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userMaleSmall George Airy
Astigmatism Correction


July 27, 1801 – January 2, 1892
Alnwick, Northumberland, England

Get your noisemaker - it's the New Year's Eve countdown: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Happy New Year!!! Every December 31, we celebrate the end of the old, and the beginning of the new. Most Americans follow the party at Times Square in New York and, as the ball drops, join together in marking the passage of the year. Of course, New York is in the Eastern Time zone, so New Year's occurs 24 times around the planet! Here's a question: just when does the day begin? The answer is in England at the location of the Greenwich Meridian, marked as Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT. In 1884 the countries of the world ratified the GMT as the official location of the beginning of the day. George Airy, an astronomer from England, developed GMT in 1851, using “clock stars”.: You probably thought the sun set the time of day! Airy also had problems with astigmatism, so he created the first pair of eyeglasses that corrected for this problem. His lens model is still used even today! Airy also presided over the installation of the bells in Big Ben.

New World Encyclopedia cite

National Maritime Museum entry

Florida State University reference

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmallHarvey Alter
Discovered Hepatitis C


1935
New York, NY

Your parents may be the types that want to see only “A’s” on your report card. But what if you told them that a prominent scientific researcher achieved worldwide recognition by routinely reporting “C’s”? That scientist was Harvey Alter, and his “C” paper, published in 1989, dealt with hepatitis C.  Prior to his studies, it was an unknown agent, signified by the term “non- A, non-B Hepatitis” (NANBH).  Alter was studying a common problem among those who received blood transfusions.  As many as 30% of transfusion recipients developed hepatitis, a disease which inflames the liver and can even cause cirrhosis.  He established that hepatitis C was indeed a different factor from hepatitis A and B, but additional work by Chiron Labs and Michael Houghton pinned down the substance. Their combined efforts led to improved screening techniques of donated blood which removed those donors who were carriers. As a result, the incidence of hepatitis from transfusions has, effectively, disappeared, falling from a staggeringly high 30% down to a 1:200,000 chance of infection. Even better, zero is looking possible as new techniques have emerged that identify the nucleic acid of hepatitis, so that a positive result can be found even sooner. For their work, both Alter and Houghton were awarded the 2000 Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award.

NIH link

Wikipedia entry

Lasker Foundation reference

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userMaleSmallChristiaan Barnard
First Heart Transplant


November 8, 1922 – September 2, 2001
Beaufort West, South Africa

Dr. Christiaan Barnard was the medical pioneer who performed the first human heart transplant in 1967.  This procedure enabled patients with very sick and damaged hearts to receive a healthy heart taken from another patient who had recently died of another cause. At first, Dr. Barnard's patients lived for short periods of time after the implant due to infections and rejection by their body. However, the discovery of cyclosporin in 1974 by Jean-Francoise Borel in Norway successfully addressed the rejection problem, enabling heart transplant recipients to live for decades after the operation.  One incident which undoubtedly motivated Dr. Barnard was the premature death of his 5 year old brother from heart disease. Dr. Barnard was a media sensation at the time.  He was also a political activist in South Africa, campaigning to end Apartheid.

History Learningsite source

Wikipedia entry

Notable Biographies.com link

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userMaleSmall Jose Barraquer
LASIK


January 24, 1916- February 13, 1998
Barcelona, Spain

Jose Ignacio Barraquer was the ophthalmologist who developed the breakthrough eye technology that made LASIK surgery possible. LASIK involves the use of lasers to carve very thin slices of cornea which are then reshaped so as to reduce nearsightedness and other optical health problems. He actually invented the cryolathe and microkeratome, which are the instruments used to perform LASIK. Born in Barcelona, Spain, Dr. Barrquer made his home in Bogota, Colombia. While there, he founded the Barraquer Institute of America. One of its goals is to provide free eye care to poor Colombians. The Barraquer Institute also established the first eye bank in Colombia.

Barraquer Institute website

Wikipedia link on LASIK surgery, the practice developed by Dr. Barraquer

Wikipedia link on Jose Barraquer

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PatriciaBath Patricia Bath

Cataract Removal


November 4, 1942 -
Born: Harlem, NY

Patricia Bath, M.D., gained world renown as the first female African-American to patent a medical invention. An ophthalmologist, she had a humble background. Her father was the first Black subway motorman in New York and her mother was employed as a domestic laborer. Bath obtained her undergraduate degree from Hunter College in physics and chemistry in 1964, then went on to Howard University where she graduated from Medical school in 1968. Her interest was in eyesight. During her practice, she noticed that African Americans were eight times more likely to go blind than others. She attributed this to a lack of access to medical eye care. As a result, she pioneered efforts to develop Community Ophthalmology to help reduce blindness. Later she did her pioneering work in cataract removal, named the “Laserphaco Probe”.

Smithsonian Biography

Black Inventor Biography

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Mani Lal Bhaumik
LASIK


*************
Tamluk, Medinipore, West Bengal, India

It's not often that a scientist becomes a member of the glitzy Hollywood scene, but Dr. Mani Lal Bhaumik is one such person, having been profiled on the TV program “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” Dr. Bhaumik's early work was with the excimer laser. This laser was the foundation for LASIK eye surgery that corrects vision. Glasses be gone! His interests ranged well beyond eyesight, however. Dr. Bhaumik began to promote a unified approach to science and religion, best exemplified in his book “Code Name: God”. Dr. Bhaumik is the recipient of a long list of distinguished academic awards. He is an ambassador of goodwill between sister cities of Los Angeles, California and the Indian cities of Mumbai and Calcutta.

