In an experiment later named for them, Matthew Stanley Meselson and Franklin William Stahl in the US demonstrated during the 1950s the semi-conservative replication of DNA, such that each daughter DNA molecule contains one new daughter subunit and one subunit conserved from the parental DNA molecule. The researchers conducted the experiment at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, from October 1957 to January 1958.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Experiments

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

Nikolai Ivanovic Vavilov (1887-1943)

Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov proposed theories of plant genetic diversity and participated in the political debate about genetics in Soviet Russia in the early twentieth century. Vavilov collected plant species around the world, building one of the first and most comprehensive seed banks, and he spent much of his life researching plant breeding and genetics. Vavilov also developed a theory of the historical centers of origin of cultivated plants. Vavilov spent most of his scientific career in Russia, although he studied abroad and traveled extensively.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“An Extended Family with a Dominantly Inherited Speech Disorder” (1990), by Jane A. Hurst et al.

In 1990, researcher Jane Hurst and her colleagues published “An Extended Family With a Dominantly Inherited Speech Disorder,” in which they proposed that a single gene was responsible for a language disorder across three generations of a family. Affected individuals of the family, called the KE family, had difficulty producing, expressing and comprehending speech. Hurst and her team studied the KE family and the disorder at the Department of Clinical Genetics at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Disorders

"Pregnancy Complicating Diabetes" (1949), by Priscilla White

In 1949, Priscilla White published Pregnancy Complicating Diabetes, which described the results and implications of a fifteen-year study about pregnant diabetic women. Published in the American Journal of Medicine, the article details possible causes of and ways to prevent the high fetal mortality rate associated with pregnant diabetic women. Diabetes is a disease in which the body's ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, and it can be particularly dangerous during pregnancies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

August Karl Gustav Bier (1861–1949)

In the late nineteenth century, August Karl Gustav Bier was a surgeon in Germany who studied spinal cord anesthesia, later called spinal block. Bier found that, depending upon the amount of anesthesia introduced into the spinal cord, a large area of the human body could be numbed to various degrees. Bier established a procedure to numb individuals from the lower legs to the upper abdomen, with the individual’s numbness ranging from them feeling pressure on their body to them feeling nothing at all.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“The Emergence of Developmental Psychopathology” (1984), by Dante Cicchetti

In 1984, Dante Cicchetti published “The Emergence of Developmental Psychopathology,” an article in which he argued that the previously amorphous study of developmental psychopathology was emerging as a unified discipline. According to Cicchetti, developmental psychopathology describes an interdisciplinary field that studies abnormalities in psychological function that can arise during human development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Ephraim McDowell (1771-1830)

Ephraim McDowell was an US abdominal surgeon who in 1809 performed one of the first successful ovarian surgeries. McDowell conducted his medical practice in Danville, Kentucky, where he used novel methods of ovariotomy to remove a twenty-two and a half pound ovarian tumor from his patient, Jane Crawford. At the time, surgeons performed ovariotomies by making an incision into each patient’s ovary to remove a mass. However, their patients often died from infection or blood loss.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“The History of Twins, As a Criterion of the Relative Powers of Nature and Nurture” (1875), by Francis Galton

In the article “The History of Twins, As a Criterion of the Relative Powers of Nature and Nurture,” Francis Galton describes his study of twins. Published in 1875 in Fraser’s Magazine in London, England, the article lays out Galton’s use of twins to examine and distinguish between the characteristics people have at birth and the characteristics they receive from the circumstances of life and experience. Galton calls those factors nature and nurture. Based on his study, Galton concluded that nature has a larger effect than nurture on development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

The Business of Being Born (2008)

In 2008, Barranca Productions released a documentary called The Business of Being Born, detailing the topic of childbirth. Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein produced and directed the documentary. The documentary explores pregnancy related healthcare in the US, including the history of midwives and obstetrics. The film also discusses potential consequences of medicalized childbirth common in the twenty-first century. The Business of Being Born provides viewers with information about home-births, midwives, and the positive and negative aspects of going to the hospital for childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

Theodor Heinrich Boveri (1862-1915)

Theodor Boveri investigated the mechanisms of heredity. He developed the chromosomal theory of inheritance and the idea of chromosomal individuality. Boveri sought to provide a comprehensive explanation for the hereditary role and behavior of chromosomes. He hoped that his experiments would also help to distinguish the roles of the nucleus and the cytoplasm in embryogenesis. Boveri was particularly interested in how offspring are shaped by the attributes of their parents.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Walter Jakob Gehring (1939-2014)

Walter Jakob Gehring discovered the homeobox, a DNA segment found in a specific cluster of genes that determine the body plan of animals, plants, and fungi. Gehring identified the homeobox in 1983, with the help of colleagues while isolating the Antennapedia (Antp) gene in fruit flies (Drosophila) at the University of Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Hox genes, a family of genes that have the homeobox, determine the head-to-tail (anterior-posterior) body axis of both vertebrates and invertebrates.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“Screening for Breast Cancer with Mammography” (2013), by Peter Gøtzsche and Karsten Jørgensen

