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Biological Sex and Gender in the United States

In the United States, most people are assigned both a biological sex and gender at birth based on their chromosomes and reproductive organs. However, there is an important distinction between biological sex and gender. Biological sex, such as male, female, or intersex, commonly refers to physical characteristics. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, and actions people take on, usually in relation to expectations of masculinity or femininity. As of 2022, there is disagreement over the relation between sex and gender.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, People, Processes, Ethics

Harry Clay Sharp (1870-1940)

Harry Clay Sharp was a surgeon who performed one of the first recorded vasectomies with the purpose of sterilizing a patient. Sterilization is the practice that makes a person unable to reproduce, and vasectomy accomplishes that by severing the vasa deferentia, the sperm-carrying tubes in the male reproductive system. Historically, sterilization procedures have varied in techniques, goals, and risks, but Sharp’s method of vasectomy allowed restriction of a patient’s reproductive functions without significantly affecting other bodily functions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics, People, Organizations, Technologies

No-scalpel Vasectomy

No-scalpel vasectomy, or NSV or keyhole vasectomy, is a surgical method of sterilization that involves puncturing the skin of the scrotum to access the vas deferens, a tube that carries spermatozoa, or sperm, from the testes to the penis. The surgeon performing the procedure blocks the flow of sperm through the vas deferens, sterilizing the patient. NSV is a less invasive procedure, as it does not use a scalpel to make a deep cut on sensitive scrotal tissue.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, People, Organizations, Places, Reproduction

Betty Friedan (1921–2006)

Betty Friedan advocated for the advancement of women's rights in the twentieth century in the United States. In 1963, Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique, which historians consider a major contribution to the feminist movement. Friedan also helped establish two organizations that advocated for women's right, the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1963 and, in 1969 the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NAARL). Friedan argued for legalizing access to abortion and contraception, and her advocacy helped advance women's reproductive rights.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"The Development of the Pronephros during the Embryonic and Early Larval Life of the Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)" (1932), by Rachel L. Carson

Rachel L. Carson studied biology at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and graduated in 1933 with an MA upon the completion of her thesis, The Development of the Pronephros during the Embryonic and Early Larval Life of the Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). The research that Carson conducted for this thesis project grounded many of the claims and observations she presented in her 1962 book, Silent Spring.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Experiments, Publications

Alec John Jeffreys (1950–)

Alec John Jeffreys created a process called DNA fingerprinting in the UK during the twentieth century. For DNA fingerprinting, technicians identify a person as the source of a biological sample by comparing the genetic information contained in the person's DNA to the DNA contained in the sample. Jeffreys developed the technique in the 1980s while at the University of Leicester in Leicester, UK. Jeffreys's technique had immediate applications. In forensic science, DNA fingerprinting enabled police to identify suspects of crimes based on their genetic identities.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Boris Ephrussi (1901-1979)

Boris Ephrussi studied fruit flies, yeast, and mouse genetics and development while working in France and the US during the twentieth century. In yeast, Ephrussi studied how mutations in the cytoplasm persisted across generations. In mice he studied the genetics of hybrids and the development of cancer. Working with George Wells Beadle on the causes of different eye colors in fruit flies, Ephrussi's research helped establish the one-gene-one-enzyme hypothesis. Ephrussi helped create new embryological techniques and contributed the theories of genetics and development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Edwin Stephen Goodrich (1868-1946)

Edwin Stephen Goodrich studied the structures of animals in England during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Goodrich studied how animals develop to identify their parts and to establish the evolutionary relationships between different species. Goodrich established that body structures can shift their positions relative to an organism's body during evolution, and he hypothesized that body structures can share ancestry (homology) between organisms of different species, even without identical body placement.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Theodora (Theo) Emily Colborn (1927-2014)

Theodora Colborn studied how chemicals affect organisms as they develop and reproduce during the twentieth and twenty first centuries in the US. By the 1940s, researchers had reported that chemicals from agricultural and industrial processes affected how wild organisms developed, but in 1991, Colborn organized the Wingspread Conference in Racine, Wisconsin, at which a group of scientists classed these chemicals as environmentally harmful substances. Colborn and her colleagues called those chemicals endocrine disruptors, as they mimic or block the body's endocrine system.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Jeffrey Keenan (1961- )

Jeffrey Keenan is the Director of the Southeastern Center for Fertility and Reproductive Medicine and the main developer behind the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, Tennessee. This non-profit organization focuses on embryo donation and embryo adoption.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Dizhou Tong (1902-1979)

Dizhou Tong, also called Ti Chou Tung, studied marine animals and helped introduce and organize experimental embryology in China during the twentieth century. He introduced cellular nuclear transfer technology to the Chinese biological community, developed methods to clone organisms from many marine species, and investigated the role of cytoplasm in early development. Tong's administrative and scientific leadership in the fields of marine, cellular, and developmental biology contributed to China's experimental embryology research programs.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Paul Kammerer (1880-1926)

Paul Kammerer conducted experiments on amphibians and marine animals at the Vivarium, a research institute in Vienna, Austria, in the early twentieth century. Kammerer bred organisms in captivity, and he induced them to develop particular adaptations, which Kammerer claimed the organismss offspring would inherit. Kammerer argued that his results demonstrated the inheritance of acquired characteristics, or Lamarckian inheritance. The Lamarckian theory of inheritance posits that individuals transmit acquired traits to their offspring.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, People