Spiritus-Temporis entry

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Forrest Bird
Respirator


June 9, 1921
Stoughton, Massachusetts

This scientist is so amazing that when a museum was dedicated to his works, a woman pilot flew upside down, 15 feet from the ground, to cut the ribbon! Forrest Bird began his life as a pilot at the age of 14, learning how to fly planes, jets, and helicopters. His real claim to fame, though, was developing respirators to help patients breathe. He became interested in breathing from flying. In high altitudes, pilots needed assistance to breathe due to the low air pressure. He began experimenting, making breathing machines using whatever he had on hand, including such obscure objects as doorknobs and strawberry shortcake pans. Eventually, in 1970, he perfected a respirator for premature infants. It was called the Babybird Respirator. As a result of this machine, deaths from breathing problems in premature infants dropped from 70% to 10%. Bird has had an interesting life aside from his inventions and has met many famous people. These include Orville Wright, Henry Ford, and the mysterious billionaire, Howard Hughes. He flew next to the Hindenburg Zeppelin in 1937, just before it caught fire and crashed over Lakehurst, New Jersey. He has maintained his pilot’s license, even in his late 80s and owns 21 aircraft. He was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1995 and has received Presidential citations from George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

CBS News entry

Inventors about reference

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Zanvil Cohn
Dendritic Cells


1926-1993
New York, NY

The human body is constantly under assault by all kinds of diseases, toxic materials, and microbes. These attackers cause antigens to wreck havoc upon our health and well being. Fortunately, each person has a posse of dendritic cells to assist in the defense against such intruders. Dendritic cells were discovered by scientists Zanvil Cohn and Ralph Steinman in 1973. Dendritic cells are like cowboys on a cattle drive. They round up the coyotes, called antigens, then carry those varmints to be presented to T-Cells, whereupon the T-cells finish them off. Somehow they leave unharmed trespassers who are not a threat to people. Cohn and Steinman noticed that dendritic cells resembled trees, so they called them “dendritic” which is “tree” in Greek. Zanvil Cohn conducted studies on leprosy, tuberculosis, and AIDS as well. He served in the military as well, attaining the rank of captain in the Army Medical Corps.

Rockefeller News Release reference

New York Times link

Dana entry

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userMaleSmall Allan Cormack
CAT Scans


February, 23, 1924 – May 7, 1998
Johannesburg, South Africa

Ever heard of putting a penny on a railroad track to see what happens to it? Well, Allan Cormack was a scientist who also made use of a penny in his research. Cormack started his career in Cape Town, South Africa and since he was the only nuclear physicist around, he agreed to help the hospital deal with their radioactive materials. While there, he began thinking about x-ray imaging problems. In 1956, he went to Harvard and began working on a completely different problem. Later he was working with topography and realized that it could solve some of the problems of x-rays. He worked out the mathematics and confirmed his calculations using - a penny and a pork chop! His crude experiments confirmed his calculations and he published his results and moved on to other interests. But, the groundwork had been laid and the CAT scan was built by Godfrey Hounsfield, using Cormack’s published work. It was patented in 1968. CAT scans use 3-D imagery to produce images or pictures of the inside of the body, enabling many problems to be visualized. In 2007 alone, 72 million CAT scans were performed. Some of Cormack's passions included hiking and listening to music. Cormack shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Hounsfield for the CAT scan breakthrough.

Independent newspaper entry

Nobel Prize reference

Wikipedia “tomography” link

Wikipedia “Cormack” website

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userMaleSmall David Cushman
Discovered ACE inhibitors


November 15, 1939 – August 14, 2000
*************

Indiana Jones was famous for his abhorrence of snakes. However, the venom of one particularly deadly slitherer from Brazil was made into something useful. The Brazilian pit viper’s venom works as an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor. ACE inhibitors help to reduce hypertension and treat cardiovascular problems and kidney disease. David Cushman, along with his associate, Miguel Ondetti, made the discoveries about ACE and the snake venom which led to the drug breakthrough. The resulting drug was dubbed Captopril, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1981. Captopril also had the distinction of being produced in a process called “drug design.”. A year before his death in 2000, Cushman was the recipient of the 1999 Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award along with Miguel Ondetti. Oh, and honorable mention goes to the pharmacologist who actually handled the snake, and carefully siphoned off the lethal fluid: Sergio Ferreira.

Lasker Foundation entry

Wikipedia entry

Beyond Discovery reference

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userMaleSmall Salvino D'Armate
Eyeglasses


1258-1312
Florence, Italy

In ancient times, what did people do if they were nearsighted? It must have been difficult to go through life with blurry vision. But, problems usually produce a solution and this case it produced the first eyeglasses. Around 1284 AD, in Florence Italy, Salvino D'Armate came up with a pair of lenses. They were a crude invention, two ovals held together by some type of wire. The glasses wearer placed these on the nose, and often had to hold them in place by his or her own hand. The information on D'Armate is a little sketchy, however. In the 17th Century, Leopoldo del Migliore wrote a tome on the history of Florence, Italy, (around 1684), and del Migliore references D'Armate via a memorial located at a local church, Santa Maria Maggiore. On that memorial, according to del Migliore, was a testimonial to D'Armate's invention of spectacles. However, that memorial no longer exists. In any event, modern folks owe a debt of gratitude to early pioneers, who created the first raw instruments which evolved into today's vision advancements. And Salvino D'Armate should take his place in history as one of those first scientists, who blazed the trail for the sophisticated eyewear we take for granted today.

Glasses USA link

Valuvision source

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Earle Dickson
Discovered the Band-Aid


October 10, 1892- September 21,1961
*************

The Boy Scouts Motto is “Be Prepared”, and on any hike, you can be sure the troop has a first aid kit, which includes a product we're all familiar with - Band-Aids. What is less known is that the Scouts were the group which popularized the use of Band-Aids back in the 1920s. The bandage product was provided, at no cost, to the Boy Scouts of America by Johnson & Johnson in order to publicize their new product. Johnson & Johnson was the company that Earle Dickson worked for, and it was Dickson who invented this commonly used topical adhesive back in 1921. Dickson's wife Josephine would cut herself repeatedly while cooking, so Dickson fashioned a covering using gauze attached to tape, and covered with a piece of cloth called crinoline. The Band-Aid, a registered trademark, has now become an widespread feature of any medical process. Indeed, Band-Aids are the McDonald's of first aid, with 100 billion having been produced. As for Earle Dickson, he was rewarded for his efforts by a promotion to Vice President at Johnson & Johnson.

