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Christopher Polge and Lionel Edward Aston Rowson’s Experiments on the Freezing of Bull Spermatozoa (1950–1952)

In 1952, researchers Christopher Polge and Lionel Edward Aston Rowson, who worked at the Animal Research Center in Cambridge, England, detailed several experiments on protocols for freezing bull semen for use in the artificial insemination of cows. Freezing sperm extends the life of a viable sperm sample and allows it to be used at later times, such as in artificial insemination. The researchers examined the effects of freezing conditions on bull sperm and how well they produce fertilized embryos once thawed.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Intrauterine Insemination

Intrauterine insemination (IUI), also known as artificial insemination, is one of the earliest and simplest assisted reproductive technologies (ART). With this technique, sperm from either a partner or donor (such as from a sperm bank) is inserted with a syringe into the woman's vagina during ovulation to increase the probability that fertilization will occur and lead to pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Spermism

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

De Formatione Ovi et Pulli (1621), by Girolamo Fabrici

The embryological treatise De formatione ovi et pulli (On the Formation of the Egg and of the Chick) was written by anatomist and embryologist Girolamo Fabrici and published in Padua posthumously in 1621. The book was edited by Joahannes Prevotius and is separated into two parts that describe Fabrici's observations and assumptions on embryology and combine the traditional knowledge of his predecessors with his own first-hand anatomical observations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

“Revival of Spermatozoa after Dehydration and Vitrification at Low Temperatures” (1949), by Christopher Polge, Audrey Ursula Smith, and Alan Sterling Parkes

In the 1949 article “Revival of Spermatozoa after Dehydration and Vitrification at Low Temperatures,” researchers Christopher Polge, Audrey Ursula Smith, and Alan Sterling Parkes demonstrated that glycerol prevents cells from dying while being frozen. Polge and his colleagues discussed several procedures in which they had treated sperm cells from various species with glycerol, froze those cells, and then observed the physiological effects that freezing had on the treated sperm. The researchers concluded that glycerol safely preserves sperm samples from a variety of species.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is an assisted reproductive technique (ART) initially developed by Dr. Gianpiero D. Palermo in 1993 to treat male infertility. It is most commonly used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF) or a less commonly used technique called zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT). In natural fertilization, the sperm must penetrate the surface of the female egg, or oocyte.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

On the Generation of Animals, by Aristotle

Aristotle's On the Generation of Animals is referred to in Latin as De Generatione animalium. As with many of Aristotle's writings, the exact date of authorship is unknown, but it was produced in the latter part of the fourth century B.C. This book is the second recorded work on embryology that is treated as a subject of philosophy, being preceded by contributions in the Hippocratic corpus by about a century.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

De Formato Foetu (c. 1600), by Girolamo Fabrici

The embryological treatise De formato foetu (The Formed Fetus) was written by anatomist and embryologist Girolamo Fabrici. There is no conclusive evidence regarding the first date of publication and what is listed on many copies ranges from 1600-1620, with speculation that the dates were altered by hand. Most forms of the book are dated 1600 and were issued by Franciscus Bolzetta who sold many copies in Venice and whose name appears on the engraved title-page. There is also verification of the book being printed in Padua by Laurentius Pasquatus in 1604.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Nicolaas Hartsoeker (1656-1725)

Nicolaas Hartsoeker, a Dutch astronomer, optics manufacturer, and naturalist, was born 26 March 1656 in Gouda, Netherlands, and died 10 December 1725. His mother was Anna van der Mey and his father was Christiaan Hartsoeker, a prominent evangelical minister. His major contribution to embryology was his observations of human sperm cells, which he claimed to be the first to see under a microscope. His sketch of the homunculus, a tiny preformed human he believed to exist in the head of spermatazoa, is his lasting scientific legacy in the field of embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ian Wilmut (1944- )

British embryologist Sir Ian Wilmut, best known for his work in the field of animal genetic engineering and the successful cloning of sheep, was born 7 July 1944 in Hampton Lucy, England. The family later moved to Scarborough, in the north of the country, to allow his father to accept a teaching position. There Wilmut met Gordon Whalley, head of the biology department at Scarborough High School for Boys, which Wilmut attended.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Fruits of Philosophy (1832), by Charles Knowlton

In 1832, Charles Knowlton published The Fruits of Philosophy, a pamphlet advocating for controlling reproduction and detailing methods for preventing pregnancy. Originally published anonymously in Massachusetts, The Fruits of Philosophy was an illegal book because United States law prohibited the publishing of immoral and obscene material, which included information about contraception. In The Fruits of Philosophy, Knowlton detailed recipes for contraceptives and advocated for controlling reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Patrick Christopher Steptoe (1913-1988)

