Discoveries in Biological Science
The world of biological science is a diverse, fascinating and ever-changing field. One that is filled with many ground-breaking discoveries that continue to shape the world we live in today. Within the past 200 years, advances in technology have rapidly increased which has led to incredible biological breakthroughs. Biologists like Alexander Fleming, Marie Curie, and George Otto Gey, have paved the way for our future generations. Just under 100 years ago, a biologist, and physician, by the name of Alexander Fleming, discovered the miracle drug that is now known as penicillin.
In 1928, Fleming was researching microbes and began a number of experiments involving the staphylococcal bacteria. As Fleming being a rather untidy person, had left plates of bacteria (uncovered petri dishes) sitting next to an open window in his laboratory. After being exposed to the outside (world), mold spores had contaminated one of his culture plates. When Fleming observed the moldy dishes, he had discovered something extraordinary. Mold had destroyed all the bacteria that was around it. Fleming had just discovered, entirely by accident, the first antibiotic. I have chosen to rank this breakthrough third due to the impact it has had on the drug industry and the medical world we now know today. Before penicillin, there was no way to cure infections and even a little cut on the knee, if it got infected enough, could turn into something serious and possibly fatal. This “miracle drug has a rapid effect and stops the spread of diseases and infections. This discovery truly revolutionized medicine. Born over 150 years ago, Marie Curies research into radioactivity revolutionized everything from medicine to technology. Marie Curie was the only woman to win two Nobel Prizes for achievements in science. In 1897, gifted physicist, Marie Curie became interested in the work of Henri Becquerel, the first person to find evidence of radioactivity. Because of this Curie decided to begin her own research in minerals containing uranium. While extracting uranium, from pitchblende (Uraninite), she had found more radioactive elements. In 1898, Marie and her husband had discovered a new element which they named Polonium. Months later they found a second element a million times more radioactive than uranium. They called it radium.
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In 1903 Marie and Henri Becquerel were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics and pioneering work. Eight years later, Marie Curie had received her own Nobel Prize in chemistry (for her contribution to research on radium and polonium). I personally found Curies “story” and discoveries to be not only inspiring but monumental. Thus why I chose this breakthrough to be second. “Marie applied her theory. She used radioactive materials to treat cancer. Pierre had the idea to of implanting small seeds of radioactive materials into tumors to shrink them.” The discovery of radium had/has a heavy impact on the medical field. Just look at the use of x-rays (& ionizing radiation) and the effect it has on cancer treatments. Ethics is oftentimes defined as moral principles that govern one’s understanding of what is right and what is from wrong. When discovering one of the most important biological breakthroughs many often questions George Otto Geys ethics. The biologist, George Otto Gey was credited with propagating the HeLa cell line. On February 1st, 1951, an African American woman, named Henrietta Lacks, was a patient at the John Hopkins gynecology clinic in Baltimore. Henrietta had a large tumor on her cervix and underwent various operations and treatments, yet cancer continued to spread. And on October 4th, 1951, Henrietta died. Due to her passing, and as an African American, she had no medical rights, so the clinic had taken her cervical tissue (biopsies) and sent it to the pathology department for clinical evaluation and research. Even during Henrietta’s visits, biopsy samples were taken without her knowledge. These samples were sent to George Otto Gey, who was the director of the laboratory.
In these samples, Gey discovered that the cells were immortal and began using the cells for his own research. Gey tried to “erase” the record of Henrietta by abbreviating her name, which is how we get HeLa. The cell line plays a valuable role in medicine today. Gey was ultimately the founder of the HeLa cell line and supplied us with one of the most important biological samples in the world. Hence why I am rating this biological breakthrough as number one. I also have a rather bias view and vast knowledge on this particular breakthrough. I studied Henrietta Lacks and George Otto Gey in my high school chemistry class in 10th grade. I was also required of me to read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot and I am glad I did. To this day it is a book I frequently go back to and thoroughly enjoy. These scientific breakthroughs and discoveries shaped the world we live in. Without them, we would not have the same science, technology, medicine and overall knowledge that we have today. These breakthroughs shaped our lives and our future.