Inventors about website

MIT link

Bandaid.com reference

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userMaleSmall Gerhard Domagk
Discovered Sulpha Drugs


1895-1964
Lagow, Brandenburg (a part of modern day Poland)

The daughter of Dr. Gerhard Domagk is especially thankful for her father. She had developed a streptococcus infection on her arm, and faced amputation but, because of her dad’s discovery, she was able to return to full health, arm intact. Dr. Domagk's discovery was sulphanilamide which went by the commercial name of Prontosil. This treatment garnered Dr. Domagk the Nobel Prize because it was one of the first medicines that safely killed bacteria in the human body. Dr. Domagk’s research was inspired by his exposure to troop sickness in the first World War, where he saw first hand the devastation that infections visited upon soldiers in the trenches. Unfortunately, Dr. Domagk's country of residence during the 1930s was Germany and it would not allow him to receive the Nobel Prize given in 1939 because the Third Reich was having a dispute with the Nobel Committee, and prohibited German prize winners from acknowledging the honor. Prontosil  was surpassed by penicillin in just a few years, but Dr. Domagk nonetheless deserves credit for groundbreaking work in treating infectious diseases. Tuberculosis therapy was also advanced by Dr. Domagk's research.

Nobel Prize site

Wikipedia entry

Bayer source

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userMaleSmall Marc Feldmann
Tumor Necrosis Factor


December 2, 1944
Lvov, Poland

We all know the story of Benedict Arnold, the American turncoat general who switched sides during the Revolutionary War, and joined the British as a general to attack the Americans. In the human body, a similar phenomenon can occur. It is called an autoimmune disorder, when one's own body goes to war against itself. The most widely known autoimmune disease is rheumatoid arthritis, and Dr. Marc Feldmann began research in the 1980s to find a treatment for this illness. By 1991, he had made huge inroads, identifying Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNF), which is a type of protein called a cytokine which acts as a trigger for inflammation. Moreover, Feldmann developed TNF blockers with the antibody infliximab, which proved to be beneficial to rheumatoid arthritis patients the following year, 1992. As a result of his work, over 2 million patients now have a treatment for the pain and inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Feldmann was awarded the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research in 2003. In 2010, Feldmann was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his accomplishments, and is now known as Professor Sir Marc Feldmann.

Arthritis Research UK entry

BBC website

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Adolf Fick
Invented Contact Lenses


1852 – 1937
Marburg, Germany

One nice thing about contact lenses is that you never know whether someone is wearing them or not which makes this type of eyewear a fashionable way to correct vision. Those who wear contacts have Adolf Fick to thank. Fick was an ophthalmologist who invented the first pair of such lenses in 1887 in Zurich, Switzerland. He used blown glass, fitted from the eyes of rabbits at first, then human corpses, and finally his own cornea. Fick's work was initially disregarded, helping only a small number of patients who could wear them but for only a few hours. Eventually, though, such corneal spectacles caught on and today, over 125 million persons worldwide wear contact lenses. Fick himself had an interesting life in the military as well, volunteering in both the Franco-Prussian War of the 19th century and World War I in the 20th where he was captured by the French.

Science Museum reference

Wikipedia entry

Andrew Gasson cite

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userMaleSmall Benjamin Franklin
Invented Bifocal Lenses


1706-1790
Boston, Massachusetts

What do lightning rods, the Gulf Stream, and bifocal lenses have in common? All were inventions or discoveries by one of America's premier founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was so prodigious in his various interests that he's been described as a “polymath”, or one who has mastered multiple fields of study. In his later years, in the late 1700s, the Great Philadelphian would complain about having to switch his glasses, one pair used for reading, another for other pursuits. So, Franklin combined both concave and convex segments of glass and pressed them together in one set of lenses. As a result, he was able to see both near and far without having to change his eyewear.

Bifocal Reading-Glasses link

Wikipedia entry

Clear-Lenses cite

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userMaleSmall Ray Fuller
Prozac


December 16, 1935 – August 11, 1996
Dongola, IL

Having a down day, or getting bummed out by your grade on a paper, are natural parts of life. Some people, though, have prolonged periods of such melancholy. In such instances, those folks may well have clinical depression. Dr. Ray Fuller was a biochemist at Eli Lilly who, along with Dr. David Wong and Dr. Brian Molloy, co-discovered the drug fluoxetine to treat depression. Prozac is the more familiar commercial name of this product. It was introduced to the public in 1988. Prozac works by heightening serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is considered by scientists to be an important contribution to brain health, and low levels of serotonin are seen as a key factor in depression. Prozac interacts with the brain by inhibiting the cells which release and absorb serotonin, from absorbing serotonin back into their membranes too rapidly. Fuller was an expert witness in a Kentucky case where Prozac was suspected of triggering violent behavior. The jury found in Prozac's favor. Ray Fuller is a scientist who overcame great odds to become a biochemist. He grew up without indoor plumbing on a farm! In his later years, he became a restaurant critic and a wine connoisseur. As a result of his research, over 34 million patients have benefited from Prozac between 2001 and 2009.

NY Times source

Society for Neuroscience entry

Wikipedia entry for Fluoxetine (click “translate” button for English)

Wikipedia reference for Ray Fuller (click “translate” button for English)

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userMaleSmall Svyatoslav Fyodorov
First Vision Correction Surgery


August 8, 1927 – June 2, 2000
Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine

Dr. Svyatoslav Fyodorov was a remarkable medical visionary, businessman, and political leader in Russia. Growing up at the time of the Nazi invasion of his land, his father, a General in the cavalry, was exiled to a Siberian prison camp for 17 years by Stalin. Fyodorov himself suffered an accident in his youth, losing a foot. His premier contribution to opthamology was radial keratotomy, a cutting of the cornea with microincisions, after which the eye heals, and vision defects are corrected. He made the discovery as a result of a young boy’s bicycle accident. When the boy fell, his glasses shattered and some of the glass particles lodged in his eyes. To remove it, Dr. Fyodorov made several incisions extending from the pupil to the edge of the cornea in a pattern like wheel spokes. Surprisingly, when the cornea was fully healed, he found that the patient’s eyesight was also greatly improved. Now, over 3 million RK procedures have been undertaken worldwide, although it has been mostly replaced by LASIK. Fyodorov became very successful in post-Soviet Russia, presiding over a company with nine treatment locations and 5,000 employees. Named by Fortune Magazine as the first millionaire under the new system of openness, Fyodorov turned down an offer by Boris Yeltsin to become prime minister. Fyodorov died in a helicopter crash in 2000.