Patrick Christopher Steptoe was a British gynecologist responsible for major advances in gynecology and reproductive technology. Throughout his career Steptoe promoted laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgical technique that allows a view inside the abdominal cavity, successfully advancing its usefulness in gynecology. After partnering with embryologist Robert Edwards in 1966, the pair performed the first in vitro fertilization in humans.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT)

Various techniques constitute assisted reproduction, one of which is gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT). The first example of GIFT involved primates during the 1970s; however, the technology was unsuccessful until 1984 when an effective GIFT method was invented by Ricardo Asch at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center and the procedure resulted in the first human pregnancy. The GIFT technique was created in hopes of generating an artificial insemination process that mimicked the physiological sequences of normal conception.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Eduard Friedrich Wilhelm Pflüger (1829-1910)

Eduard Friedrich Wilhelm Pflüger was a physiologist known for his research on respiration, the respiratory quotient, experimenting on the effects of electricity on muscles and nerves, and his study of the ovaries and egg development. His experiments on how the gravitational orientation of frog eggs affects their cleavage plane inspired embryologists such as Wilhelm Roux and Gustav Born to conduct their own experiments using frog eggs.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Assisted Reproductive Technologies

Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are a collection of different techniques designed to help those who are infertile achieve a successful pregnancy. The most popular technology currently in use is in vitro fertilization (IVF), but others include gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT), intrauterine insemination (IUI), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Ovism

Ovism was one of two models of preformationism, a theory of generation prevalent in the late seventeenth through the end of the eighteenth century. Contrary to the competing theory of epigenesis (gradual emergence of form), preformationism held that the unborn offspring existed fully formed in the eggs or sperm of its parents prior to conception. The ovist model held that the maternal egg was the location of this preformed embryo, while the other preformationism model known as spermism preferred the paternal germ cell, as the name implies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Miracle of Life (1983), by NOVA

The most-watched NOVA documentary ever made and a revolution in the understanding of human development, The Miracle of Life (abbreviated Life) employs the most current developments in endoscopic and microscopic technology to capture the intricacies of human development. Narrated by Anita Sangiolo and vividly illustrating the most minute and hard-to-reach parts and processes of living systems, this film truly flexes the muscles of the newest photographic technology of its time, with esteemed photographer Lennart Nilsson behind the camera.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction

A History of Embryology (1959), by Joseph Needham

In 1931 embryologist and historian Joseph Needham published a well-received three-volume treatise titled Chemical Embryology. The first four chapters from this work were delivered as lectures on Speculation, Observation, and Experiment, as Illustrated by the History of Embryology at the University of London. The same lectures were later released as a book published in 1934 titled A History of Embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

In Vitro Fertilization

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is an assisted reproductive technology (ART) initially introduced by Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards in the 1970s to treat female infertility caused by damaged or blocked fallopian tubes. This major breakthrough in embryo research has provided large numbers of women the possibility of becoming pregnant, and subsequent advances have dramatically increased their chances. IVF is a laboratory procedure in which sperm and egg are fertilized outside the body; the term "in vitro" is Latin for "in glass."

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Preformationism in the Enlightenment

Preformationism was a theory of embryological development used in the late seventeenth through the late eighteenth centuries. This theory held that the generation of offspring occurs as a result of an unfolding and growth of preformed parts. There were two competing models of preformationism: the ovism model, in which the location of these preformed parts prior to gestation was the maternal egg, and the spermism model, in which a preformed individual or homunculus was thought to exist in the head of each sperm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology (1984), by Mary Warnock and the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology

The Report of the Committee of Inquiry
into Human Fertilisation and Embryology, commonly called the Warnock
Report after the chair of the committee Mary Warnock, is the 1984
publication of a UK governmental inquiry into the social impacts of
infertility treatment and embryological research. The birth of Louise
Brown in 1978 in Oldham, UK, sparked debate about reproductive and
embryological technologies. Brown was conceived through in vitro
fertilization (IVF), a process of fertilization that occurs outside of

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Legal, Ethics

China's First Baby Conceived through In Vitro Fertilization-Embryonic Transfer, by Zhang Lizhu's Research Team

On 10 March 1988, China's first baby conceived through human in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET), commonly referred to as a test-tube baby, was born at the Peking Hospital (PUTH) in Beijing. This birth was reported in numerous media reports as a huge step forward in China's long march to keep pace with global advances in science and technology. Led by gynecologist Zhang Lizhu, the PUTH research team had devoted more than four years to the human IVF-ET project.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

David Edwin Wildt (1950- )

David Edwin Wildt developed and applied assisted reproductive technologies to conserve rare and endangered wildlife species in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He advocated genome resource banks to help preserve biodiversity, and he advocated for practical ethics to guide wildlife reproductive biologists when they use technology and environmental planning. Wildt often focused on the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), but he researched greater than fifty vertebrate species.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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