Max Ludwig Henning Delbruck (1906–1981)

Max Ludwig Henning Delbrick applied his knowledge of theoretical physics to biological systems such as bacterial viruses called bacteriophages, or phages, and gene replication during the twentieth century in Germany and the US. Delbrück demonstrated that bacteria undergo random genetic mutations to resist phage infections. Those findings linked bacterial genetics to the genetics of higher organisms. In the mid-twentieth century, Delbrück helped start the Phage Group and Phage Course in the US, which further organized phage research.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Nancy Goodman Brinker (1946– )

Nancy Goodman Brinker founded the largest breast cancer organization in the US, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, during the twentieth century. In 1982, Brinker created the organization, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, in memory of her sister, who had died of breast cancer two years earlier. During the early twentieth century, breast cancer was socially stigmatized, very few people discussed the disease, and there were limited treatment options available for those diagnosed with the disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Matthias Jacob Schleiden (1804–1881)

Matthias Jacob Schleiden helped develop the cell theory in Germany during the nineteenth century. Schleiden studied cells as the common element among all plants and animals. Schleiden contributed to the field of embryology through his introduction of the Zeiss microscope lens and via his work with cells and cell theory as an organizing principle of biology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

August Friedrich Leopold Weismann (1834-1914)

August Friedrich Leopold Weismann studied how the traits of organisms developed and evolved in a variety of organisms, mostly insects and aquatic animals, in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Weismann proposed the theory of the continuity of germ-plasm, a theory of heredity. Weismann postulated that germ-plasm was the hereditary material in cells, and parents transmitted to their offspring only the germ-plasm present in germ-cells (sperm and egg cells) rather than somatic or body cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

George McDonald Church (1954- )

George McDonald Church studied DNA from living and from extinct species in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Church helped to develop and refine techniques with which to describe the complete sequence of all the DNA nucleotides in an organism's genome, techniques such as multiplex sequencing, polony sequencing, and nanopore sequencing. Church also contributed to the Human Genome Project, and in 2005 he helped start a company, the Personal Genome Project. Church proposed to use DNA from extinct species to clone and breed new organisms from those species.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Technologies

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

George Wells Beadle (1903-1989)

George Wells Beadle studied corn, fruit flies, and funguses in the US during the twentieth century. These studies helped Beadle earn the 1958 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Beadle shared the prize with Edward Tatum for their discovery that genes help regulate chemical processes in and between cells. This finding, initially termed the one gene-one enzyme hypothesis, helped scientists develop new techniques to study genes and DNA as molecules, not just as units of heredity between generations of organisms.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

John Craig Venter (1946- )

John Craig Venter helped map the genomes of humans, fruitflies, and other organisms in the US in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and he helped develop an organism with a synthetic genome. In February 2001, Venter and his team published a human genome sequence after using a technique known as Expressed Sequence Tags, or ESTs. Venter worked to bridge commercial investment with scientific research. Venter founded a number of private companies, including the for-profit Celera Genomics, headquartered in Alameda, California, as well as research institutes, such as the not-for-profit J.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Abraham Trembley (1710-1784)

Abraham Trembley's discovery of the remarkable regenerative capacity of the hydra caused many to question their beliefs about the generation of organisms. Born 3 September 1710 to a prominent Geneva family, Trembley studied at the Calvin Institute, now the University of Geneva, where he completed his thesis on calculus. He went on to become tutor for Count William Bentinck's two sons, and it was while teaching the boys natural history that Trembley came across a strange organism in a sample of pond water.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772-1844)

Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, commonly known as Geoffroy, studied animals, their anatomy and their embryos, and teratogens at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Geoffroy also helped develop several specialized fields in the life sciences, including experimental embryology. In his efforts to experimentally demonstrate the theory of recapitulation, Geoffroy developed techniques to intervene in the growth of embryos to see whether they would develop into different kinds of organisms.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Roy John Britten (1919-2012)

Roy John Britten studied DNA sequences in the US in the second
half of the twentieth century, and he helped discover repetitive
elements in DNA sequences. Additionally, Britten helped propose
models and concepts of gene regulatory networks. Britten studied the
organization of repetitive elements and, analyzing data from the
Human Genome Project, he found that the repetitive elements in DNA
segments do not code for proteins, enzymes, or cellular parts.
Britten hypothesized that repetitive elements helped cause cells to

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Simone Mary Campbell (1945–)

Simone Campbell is a Roman Catholic sister, attorney, and poet who advocated for social justice, especially equal access to healthcare in the US in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Campbell worked as a lawyer and served the working poor in California. As of 2018, she works for NETWORK, a lobbying group in Washington DC that focuses on broadening access to healthcare by lowering costs.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Curt Jacob Stern (1902-1981)

Curt Jacob Stern studied radiation and chromosomes in humans and fruit flies in the United States during the twentieth century. He researched the mechanisms of inheritance and of mitosis, or the process in which the chromosomes in the nucleus of a single cell, called the parent cell, split into identical sets and yield two cells, called daughter cells. Stern worked on the Drosophila melanogaster fruit fly, and he provided early evidence that chromosomes exchange genetic material during cellular reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: People