Russiapedia link

Obituary on Fyodorov in the New York Times

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Benjamin Green
Sunscreen


*************
*************

Ah- summertime! Time to relax, party, and head to the beach. Maybe you and your friends are sun worshipers, hitting the sand with a bottle of sunscreen to work on that bronze tan. The person you should thank for inventing suntan lotion is Benjamin Green. During WWII, Green was in the Army Air Corps and noticed how soldiers in the Pacific theater were getting bad sunburns. So, he developed a red, jelly like substance which acted to block some of the sun's worst rays. Green called his product red veterinary petrolatum (Red Vet Pet). Red Vet Pet was greasy and unpleasant to use though, so Green made some adjustments to his discovery, using cocoa butter and jasmine, which he cooked up in his wife's kitchen. When the Coppertone company purchased his solution, history was made, leading to a widely popular consumer lotion to limit the sun's damaging rays. Sunscreen, however, is only successful in limiting one form of ultraviolet radiation - B (UVB) rays, which cause sunburn. When purchasing sunscreen, look for high sun protection factors (SPF). An SPF of 50, for instance, means that your skin will not endure sunburn until it is exposed to 50 times the solar radiation that would normally cause a sunburn. There is another type of ultraviolet rays which also can hurt the body - ultraviolet A rays (UVA). Sunblock is designed to shield against UVA. Sunblock contains chemicals like titanium oxide and zinc oxide. You do need some time in the sun in order to get your needed dose of Vitamin D, but that can be accomplished without sunscreen in no more than 10 to 15 minutes, twice a week. It is important to take care of your sun when out in the sun - in 2008, the American Cancer Society projected 62,480 new cases of skin cancer leading to 8,420 deaths. Of course, the best way to avoid the sun's harmful rays is not to sunbathe in the first place!

NY Times source

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Michael Houghton
Hepatitis C Virus


*************
*************

Ever play hide and go seek? The kids game involves the seeker being temporarily blindfolded, counting to a number, say 20, and then going out in search of the other children who are, by now, hiding. Now, imagine playing a game of hide and go seek with molecular biology. That's just the task that Michael Houghton and his team of researchers undertook in 1982, trying to locate the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Houghton embarked on a novel approach to scientific discovery - using tissue from infected chimpanzees and blood from the same animals, he withdrew DNA and RNA, created DNA duplicates, then inserted the genetic material into specially treated bacteria. The idea was that the bacteria would function as a protein factory, allowing the scientist to review tens of millions of bacteria in a process called cloning. What he was looking for was the binding properties, the evidence that antibodies from the unknown virus would bind to the mass produced cells which also contained the elusive virus. After the exhaustive search, one particular binding was noticed. Still, Houghton couldn't be entirely sure he hadn't run into a dry well. So, he applied the material from a number of hepatitis patients who had the “not A, not B hepatitis” (NANBH), and, sure enough, the attachment occurred repeatedly. Eventually, Houghton's group reached the conclusion that they had, indeed, identified the heretofore hidden virus, and the Hepatitis C designation was made. Following that discovery, efforts were made to test Hepatitis C in blood donors, and thus risky blood transfusions were dramatically reduced. Houghton received the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award, along with Harvey Alter, in 2000. Houghton is also a prolific author, penning over 200 missives on scientific matters, ranging from genetic regulations to human beta interferon.

Canada Excellence Research Chairs cite

Beyond Discovery link

Lasker Foundation reference

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userMaleSmall Godfrey Hounsfield
CAT Scan


August 28, 1919 – August 12, 2004
Nottinghamshire, England

Who hasn't heard of the musical group, The Beatles? Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were a legendary sound combo, known around the world. The pop sensation from England revolutionized rock'n'roll music, and forever changed the way that America listens to music. A little known fact about the Beatles, though, is that the EMI company, which recorded the Fab 4, used some of its profits from Beatles albums to invest in a new technology that came to be known as CAT scans. That's right, the British sonic invasion of the 1960s led to CAT scans, which use thousands of radiation shots into a body to create a 3-D picture of key organs (body, not musical) and tissue, identifying illnesses and disease in the process. Godfrey Hounsfield was a scientist, working for EMI, who patented the first computer axial tomography machine in 1968. (isn't “CAT” much easier to say?) Hounsfield had a very colorful youth. He once paraglided off a haystack on his family's farm. Another time, he nearly died from an explosion in an experiment gone bad. A contemporary of Hounsfield, Allan Cormack, had independently theorized about CAT scans a couple of years earlier in 1963 and 1964. As a result, the Nobel Committee awarded both Hounsfield and Cormack the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their work on CAT scans. To paraphrase the famed popsters: “We CAT scan, yeah, yeah, yeah!”

Independent Newspaper source

Nobel Prize cite

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Alick Isaacs
Interferon


7/17/1921 – 1/26/1967
Glasgow, Scotland

Alick Isaacs was a Scottish bacteriologist. Along with his colleague, Jean Lindenmann, he discovered interferon in 1957. Interferon is a protein the body’s immunological system produces that blocks viruses and also shuts down the growth of some cancers. The name interferon comes from the fact that it interferes with viral replication. Isaacs became Director of the London based World Influenza Centre in 1961.

