Jane Maienschein is the daughter of Joyce Kylander and Fred Maienschein, and was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on 23 September 1950. She attended MIT as a freshman and then transferred to Yale University in 1969 when Yale decided to admit women undergraduates. In 1972 she graduated with an honors degree in History, the Arts, and Letters having written a thesis on the history of science. She then attended Indiana University and studied with historian of embryology Frederick B. Churchill, took courses with embryologist Rudolf Raff, and learned how to do embryological laboratory research with Robert Briggs. She received her MA in 1976 and a PhD in 1978, with a pre-doctoral Fellowship at the Smithsonian to study the history of microscopes and microscopy, and an NSF-funded dissertation improvement visit to the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) to reproduce old embryological experiments and soak up the history and resources of the MBL Library and labs. Maienschein's scholarly research focuses on the history and philosophy of developmental biology.
Nicole Marthe Le Douarin was one of the first progressive female pioneers of developmental and embryological research. Some of her most notable and ground-breaking work involves grafting quail and chicken embryos together in order to study the developmental fate of each contributing embryo. Le Douarin was born in Brittany, France, on 20 August 1930. As an only child she was inspired by her mother, a school teacher at the time, to develop a passion for learning. According to Le Douarin her father was an open-minded businessman who, likely because she was an only child, raised her much like a boy. In 1944 Le Douarin was forced to move out of her hometown of Lorient and attend a boarding school in Nantes, France, to escape the invasion of German forces during World War II. After the war, she returned to her high school in Lorient, where she received her baccalaureate in 1949. During her last year in Lorient, when she was only seventeen, Douarin met her fianc_. After graduating, and against the wishes of her mother, she moved with him to Paris where they attended the Sorbonne. In 1951, after three years of courtship and university classes together, the couple was married. Le Douarin graduated from the Sorbonne with a degree in the natural sciences in 1954. Instead of immediately continuing to graduate school, she chose to teach science at a local high school and raise a family.
Pope Gregory XIV, born Nicolo Sfondrati, reversed the bull of Pope Sixtus V, Effraenatum, under which an abortion at any time of gestation can be punished by excommunication. He supported the Aristotelian distinction between an "animated" and "unanimated" fetus, making abortion of an unanimated fetus punishable by lesser means. This decision contributed to the historical debates within the Roman Catholic Church on when a fetus has a soul, and when abortion was punishable by excommunication.
Andrew Zachary Fire is a professor at Stanford University and Nobel Laureate. Fire worked at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Embryology in Baltimore, Maryland, with colleague Craig Mello, where they discovered that RNA molecules could be used to turn off or knock out the expression of genes. Fire and Mello called the process RNA interference (RNAi), and won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2006 for their discovery.
Charles Otis Whitman was an extremely curious and driven researcher who was not content to limit himself to one field of expertise. Among the fields of study to which he made significant contributions were: embryology; morphology, or the form of living organisms and the relationships between their structures; natural history; and behavior. Whitman served as director of several programs and institutions, including the Biology Department at the University of Chicago, where he helped establish a new style of biology and influenced the work of many researchers of his generation, as well as future ones. He also served as first director of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, MA. Besides his considerable achievements with his own scientific research, Whitman was a tireless mentor who had many students who went on to achieve great success in the field of embryology.
Robert Geoffrey Edwards worked with Patrick Christopher Steptoe to develop in-vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques during the 1960s and 1970s in the United Kingdom. Louise Brown, the world' s first "test-tube baby," was born as a result of Edwards and Steptoe's IVF techniques in 1978, and since then more than four million children have been born using IVF techniques. Publicity and controversy accompanied Edwards and Steptoe's work as conservative religious institutions expressed concern over the morality of the IVF procedure. Edwards was honored for his accomplishments, receiving numerous awards including the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Zhang Lizhu is a Chinese gynecologist and researcher. For most of her career, she worked in the Peking Medical College Third Hospital, renamed in 2000, Peking University Third Hospital. There, she led a team of researchers and physicians in the study of human in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET) technology. Zhang and her colleagues contributed to the birth of the first test-tube baby in Mainland China in 1988.
During the twentieth century, Thomas Raphael Verny studied the way that environment affects a developing fetus’s character and psychological development. Verny studied the concept of memory before birth and covered both the prenatal and perinatal periods, meaning the time the fetus is in the womb and the weeks immediately before or after birth, respectively. During those times, Verny claimed that patterns of maternal attitudes and experiences, such as affection and stress-related emotions, impact the development of the child. Published in 1981, Verny’s book The Secret Life of the Unborn Child presented novel ideas about how pregnant women’s emotional health impacts the psychological, emotional, and physical development of their fetuses, sparking discussion about the importance of maternal emotional health during prenatal development.
Lap-Chee Tsui is a geneticist who discovered the cystic fibrosis (CF) gene, and his research team sequenced human chromosome 7. As the location of the cystic fibrosis gene is now known, it is possible for doctors and specialists to identify in human fetuses the mutation that causes the fatal disease. Tsui's research also outlined the mechanisms for the development of cystic fibrosis, which were previously unknown.
Bernard Nathanson was an obstetrician and gynecologist in New York City, New York, who argued for, and later against, women's rights to abortion. Between 1970 and 1979, Nathanson oversaw at least 75,000 abortions, 5,000 of which he performed himself, earning him the nickname of abortion king. However, his views regarding abortion shifted in 1973, after he watched an abortion using ultrasound imaging technology. Afterwards, Nathanson began to oppose women's rights to abortion, and he published the anti-abortion book Aborting America and produced the film Silent Scream.