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Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Embryology

The Carnegie Institution of Washington's (CIW) Embryology Department was opened in 1914 and remains one of six departments in the CIW. The department quickly became, and remains, world renowned for its many embryonic development discoveries. In 1913 Franklin P. Mall, Professor of Anatomy at Johns Hopkins Medical School, applied for a Carnegie grant to support his research with human embryos. Mall had a collection of over 800 human embryo specimens and was at the point of wanting to do more than just collect.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Wilhelm Johannsen's Genotype-Phenotype Distinction

Wilhelm Johannsen in Denmark first proposed the distinction between genotype and phenotype in the study of heredity in 1909. This distinction is between the hereditary dispositions of organisms (their genotypes) and the ways in which those dispositions manifest themselves in the physical characteristics of those organisms (their phenotypes). This distinction was an outgrowth of Johannsen's experiments concerning heritable variation in plants, and it influenced his pure line theory of heredity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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

David Starr Jordan (1851-1931)

David Starr Jordan studied fish and promoted eugenics in the US during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In his work, he embraced Charles Darwin s theory of evolution and described the importance of embryology in tracing phylogenic relationships. In 1891, he became the president of Stanford University in Stanford, California. Jordan condemned war and promoted conservationist causes for the California wilderness, and he advocated for the eugenic sterilization of thousands of Americans.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Golden Rice

Golden Rice was engineered from normal rice by Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer in the 1990s to help improve human health. Golden Rice has an engineered multi-gene biochemical pathway in its genome. This pathway produces beta-carotene, a molecule that becomes vitamin A when metabolized by humans. Ingo Potrykus worked at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, and Peter Beyer worked at University of Freiburg, in Freiburg, Germany. The US Rockefeller Foundation supported their collaboration.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms, Legal

Francis Harry Compton Crick (1916-2004)

Francis Harry Compton Crick, who co-discovered the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in 1953 in Cambridge, England, also developed The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology, and further clarified the relationship between nucleotides and protein synthesis. Crick received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine that he shared with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins in 1962 for their discovery of the molecular structure of DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Social Implications of Non-Invasive Blood Tests to Determine the Sex of Fetuses

By 2011, researchers in the US had established that non-invasive blood tests can accurately determine the gender of a human fetus as early as seven weeks after fertilization. Experts predicted that this ability may encourage the use of prenatal sex screening tests by women interested to know the gender of their fetuses. As more people begin to use non-invasive blood tests that accurately determine the sex of the fetus at 7 weeks, many ethical questions pertaining to regulation, the consequences of gender-imbalanced societies, and altered meanings of the parent-child relationship.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Ethics, Legal

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990)

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 established the legal framework that governs infertility treatment, medical services ancillary to infertility treatment such as embryo storage, and all human embryological research performed in the UK. The law also defines a legal concept of the parent of a child conceived with assisted reproductive technologies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction, Ethics

Kass v. Kass (1998)

In Maureen Kass v. Steven Kass (1998), the Court of Appeals of New York in Albany, New York, ruled that the state should generally consider IVF consent forms signed by participants in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) program valid, binding, and enforceable in the event of a dispute. The court indicated that decisions regarding the handling of cryopreserved pre-zygotes, often called preembryos, contained within these consent forms should be upheld.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Christian Peeters and Bert Hölldobler's Experiments on Reproduction in Indian Jumping Ants (1991–1994)

Between 1991 and 1994, Christian Peeters and Bert Hölldobler studied the reproductive behaviors of the Indian jumping ant (Harpegnathos saltator), a species native to southern India. They conducted experiments as part of a larger investigation into conflict and reproductive behavior among ants. Peeters and Hölldobler discovered that Indian jumping ant colonies contained both sexually reproductive workers and egg-laying queens. In most other species of ant, the queens are the only sexually reproductive individuals.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Edward Charles Dodds (1899-1973)