Isaacs’ Obituary

Wikipedia article on Interferon

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RobertJarvikIcon Robert Jarvik
Surgical Staples


May 11, 1946 -
Midland, Michigan

Even before he finished High School, Robert Jarvik drew upon his curiosity and love of ‘tinkering' to invent a critical piece of medical equipment. While observing his father, a surgeon, in the operating room, he devised an idea for an automatic surgical stapler. He worked out the details and patented the device, which efficiently replaced the process of manually clamping and tying off blood vessels during surgery. This first Jarvik invention quickly became an important part of operating rooms around the world. But, Jarvik would become most well known for his invention of the artificial heart, the Jarvik-7.

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Alec Jeffreys
Discovered DNA Fingerprinting


January 9, 1950
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England

In the story of Sherlock Holmes, the master detective would occasionally make use of fingerprints in order to track down his slippery suspect. Nowadays, modern science has improved on that method with DNA fingerprints, pioneered by Alec Jeffreys. Jeffreys discovered that these bits of human genetic material provide compelling evidence which can place an individual at the scene of the crime, or clear a suspect wrongly arrested. Forensic genetic typing of this kind is also used for verifying fatherhood (paternity). Jeffreys made his discovery in 1984, when he retrieved an X-ray which demonstrated marked differences in DNA, as well as like-kind traits, in the family of his lab assistant.  Jeffreys' DNA fingerprinting has led to the conviction of many criminals all over the world and is also used to get wrongly convicted prisoners released, when DNA evidence can prove that someone else commited the crime they were convicted of.

Times Online entry

Wikipedia entry

Invent Now Hall of Fame reference

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PercyLavonJulianIcon Percy Julian
Cortisone for Arthritis - then Glaucoma Treatment


April 11, 1899 – April 19, 1975
Montgomery, AL

Percy Julian was a trailblazing chemist whose work was used to develop materials like fire fighting foam, which the Navy credited with saving the lives of thousands of sailors during WWII. An African American born in Montgomery AL at the end of the 19th century, Julian emerged out of the terrible period of racial discrimination known as ‘Jim Crow’ following the Civil War. His own father had been a slave. In spite of all the hardships, his parents stressed education and Julian excelled at and loved science. He was fascinated by the soybean and learned how to make hormones from it that could prevent miscarriages in pregnant women. He was a leader in the development of cortisone. It was very expensive at the time, so Julian attempted to make a synthetic version that could be mass produced. He did so, again out of soybeans, and this gave millions of rheumatoid arthritis patients relief with the drug cortisone. Even after doing so, his home was fire bombed twice in Chicago by people who hated his race. He persevered and later started his own pharmacy company, eventually selling it to Smith Kline for 2.3 million dollars in 1961. He is probably best known for synthesizing physostigmine, a drug which treats glaucoma. He eventually earned more than 138 patents for his work. Julian was the first Black chemist to be admitted to the National Academy of Sciences and only the second African American scientist from any field. He is one of the few scientists of any race to be featured on a postage stamp.

Good biography

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmallDean Kamen
Inventor of the First Wearable Infusion Pump


April 5, 1951
Rockville Centre, New York

Do you like Star Wars? Mad magazine? How about a wheelchair that climbs stairs - does that sound like a fascinating piece of equipment? Or, does the prospect of a home built like a hexagon, with secret hallways and long, winding stairs, built around a massive steam engine which was originally owned by Henry Ford, excite you? Does all this sound like something you'd find in Disneyland? Well, think again. All the above is connected to popular inventor Dean Kamen. Kamen is perhaps best known for the Segway, a type of two wheeled electric powered scooter which a person can use to commute around town while standing vertically. Kamen, whose father was an artist for Mad Magazine, also designed the IBOT, a wheelchair that is able to climb stairs. Kamen has created a new kind of artificial arm, called the Luke Arm- after the prosthetic attachment which Luke Skywalker was fitted in the Star Wars trilogy. The Luke Arm provides 18 degrees of freedom (or actions the limb is capable of) - substantially more than the typical 3 degrees of freedom in the standard arm attachment, and close to the 22 degrees of freedom a person experiences with a natural limb. Kamen's architectural wonder of a home is in New Hampshire, and one of the prizes offered to students by Kamen's “For Inspiration and Recognition of Service and Technology” (FIRST) group is a tour of his residence. While still in college he developed the first wearable infusion pump that is used as an insulin pump for diabetics and to deliver chemotherapy and other theapries.

MIT link

Wikipedia entry

IEEE entry

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userMaleSmall Charles Kelman
Inventor of Ultrasound Cataract Removal


May 23, 1930 – June 1, 2004
Brooklyn, NY

“Everybody's a comedian!” You've no doubt heard that line from some stand up funnyman. Or how about a twist on an old classic: “My parents wanted me to grow up to be a comic, but instead I became an ophthalmologist!” These jokes were no laughing matter, or perhaps they were meant in jest after all, for an opthalmologist turned humorist who also played jazz clarinet and saxophone - Charles Kelman. Kelman was a man for all theaters, a guest on the late night circuit of David Letterman and Johnny Carson, throwing out one liners and zingers. Kelman is best remembered, however, as a researcher who, in 1967, used ultrasound to remove cataracts in eyes, a process he called phacoemulsification. Basically, a small cut was made in the eye, and an ultrasound device inserted which, vibrating thousands of times per second, destroyed the cataracts but left the surrounding eye material intact, and the cataract residue was sucked out. This process was a welcome change from the old method, which required patients to be confined to a hospital for 10 days after surgery, and then face longer recuperation beyond that at home. Kelman's ultrasonic technique enabled cataract sufferers the ability to have vision repaired quickly, often with a subsequent return to work later on the say day! Kelman's inspiration for his discovery came from an unlikely source - his dentist. One day, while having his teeth cleaned, his dentist used an ultrasonic instrument, and Kelman saw the opportunity to apply this technology to vision problems. Kelman's application is now undertaken over a million times a year and over 100 million patients have benefited. Dr. Kelman was admitted into the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) Ophthalmology Hall of Fame in 1989.