Screening for Breast Cancer with Mammography is a Cochrane systematic review originally published by Peter Gøtzsche and Karsten Jørgensen in 2001 and updated multiple times by 2013. In the 2013 article, the authors discuss the reliability of the results from different clinical trials involving mammography and provide their conclusions about whether mammography screening is useful in preventing deaths from breast cancer.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever” (1843), by Oliver Wendell Holmes

In 1843, physician Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote and published The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever, an essay about puerperal fever, a disease that occurs mainly as a result of bacterial infection in the uterine tract of women after giving birth or undergoing an abortion. In the essay, Holmes argues that puerperal fever is spread through birth attendants like physicians and midwives who make contact with the disease and carry it from patient to patient. The article was published in The New England Quarterly Journal of Medicine and Surgery in 1843.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

HIP Randomized Breast Cancer Screening Trial (1963–1982)

From 1963 to 1982, researchers in New York City, New York, carried out a randomized trial of mammography screening. Mammography is the use of X-ray technology to find breast cancer at early stages. The private insurance company Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, or HIP, collaborated with researchers Sam Shapiro, Philip Strax, and Louis Venet on the trial. The researchers’ goal was to determine whether mammography screening reduced breast cancer mortality in women. The study included sixty thousand women aged forty to sixty-four.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“Infant Survival After Cesarean Section for Trauma” (1996), by John A. Morris, Jr. et al.

In the May 1996 edition of The Annals of Surgery, John A. Morris and his collaborators published “Infant Survival After Cesarean Section for Trauma,” in which they evaluate the use of emergency cesarean sections for the treatment of pregnant trauma patients. During a cesarean section, a physician removes a fetus from a pregnant woman through an incision in her abdomen and uterus. When a pregnant woman experiences trauma, physicians can perform an emergency cesarean section to remove the fetus and administer medical treatments that would not be possible while the woman is pregnant.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Ignacio Vives Ponseti (1914-2009)

Ignacio Vives Ponseti developed a noninvasive method for treating congenital club foot in the US during the late 1940s. Congenital club foot is a birth deformity in which one or both of an infant's feet are rotated inward beneath the ankle, making normal movement rigid and painful. Ponseti developed a treatment method, later called the Ponseti method, that consisted of a series of manipulations and castings of the club foot performed in the first few months of life.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Jerold Lucey (1926– )

Jerold Lucey studied newborn infants in the United States in the twentieth century. In the 1960s and 1970s, Lucey studied phototherapy as a treatment for jaundice, a condition in infants whose livers cannot excrete broken down red blood cells, called bilirubin, into the bloodstream at a fast enough rate. In addition to his work in jaundice, Lucey was the editor in chief for the journal Pediatrics of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"On the Replication of Desoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA)" (1954), by Max Delbruck

In 1954 Max Delbruck published On the Replication of Desoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) to question the semi-conservative DNA replication mechanism proposed that James Watson and Francis Crick had proposed in 1953. In his article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Delbrück offers an alternative DNA replication mechanism, later called dispersive replication. Unlike other articles before it, On the Replication presents ways to experimentally test different DNA replication theories.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818-1865)

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis demonstrated that the use of disinfectants could reduce the occurrence of puerperal fever in patients in nineteenth century Austria. Puerperal fever is a bacterial infection that can occur in the uterine tract of women after giving birth or undergoing an abortion. Semmelweis determined that puerperal fever is contagious and argued that the unhygienic practices of physicians, like examining patients after performing autopsies, caused the spread of puerperal fever.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“Perimortem Cesarean Delivery” (1986), by Vern Katz, Deborah Dotters, and William Droegemueller

In 1986, Vern L. Katz, Deborah J. Dotters, and William Droegemueller published “Perimortem Cesarean Delivery,” an article in which they developed the Four Minute Rule for perimortem cesarean sections. The Four Minute Rule states that if a pregnant woman’s heart stops beating, physicians should begin an operation to deliver the fetus within four minutes and aim to have the fetus delivered within five minutes of cardiac arrest.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

David Hunter Hubel (1926–2013)

David Hunter Hubel studied the development of the visual system and how the brain processes visual information in the US during the twentieth century. He performed multiple experiments with kittens in which he sewed kitten’s eyes shut for varying periods of time and monitored their vision after reopening them. Hubel, along with colleague Torsten Wiesel, received the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for that research.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

President George W. Bush's Announcement on Stem Cells, 9 August 2001

On 9 August 2001, US President George W. Bush gave an eleven-minute speech from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on the ethics and fate of federal funding for stem cell research. Bush also announced the creation of a special council to oversee stem cell research. In the speech President Bush acknowledged the importance of issues surrounding stem cell research to many Americans, presented different arguments in favor of and opposing embryonic stem cell research, and explained his decision to limit but not completely eliminate potential federal funding for embryonic stem cell (ESC) research.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

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