The Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) documentary Life's Greatest Miracle (abbreviated Miracle, available at, is arguably one of the most vivid illustrations of the making of new human life. Presented as part of the PBS television series NOVA, Miracle is a little less than an hour long and was first aired 20 November 2001. The program was written and produced by Julia Cort and features images by renowned Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson. It comes as a sequel to the award-winning 1983 NOVA production, The Miracle of Life, which exhibits Nilsson's photography as well. The program showcases a combination of graphic animation, endoscopic and microscopic footage, as well as the story of a couple who are expecting a child. It features a number of new technological and scientific developments not present in its prequel, providing additional relevant information. By depicting human development in a clear and fresh manner, Miracle helps shed light on this indispensible aspect of life. Following is a description of the documentary, highlighting the key points of the film and explaining images featured in it.

Sir John Bertrand Gurdon further developed nuclear transplantation, the technique used to clone organisms and to create stem cells, while working in Britain in the second half of the twentieth century. Gurdon's research built on the work of Thomas King and Robert Briggs in the United States, who in 1952 published findings that indicated that scientists could take a nucleus from an early embryonic cell and successfully transfer it into an unfertilized and enucleated egg cell. Briggs and King also concluded that a nucleus taken from an adult cell and similarly inserted into an unfertilized enucleated egg cell could not produce normal development. In 1962, however, Gurdon published results that indicated otherwise. While Briggs and King worked with Rana pipiens frogs, Gurdon used the faster-growing species Xenopus laevis to show that nuclei from specialized cells still held the potential to be any cell despite its specialization. In 2012, the Nobel Prize Committee awarded Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka its prize in physiology and medicine for for their work on cloning and pluripotent stem cells.

Meiosis, the process by which sexually-reproducing organisms generate gametes (sex cells), is an essential precondition for the normal formation of the embryo. As sexually reproducing, diploid, multicellular eukaryotes, humans rely on meiosis to serve a number of important functions, including the promotion of genetic diversity and the creation of proper conditions for reproductive success. However, the primary function of meiosis is the reduction of the ploidy (number of chromosomes) of the gametes from diploid (2n, or two sets of 23 chromosomes) to haploid (1n or one set of 23 chromosomes). While parts of meiosis are similar to mitotic processes, the two systems of cellular division produce distinctly different outcomes. Problems during meiosis can stop embryonic development and sometimes cause spontaneous miscarriages, genetic errors, and birth defects such as Down syndrome.

Written by Orli Lotan on behalf of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) Center for Research and Information, "Limitations in Abortion Legislation: A Comparative Study" (hereafter abbreviated "Legislation") examines abortion legislation in Israel, the US, Canada, and a number of European countries. The study also acknowledges the medical, moral, ethical, and religious implications of abortion and the impact of such legislation on society in each country. It acknowledges the conflicting viewpoints that exist regarding the issue of abortion, but notes the overall global liberalization of the legal system since the 1950s and the significant drop in maternal, abortion-related illness and death. The following is a description of the study, taken from the original Hebrew version written in November 2007.

Written, produced, and directed by Toby Mcdonald, the 2005 National Geographic Channel film In the Womb uses the most recent technology to provide an intricate glimpse into the prenatal world. The technologies used, which include advanced photography, computer graphics, and 4-D ultrasound imaging, help to realistically illustrate the process of development and to answer questions about the rarely seen development of a human being. The following description of the images and narrative of the film captures the major points of In the Womb, and of embryonic and fetal development, as they are seen at the outset of the twenty-first century, depicted in only 100 minutes.

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. His exhaustive studies of chromosomal and cellular behavior during early development paved the way for much of the emerging field of embryology.

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. Aired in 1983, Life was the first documentary of its kind, clearly explaining, in under an hour, biological systems that many people had never seen before. The film was written and produced by Bebe Nixon and directed by Bo G. Erikson. What follows is a description of the film, along with a brief analysis of its impact.

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. Under Whalley's influence, young Wilmut first expressed interest in the life sciences and after graduating high school, he enrolled in the University of Nottingham to study agriculture. It was during his freshman year at Nottingham that Wilmut first came into contact with scientific research. He was mentored by Professor Eric Lamming, an expert in reproductive science and animal physiology, who sparked Wilmut's curiosity with animal genetics. Wilmut 's father, Leonard Wilmut, had diabetes, which eventually brought about blindness and may have been another, more personal factor that stimulated Wilmut's interest in the field. The summer before his graduation from Nottingham, Wilmut completed an eight-week internship at Cambridge in the laboratory of Christopher Polge, a prominent cryobiologist. There, he was introduced to techniques of preserving and manipulating animal cells.

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. In the nineteenth century, embryologist Karl Ernst von Baer famously noted that embryos of different species generally start out with very similar structure and diverge as they progress through development. This similarity allows for the construction of a series of detailed stages exhibited by a range of different organisms (though in reality embryonic development is a continuous, not staggered, process) describing the progression of events that begin with conception.

The process of gastrulation allows for the formation of the germ layers in metazoan embryos, and is generally achieved through a series of complex and coordinated cellular movements. The process of gastrulation can be either diploblastic or triploblastic. In diploblastic organisms like cnidaria or ctenophora, only the endoderm and the ectoderm form; in triploblastic organisms (most other complex metazoans), triploblastic gastrulation produces all three germ layers. The gastrula, the product of gastrulation, was named by Ernst Haeckel in the mid-1870s; the name comes from Latin, where gaster means stomach, and indeed the gut (archenteron) is one of the most distinctive features of the gastrula.

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