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Ernest John Christopher Polge (1926-2006)
By Renee Bailey
Twentieth-century researcher Ernest John Christopher Polge studied the reproductive processes of livestock and determined a method to successfully freeze, thaw, and utilize viable sperm cells to produce offspring in animals. In 1949, Polge identified glycerol as a cryoprotectant, or a medium that enables cells to freeze without damaging their cellular components or functions. Several years later, Polge used glycerol in a freezing process called vitrification, which enabled him to freeze poultry sperm, thaw that sperm, and use it to fertilize vertebrate embryos.
Ian Donald (1910–1987)
By Nicole Erjavic
Ian Donald was an obstetrician who developed the technology and therapy of ultrasound diagnostics during the twentieth century in Europe. Ultrasound is a medical diagnostic technique that uses sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. During the early 1900s, physicians had no way to see inside a woman’s uterus during pregnancy. Donald developed the first method of scanning human internal anatomy in real time, which enabled doctors to diagnose potentially fatal tumors and cysts.
Emma Goldman (1869–1940)
By Rainey Horwitz
Emma Goldman was a traveling public speaker and writer known for her anarchist political views as well as her opinions on contraception and birth limiting in the late nineteenth century in the United States. Goldman identified as an anarchist, which she explained as being part of an ideology in which people use violence to provoke or demand social and political change. Goldman was involved in many anarchist social groups and published the anarchist magazine Mother Earth.
Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–1874)
By Mudhaffar Bahjat
Chāng (Chang) and Ēn (Eng) Bunker were conjoined twins in the nineteenth century in the United States, the first pair of conjoined twins whose condition was well documented in medical records. A conjoined twins is a rare condition in which two infants are born physically connected to each other. In their youth, the brothers earned money by putting themselves on display as curiosities and giving lectures and demonstrations about their condition. The Bunker brothers toured around the world, including the United States, Europe, Canada, and France, and allowed physicians to examine them.
Norbert Freinkel (1926–1989)
By Blaise Castagnetti
During the twentieth century, Norbert Freinkel studied hormones and diabetes in the US. Freinkel conducted many experiments that enabled him to determine the factors that influence hormones of the thyroid gland to bind to proteins and to determine the effects that those thyroid hormones have on surrounding tissues. Furthermore, Freinkel researched gestational diabetes, which is diabetes that occurs for the first time during a women’s pregnancy. That type of diabetes is caused by a change in the way a woman’s body responds to insulin, a hormone made in the body.
Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564)
By Nicole Erjavic
Andreas Vesalius, also called Andries van Wesel, studied anatomy during the sixteenth century in Europe. Throughout his career, Vesalius thoroughly dissected numerous human cadavers, and took detailed notes and drawings of his research. Compiling his research, Vesalius published an anatomy work titled De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the fabric of the human body in seven books). The Fabrica included illustrations of dissected men, women, and uteruses with intact fetuses.
David Hunter Hubel (1926–2013)
By Dina A. Lienhard
David Hunter Hubel studied the development of the visual system and how the brain processes visual information in the US during the twentieth century. He performed multiple experiments with kittens in which he sewed kitten’s eyes shut for varying periods of time and monitored their vision after reopening them. Hubel, along with colleague Torsten Wiesel, received the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for that research.
David Baltimore (1938– )
By Meilin Zhu
David Baltimore studied viruses and the immune system in the US during the twentieth century. In 1975, Baltimore was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering reverse transcriptase, the enzyme used to transfer information from RNA to DNA. The discovery of reverse transcriptase contradicted the central dogma of biology at the time, which stated that the transfer of information was unidirectional from DNA, RNA, to protein.
Annie Dodge Wauneka (1910-1997)
By Lakshmeeramya Malladi
Annie Dodge Wauneka, a member of the Navajo Tribal Council in Window Rock, Arizona, from 1951 to 1978, advocated for improved lifestyle, disease prevention, and access to medical knowledge in the Navajo Indian Reservation, later renamed the Navajo Nation. Wauneka served as chair of the Health and Welfare Committee of the Navajo Tribal Council and as a member of the US Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Indian Health. Wauneka advocated for initiatives aimed at promoting education, preventing tuberculosis, and reducing the infant mortality rate.
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821–1910)
By Alexis Darby
In the nineteenth century, Elizabeth Blackwell was a women’s healthcare reformer and the first woman to receive her medical degree in the United States. She practiced medicine as a primary care physician in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Blackwell graduated medical school from Geneva Medical College in Geneva, New York, where she was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the US.