Ophthalmology Times entry

Wikipedia entry

New York Times reference

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userMaleSmall Alfred Knudson, Jr
Theory of the Cause of Cancer


1922
Los Angeles, CA

Dr. Alfred Knudson, Jr.'s approach to studying cancer is like that of a boxer who throws a “one-two punch.” In Dr. Knudson's case, his term is “two-hit.” In 1971, Knudson advanced the hypothesis that tumors develop following a two step process. Step one is a genetic predisposition toward a form of cancer. Step two occurs when some environmental factor is introduced such as exposure to a dangerous chemical, harmful food consumption, or exposure to damaging radiation. This impacts the damaged gene from step one. Knudson's research was based on a cancer found in the eye called retinoblastoma. In fact, he named the gene with this trait RB1. Knudson's conclusions initially involved intricate math formulas, and his study was rejected by the larger scientific community when published. Eventually though, in 1976, subsequent review identified that those patients who suffered from retinoblastoma lacked a portion of Chromosome 13. An important aspect of Knudson's discoveries identified genes that suppressed cancer, acting to stop other cells from becoming tumors. Knudson received a number of distinguished awards for his contributions, such as the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research in 1998 and the 1999 John Scott Award from the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, PA.

Lasker Foundation reference

Wikipedia entry

FCCC link

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userMaleSmall Paul Lauterbur
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance


1929-2007
Sidney, Ohio

Ever hear of the Big Boy scientist? Who? The Big Boy scientist, Paul Lauterbur. This famous researcher made his keystone discovery in the 1970s at a Big Boy restaurant, sketching the details about using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), to study the human body, on a napkin. Lauterbur had been motivated to take up a new way to study animals without odious surgeries to examine the tissue and organs of test creatures. Instead, he pioneered the use of NMR methods, since renamed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He demonstrated how a magnetic field gradient could help locate tumors by interacting with the NMR radiation from such cells, allowing his device to map the location of such cancers. Lauterbur tested his new invention on a clam provided by his daughter, and even some garden vegetables. Unfortunately, his paper on it was turned down by Nature magazine. In fact, Lauterbur ruefully commented that “You could write the entire history of science in the last 50 years in terms of papers rejected by Science or Nature.” Nevertheless, Lauterbur's invention caught on. As of 2007, there are 20,000 MRI machines around the globe, and over 60 million scans made each year! Lauterbur grew up as the all American boy, enjoying days on a farm, maintaining lots of pets including birds, turtles, and lizards, riding horses and playing chess. He didn’t really enjoy school and said he didn't like his college professors! Lauterbur was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2003 along with Peter Mansfield for his work with the MRI.

Guardian newspaper entry

Nobel Prize reference

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall James Lind
Limes Prevent Scurvy


1716-1794
Edinburgh, Scotland

The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” has a parallel in the navy: a lemon or lime stops scurvy. In the 1700s, James Lind was an early practitioner of the scientific method whose experiments on methods to stop scurvy led to observations that citrus fruits did the trick. While the observation that lemons and limes sometimes helped those with scurvy was already known prior to Lind, the Scotsman conducted a controlled experiment to ascertain just which supplements impacted scurvy directly. Lind arranged for 6 groups of sailors, two men in a group, to use various foods thought to have medicinal benefits, including cider, elixir of vitriol, vinegar, seawater, barley water, and oranges/lemons. The most successful were those who received the oranges and lemons. Unfortunately, Lind's study was opposed by the King of England's surgeon, Sir James Pringle, and since Lind was of Scottish background, his loyalties to the English crown were also suspect at the time.  This delayed using his findings. Finally, by the end of the 18th Century the common acceptance of citrus products to combat scurvy became universally accepted. Thus, the British Navy sent lots of limes out  with their ships and their sailors became known as Limeys. It was only in the early 1900s that it was learned that citris fruit held a substance known as Vitamin C, that was necessary for human health.

BBC link

Wikipedia entry

Entry from James Lind Library

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userMaleSmall Jean Lindenmann
Interferon


1924 -
Switzerland

In sports, the act of interference results in a penalty. But, on the playing field known as science, interference is a vital part of a life saving process. Jean Lindenmann is the virologist (an expert in viruses) who discovered the protective protein that interferes with disease. Originally from Switzerland, Lindenmann was in England 1957 working with his colleague, Alick Isaacs. They were studying the way chick cells react to the flu virus when they observed a unique quality of certain cells. They noted that those cells that had already been infected with the flu virus were protected against other viruses-at least for a short time. It appeared the infection with the first virus somehow "interfered" with a potential second infection. Lindenmann and Isaacs carefully analyzed these infected cells and found they possessed a protein not found in the non-infected cells. This protein, they learned, was produced as a defense mechanism by the white blood cells when they were under attack from viruses or tumors. Earlier research on bacterial viruses had shown similar findings. But, this interfering protein showed an astonishing new capability: once initiated, the protection-causing interference moved from the infected cells to fresh, uninfected cells! Lindenmann and Isaacs gave this meddling protein an apt name: Interferon.

Timeline

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userMaleSmall Ravinder Maini
A Major Advance in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis


1937
Ludhiana, India

Are you a man or a mouse? Maybe you've heard this expression, a phrase meant to encourage someone who is afraid to do something. For Sir Ravinder Maini, this old adage meant something altogether different. Maini and Feldman used hybrid antibodies which were constructed partially of mouse and partially of human matter. They tried different combinations of the antibody and another agent to come up with a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Maini knew that a particular type of protein called a cytokine acted to switch on inflammation, and one such type of cytokine was dubbed Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNF). They used an antibody to the TNF (anti-TNF) in combination with and anti-CD4 monoclonal Ab (an antibody to a particular type of T-cell). Maini wanted a medicine which blocked the swelling and reduced joint erosion caused by the disease. Experimenting with the mixed species or chimeric material, Maini noticed stunning improvements in patients injected with the combination of antibodies. After subsequent follow up studies, the anti-TNF treatment was born, and today large numbers of patients live normal lives as a result. Sir Ravinder Maini was knighted in 2003 for his scientific accomplishments, and also received the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research. Along with Marc Feldmann, Maini was the recipient of the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research in 2008.