Edward Charles Dodds researched the function and effects of natural and artificial hormones on the endocrine system in England during the twentieth century. Though he first worked with hormones such as insulin, Dodds focused on the effects of estrogen in the body and how to replicate those effects with artificial substances. In 1938, along with chemist Robert Robinson, Dodds synthesized the first synthetic estrogen called diethylstilbestrol.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Symptoms Associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS is one of the most common reproductive conditions in women, and its symptoms include cystic ovaries, menstrual irregularities, and elevated androgen or male sex hormone levels. During the 1930s, Irving Freiler Stein and Michael Leventhal identified the syndrome and its symptoms. Women who experience symptoms of PCOS may also experience secondary symptoms, including infertility and diabetes. Though estimates vary and the causes of the syndrome are not clear as of 2017, PCOS affects approximately ten percent of women of reproductive age.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Roger Sperry’s Split Brain Experiments (1959–1968)

In the 1950s and 1960s, Roger Sperry performed experiments on cats, monkeys, and humans to study functional differences between the two hemispheres of the brain in the United States. To do so he studied the corpus callosum, which is a large bundle of neurons that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Sperry severed the corpus callosum in cats and monkeys to study the function of each side of the brain. He found that if hemispheres were not connected, they functioned independently of one another, which he called a split-brain.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

Ernst Haeckel's Biogenetic Law (1866)

The biogenetic law is a theory of development and evolution proposed by Ernst Haeckel in Germany in the 1860s. It is one of several recapitulation theories, which posit that the stages of development for an animal embryo are the same as other animals' adult stages or forms. Commonly stated as ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, the biogenetic law theorizes that the stages an animal embryo undergoes during development are a chronological replay of that species' past evolutionary forms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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

Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977), by Stephen Jay Gould

Ontogeny and Phylogeny is a book published in 1977, in which the author Stephen J. Gould, who worked in the US, tells a history of the theory of recapitulation. A theory of recapitulation aims to explain the relationship between the embryonic development of an organism (ontogeny) and the evolution of that organism's species (phylogeny). Although there are several variations of recapitulationist theories, most claim that during embryonic development an organism repeats the adult stages of organisms from those species in it's evolutionary history.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

US Regulatory Response to Thalidomide (1950-2000)

Thalidomide, a drug capable of causing fetal abnormalities (teratogen), has caused greater than ten thousand birth defects worldwide since its introduction to the market as a pharmaceutical agent. Prior to discovering thalidomide's teratogenic effects in the early 1960s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not place regulations on drug approval or monitoring as it later did. By 1962, approximately 20,000 patients in the US had taken thalidomide as part of an unregulated clinical trial before any actions were taken to stop thalidomide's distribution.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

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

William Thomas Astbury (1898–1961)

William Thomas Astbury studied the structures of fibrous materials, including fabrics, proteins, and deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in England during the twentieth century. Astbury employed X-ray crystallography, a technique in which scientists use X-rays to learn about the molecular structures of materials. Astbury worked at a time when scientists had not yet identified DNA’s structure or function in genes, the genetic components responsible for how organisms develop and reproduce. He was one of the first scientists to use X-ray crystallography to study the structure of DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA)

Transposition of the great arteries or TGA is a potentially fatal congenital heart malformation where the pulmonary artery and the aorta are switched. The switch means that the aorta, which normally carries oxygenated blood, carries deoxygenated blood. There are two types of the malformation, d-TGA where no oxygen reaches the body and l-TGA where some oxygenated blood circulates. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that about 1,901 infants are born each year with TGA, or about one for every 2,000 births.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation (1979-1984)

In the legal case In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation of the early 1980s, US military veterans of the Vietnam War sued the US chemical companies that had produced the herbicide Agent Orange, and those companies settled with US veterans out of court. Agent Orange contains dioxin, a chemical later shown to disrupt the hormone system of the body and to cause cancer. As veterans returned to the US from Vietnam, scientists further confirmed that exposure to Agent Orange caused a variety of cancers in veterans and developmental problems in the veterans' children.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (1993)

In its 1993 decision Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the US Supreme Court established the Daubert Standard for evaluating the admissibility of scientific knowledge as evidence in US federal courts. When it began in trial court, the case addressed whether or not Bendectin, an anti-nausea medication taken during pregnancy, caused birth defects. However, after the trial court dismissed the case for lack of admissible evidence, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

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

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