How fast can you count to this #?
Deprecated: Function split() is deprecated in /home/science1/public_html/modules/mod_dn/helper.php on line 218
We Need Your Help!
Do You Know This Scientist?
If you do, we welcome your input. Please share your funny stories, brief anecdotes, quotes, and photos of the scientist - as well as your own inspirational opinions. Personal accounts help bring a scientist alive and create an enduring historical picture. You can be a part of this exciting history by providing your personal account!
Please click here to learn more about how to contribute:
Participate as a Friend Scholar
Can You Write or Research?
Help us learn more about this great scientist. You can be a credited Support Scholar by contributing your knowledge about this scientist and important discovery. Entries can be as short as a single section and as easy as compiling quotes. Click here to learn more about becoming a Support Scholar:
Participate as a Support Scholar
Would you like to adopt a scientist?
Endeavor to research all the sections of a scientist. Click here to learn how to be an Expert Scholar.
Participate as an Expert Scholar
Have Historically Significant Photographs?
Participate with Photos
Click here for all the ways you can participate:
Participate to ScienceHeroes.com
Has this scientist’s science impacted your life?
Click here to tell your story or to read others’ life changing anecdotes:
Post Your Own Testimonial
Mary Ellen Avery
(May 6, 1927 - December 4, 2011)
Born in the United States
Year of Discovery: 1959
Doctor Solves Puzzle that Suffocates Many Premature Babies!
Inspiration is not so much something that is pursued, as it is something that is recognized when it suddenly appears. Avery's life, beginning with her early days growing up in
Later, as a resident at Johns Hopkins in the mid-1950s, Avery began a serious study of the lungs. She was especially interested in the lung's surface tension and the role it played in the deaths of premature infants. It was Avery's insight that solved the mystery of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), an often-fatal lung ailment afflicting premature infants. She discovered these premature infants were missing a crucial substance, called surfactant, which protects the lungs from collapsing when infants exhale. Her discovery led to life-saving treatments that allowed these newborns to overcome RDS and fill their lungs with the very breath of life.Surfactant is the substance that keeps the lungs' airspaces expanded when we exhale. It acts by lowering the surface tension of the lungs, thus allowing the alveoli (the smallest air sacs inside the lungs) to remain open. But premature babies, especially those born before 28 weeks gestation, are unable to produce their own surfactant.
Avery had watched many premature infants lose their battle with RDS. It was difficult to watch and it happened quickly. The infants would struggle to breathe in fresh air, and then would make little grunting noises as they exhaled. They simply couldn't keep up. Their bodies turned blue and they died within the first three or four days of life. But, some survived. In fact, if they lived beyond those first critical days, they literally sprang back to life. Their lungs cleared and they were, by all appearances, healthy newborns. Avery wanted to know why. She was convinced there was something within the lungs themselves causing the RDS. Her breakthrough came when she heard that a scientist named Clements had identified a lung substance he called pulmonary surfactant. She was intrigued and drove to
Prior to Avery's discovery, doctors were at a loss as to how to treat these infants, and often watched helplessly as the infants struggled for breath and then died. Avery's identification of surfactant led to the development of replacement therapy for premature infants and has been credited with saving over 830,000 lives.
Table of ContentsIntroduction
Links to More Information About the Scientist
Key Experiment or Research
Quotes by the Scientist
Quotes About the Scientist
Fun Trivia About The Science
The Science Behind the Discovery
Science Discovery Timeline
Recommended Books About the Science
Books by the Scientist
Books About the Scientist
Major Academic Papers
Links to Science and Related Information on the Subject
Links to More About the Scientist & the Science
National Library of Medicine Biography:
Alfred I. duPont Award for Excellence in Children's Health Care:
FASEB Journal article detailing Dr. Avery's role in discovering surfactant:
Children's Hospital Boston interview with Avery:
Sliders & Images here
Image Flow Here
The Science Behind the Discovery
Links to Information on the Science