Lasker Foundation reference

Paul Janssen Award website

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Barry Marshall
Discovered the Real Cause of Ulcers


September 30, 1951
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia

Ever hear the admonition on TV: “Don't try this at home?” Well, Barry Marshall could be the poster child for this expression. As a youth, he once told his brother to jump out of a tree, which his brother proceeded to do, breaking his arm as a result! Barry liked to fill balloons with a mixture of house gas (there was no helium to use) and air, and have his father use a lit cigarette to puncture the balloon. This demonstrated the dangers of using such a fuel combination - the balloon burst into flames, searing his father's eyebrows! Later on, as a scientist, Barry Marshall undertook an experiment to prove that a bacteria, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) was the cause for ulcers: Barry drank a petri dish of the bacteria, and got very sick. He subsequently took a dose of bismuth which cured him. The scientific community at first did not accept Marshall's research. The consensus at the time was that the stomach was just too acidic to allow bacteria to grow. Most thought that ulcers were the result of tension or hot food. Eventually, Marshall's views were acknowledged, and he won the Nobel Prize for his yeoman work on this topic in 2005.

Nobel Prize entry

Medscape reference

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Donald Metcalf
Colony Stimulating Factors - a Boon to Cancer Treatment


1929
Australia

Many scientists have devoted countless hours to fighting the scourge of cancer, and Donald Metcalf's contribution has greatly assisted this effort. In 1965, Dr. Metcalf discovered colony-stimulating factors (CSFs), which direct the cellular production of white blood cells. This was important to cancer research and treatment, because cancer patients' prospects of survival are improved when given CSF. CSFs result in increased formation of blood forming cells, which reduces deadly infections which can occur in patients as a side effect of radiation treatments or chemotherapy. In 1993, Dr. Metcalf received the prestigious Lasker Award as a result of his work with CSFs. In addition, in 2001, Dr. Metcalf was the recipient of the Australian Prime Minister's Prize for Science.

Hematology reference

Lasker Foundation cite

Wikipedia entry

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GarrettMorganIcon Garrett Morgan
His Invention Controls Traffic - Think of the Wrecks There Would Be Without It!


March 4, 1877 – August 27, 1963
Paris, KY

There is an item almost everyone uses every day that has most certainly saved their life! It has three colors it borrowed from the railroad system. Give up??? It’s the stop light. There were several different iterations of the stop light, (one of the early gas ones blew up and injured a nearby policeman) and the first three position one was invented by Garrett Morgan. He eventually sold the rights to General Electric for $40,000. It was used until it was replaced by the red, yellow, and green ones we are all familiar with today. Morgan was an unlikely scientist. He was an African-American and was born in Paris, Kentucky in 1877. With only an elementary school education, he continued to study on his own and with a tutor he hired while living in Cincinnati. He started his career as a sewing machine repairman, but stumbled across a formula for straightening hair using the oil he used to lubricate sewing machines. He was so thrilled by his invention, that he started inventing more things. He patented the stop light in 1923. He went on to develop the gas mask, which he is really more famous for than the stop light. It was first used for miners, but later with some alterations, it was used during World War I where it saved thousands of lives.

Good biography

Good biography

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Yasu-ichi Nagano
Interferon - A Cancer Treatment


1906- February 9, 1998
Owase City, Japan

There's an old expression which goes: “It's all Greek to me.” That means that the communication received is so hard to understand that the speaker might as well be talking in a foreign language. Unfortunately for scientist Yasu-ichi Nagano, his publication of a critical study in a French journal resulted in other researchers getting credit for the discovery of interferon. Interferon is a specialized protein which reacts to the presence of tumors, viruses, or bacteria, and assists the body's immune system in fighting off such invaders. Interferon, however, is not part of the immune system itself. In 1954, Nagano, along with colleague Yasuhiko Kojima, examined how viruses were kept from replicating by using ultraviolet irradiated virus. Such UV treated virus become deactivated. Nagano and Kojima determined that rabbit skin, which had received an injection of the UV treated virus, blocked the spread of live virus subsequently applied to that same patch of skin. The two Japanese men then theorized that an “inhibitory factor” was at work. They published their findings in the French periodical Journal de la Societe de Biologie, which was only printed in French. This may have been a crucial reason why Nagano and Kujima have been overlooked for their contribution. Meanwhile, independently of Nagano and Kujima, British scientist Alick Isaacs and Swiss researcher Jean Lindemann, made their own breakthrough discoveries of interferon.

Liebertonline link

New World Encyclopedia cite

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Peter Nowell
Studied Cancer at the Molecular Level


Born February 8, 1928
*************

A car has a spare tire in the trunk in case of a flat. Most people think it's a good idea to have a backup for just such a roadside problem. Well, Peter Nowell isn't satisfied with just one spare - he thinks that three or four alternate approaches should be on hand for any predicament or, in this case, scientific research. Nowell used this approach to make an important breakthrough, along with associate David Hungerford, in 1960 in the field of cancer genetics. At the time, the consensus of medical thought was that cancer was caused by viruses. But Nowell discovered an abnormally short gene which was to become a marker for one form of leukemia (Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia or CML). The gene was nicknamed the Philadelphia Chromosome because that's the metropolis where Nowell and Hungerford performed their research. Much later, the drug Gleevic was invented on the basis of Nowell's research; this modern medicine was able to counteract the effect of the Philadephia chromosome. The ultimate result of that is that now most patients are surviving that form of leukemia! Nowell was awarded the 1998 Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award.

Lasker Foundation website

University of Pennsylvania entry

Nature link

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userMaleSmall Rangaswamy Srinivasan
Put the Green in the Laser for Eyes


February 28, 1929 -
India

Over the years, there have been many popular songs about the color of one's eyes. Well, Dr. Rangaswamy Srinivasan's research has helped to place a scientific stamp on which color of laser is best for the eyes, and the jury is in. It's ultraviolet over green. “Srini”- as he's known to his friends and colleagues- worked in a group which discovered that the ultraviolet excimer laser made clean cuts, called “etchings”, whereas the then standard “green laser” left heat damaged cuts. The number of patients who've benefited from the research now numbers in the millions. Dr. Srinivasan has received a number of prestigious awards, including induction into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Creative Invention Medal of the American Chemical Society in 1997.

American Institute of Physics source:

Inventor Hall of Fame citation:

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Wilhelm Röntgen
X-Rays Inventor


March 27, 1845-February 10, 1923
Lennep, Prussia (Lower Rhine Germany today)

Wilhelm Röntgen took his work home with him - literally. In the late 1890s, he lived above his lab in Wurzburg, Germany. One day, he was conducting experiments with a cathode ray tube when he noticed a glowing effect on a piece of paper covered with barium platinocyanide. At one point, he asked his wife to insert her hand between the tube and the paper, and a skeletal vision of his spouse's hand appeared on the paper. His wife, taken aback, commented “I have seen my death”. Röntgen didn't have a classification for this new type of radiation, so he used a common marker for unknown phenomena, using the letter “X” to denote the bandwidth observed. So, his discovery became known by the term “X-Rays.” Röntgen won a Nobel Prize in 1901 for his discovery. He would not patent his invention, instead practicing an early form of what we call“open source” in his hope to benefit all of mankind. A humble man, he dissuaded others who attempted to change the name of “X-Rays” to “Röntgen Rays.”

Citation from nobelprize.org

Entry from Michigan State University's Dept of Physics and Astronomy

Wikipedia entry

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userFemaleSmall Janet Rowley
Made Cancer Diagnosis at the Molecular Level

April 5, 1925
New York, New York

For their birthdays, many kids used to get model trains. There was nothing more satisfying than setting up the tracks, snapping the cars to the locomotive, arranging the figurines and buildings, then turning the power on, and watching the trains move around the tracks. Imagine your genes working the same way, as a kind of model railroad, with each gene being an individual boxcar. Suppose the train pulls over to a side rail, and one of the boxcars is removed and then hooked to another train. Happens all the time, right? Well, scientist Janet Rowley discovered this feature as part of chromosomes, and labeled it translocation. Rowley noticed that a part of chromosome 22 broke off and, much like the toy railroad boxcar, attached itself to another engine, that is, another gene, Chromosome 9. The problem with humans, unlike the train set, is that these genes are thus malformed, and can cause malignant cancers. When Rowley made this discovery in 1972, the scientific community didn't agree with her. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine even refused to carry her research. The good news is that, at long last, her studies caught on. All manner of translocations have been identified today. Dr. Rowley received the 1998 Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award and the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

University of Chicago cite

Lasker Foundation entry

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Edwin Southern
Identifying DNA


1938
United Kingdom

Normally, getting a “blot” on your record is considered a bad thing, but not for Edwin Southern. The genetic researcher developed a system in the mid 1970s to identify DNA, and his technique became a predecessor of DNA fingerprinting. The procedure became known as the Southern Blot, after the scientist. Southern had selected one gene from a frog, then used a gel to spread out the pieces of the DNA. However, there were many fragments, and it was difficult to study them as a result. So, he laid a membrane of nitrocellulose material on top of the gel, and then stacked some paper towels on top of the membrane. On the membrane he placed a segment of RNA which linked up with the DNA he was attempting to review. Voila! Southern had established the first tracking of DNA! Subsequent researchers used similar methods and used monikers like Northern Blot and Western Blot, gently using humor to reference Southern's name but putting a directional spin on their work. Southern's breakthrough was not accepted at first by important publications of the scientific community, but, over time, he Southern Blot prevailed. Southern was the recipient of the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research in 2005.

Lancet entry

Oxford Today cite

Wikipedia entry

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userMaleSmall Kevin Tuohy
Contact Lenses


1921-1968
New York

We take for granted modern contact lenses, which are easy to handle and can be worn for weeks. But at one time, contact lenses were made from glass. An important breakthrough in this area was the use of plastic instead, which made contacts much more manageable. The scientist who made this possible was Kevin Tuohy who was an optician working for Solex labs. In 1948, Tuohy took a portion of an older pair of contacts, which had been accidentally sliced apart, and placed the small circle over his eye. This led to Tuohy experimenting with the plastic polymethyl methacrylate, or PMMA. Tuohy's new design had another advantage - the older templates were scleral, covering the entire eye and thus interfering with tearing in the eye. Tuohy's smaller corneal covering helped address this shortcoming. As a result, usage of contact lenses quadrupled, from 50,000 in 1946 to 200,000 just three years later.

Andrew Gasson entry

Ezinearticles link

Legacy Revoptom reference

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DanielHaleWilliamsIcon Daniel Hale Williams
Open Heart Surgery


January 18, 1856 – August 4, 1931
Holidaysburg, PA

While the 21st century age of modern science has successful heart transplants and routine coronary bypass surgery, the first successful open heart operation occurred over 110 years ago. It was performed by Daniel Hale Williams, an African American. Williams was born in Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania . His father was a barber and his mother struggled to raise six children after Williams' father died prematurely when he was only nine years old. At first a barber like his dad, Williams became fascinated with medicine and graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1883, and went on to start his own practice in Chicago. In 1893, Williams had to open the chest of a patient who had suffered a knife wound. Williams sewed together the patient's pericardium (a sac which envelopes the heart itself) and the patient survived. It was the first open heart surgery. The surgery took place at the Provident Hospital in Chicago – the first non-segregated hospital in the US. Williams started this hospital and continued to work throughout his life to start more hospitals with access for African-American patients. President Grover Cleveland appointed Williams to be Surgeon-in-Chief of the Freedman's Hospital in Washington in 1894. He also helped organize the Freedman’s Hospital and started a training program for African-American nurses there. At that time racial discrimination was common and Williams was not even allowed into the American Medical Association. Undaunted, he helped established the National Medical Association for African American doctors. Many years later, Stevie Wonder honored him with a song, “Black Man”, which was part of the album, Songs in the Key of Life.

Good bio

Wikipedia entry

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