Braxton-Hicks (contractions)

John Braxton Hicks (1823–August 28, 1897)

was a 19th century English doctor who specialized in obstetrics. He was born in Rye, Sussex and attended Guy's Hospital Medical School from 1841 (age 18). He was a brilliant student, winning many prizes and honors, and also a successful oarsman. He graduated M.B. in 1847 from the University of London. Soon after, he obtained the diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons, and in 1851 was conferred Doctor of Medicine at the University.

In 1859 he accepted an invitation to become an assistant obstetric physician at Guy’s Hospital. In the same year he gained his membership in the Royal College of Physicians of London, being elected a fellow in 1866. He was a member of the Society's council and 1871 president of the London Obstetrical Society.

Braxton Hicks was a pioneer figure in British midwifery and published extensively both on external and internal manipulative procedures, as well as designing obstetric instruments and studying the physiology of uterine function. In 1872, he described the uterine contractions not resulting in childbirth now known as Braxton Hicks contractions.

The Pap Smear

Georgios Nicholas Papanikolaou, M.D., Ph.D. (May 13, 1883–February 19, 1962)

He studied at the University of Athens where he received his medical degree in 1904. Six years later he received his Ph.D. from the University of Munich, Germany after he had also spent time at the universities of Jena and Freiburg. In 1913 he emigrated to the U.S. in order to work in the department of Pathology of New York Hospital and the Department of Anatomy at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

In 1923, Papanikolaou told an incredulous audience of physicians about the technique of gathering cellular debris from the lining of the vaginal tract and smearing it on a glass slide for microscopic examination as a way to identify cervical cancer. That year he had undertaken a study of vaginal fluid in women, in hopes of observing cellular changes over the course of a menstrual cycle. In female guinea pigs, Papanicolaou had already noticed cell transformation and wanted to corroborate the phenomenon in human females. It happened that one of Papanicolaou's human subjects was suffering from uterine cancer.

Upon examination of a slide made from a smear of the patient's vaginal fluid, Papanicolaou discovered that abnormal cancer cells could be plainly observed under a microscope. "The first observation of cancer cells in the smear of the uterine cervix," he later wrote, "gave me one of the greatest thrills I ever experienced during my scientific career."

It took decades for medical science to recognize the significance of Papanicolaou's test, now commonly called a pap test or pap smear, which provides for quick, early detection of cervical and uterine cancer. The American Medical Association began recommending annual pap smears for women in 1960.

The Foley Catheter

Frederic Eugene Basil Foley, MD (1891 - 1966 )

One of the most widely used medical devices in a hospital is the Foley Catheter. A soft tube goes into the bladder and drains the urine. There is a little balloon towards the end that is inflated inside the bladder to keep it from slipping out. Even though it is named after Dr. Foley, he is not the legal inventor.

Born in St. Cloud, Minnesota in 1891, Frederic Eugene Basil Foley, MD started out as a language major, teaching English as he earned his bachelor's degree from Yale in 1914. He received his medical degree from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1918 and worked for the next two years with William Halsted, MD in the general surgical wards. He then spent some time with Harvey Cushing, MD and from 1920 to 1921 was a member of the surgical house staff of the Peter Brigham Hospital in Boston.

Dr. Foley is best known to modern urologists as the man whose name is attached to the self-retaining balloon catheter. Dr. Foley was one of a number of urologists who had worked with various types of catheters to develop a self-retaining instrument. He began to work on his catheter in the early 1930s and was still developing it when a U.S. patent was issued to Paul Raiche of the Davol Rubber Co. Four months later, Dr. Foley applied for a patent (October 1936) and had the burden to prove his priority. The patent office had cited Mr. Raiche as the first inventor; Foley appeared before the patent office's Board of Appeals and that decision was reversed. A subsequent appeal by Mr. Raiche, heard by the court, again changed the decision in favor of Mr. Raiche. A final hearing requested by Dr. Foley was refused and thus Davol was the owner of the patent. Even though Dr. Foley lost the court action and his claim for priority, the catheter is still known as the Foley catheter.

The Fallopian Tube

Gabriele Falloppio (1523 - October 9, 1562), often known by his Latin name Fallopius, was one of the most important anatomists and physicians of the sixteenth century. 

He was born at Modena and died at Padua. His family was noble but very poor and it was only by a hard struggle he succeeded in obtaining an education. Financial difficulties led him to join the clergy, and in 1542, he became a canon at Modena's cathedral. He studied medicine at Ferrara, at that time one of the best medical schools in Europe and received his MD in 1548.

In 1551 Falloppio was invited by Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, to occupy the chair of anatomy and surgery at the University of Padua. He also held the professorship of botany and was superintendent of the botanical gardens. Though he died when less than forty, he had made his mark on anatomy for all time.

He studied the reproductive organs in both sexes, and described the Fallopian tube, which leads from the ovary to the uterus and now bears his name. The aquæductus Fallopii, the canal through which the facial nerve passes after leaving the auditory nerve, is also named after him . In his own time he was also regarded as somewhat of an authority in the field of sexuality. His treatise on syphilis advocated the use of condoms, and he initiated what may have been the first clinical trial of the device.

Ernst Gräfenberg (The "G" Spot)

Ernst Gräfenberg (b. 26 September 1881 in Adelebsen near Göttingen, Germany, d. 28 October 1957 in New York City, USA) was a German-born medical doctor and scientist. He is known for developing the intrauterine device (IUD), and for his studies of the role of the woman's urethra in orgasm (The "G" Spot).

During the First World War, he was a medical officer, and continued publishing papers, mostly on human female physiology. In 1929 he published his studies of the "Gräfenberg ring", the first IUD for which there are usage records.

When Nazism assumed power in Germany, Gräfenberg, a Jew, was forced in 1933 to resign as head of the department of gynecology and obstetrics in the Berlin-Britz municipal hospital. In 1934, Hans Lehfeldt attempted to persuade him to leave Nazi Germany; he refused, believing that since his practice included wives of high Nazi officials, he would be safe. He was wrong, and he was arrested in 1937 for having smuggled out a valuable stamp from Germany. Margaret Sanger ransomed him from a Nazi prison, and he was finally allowed to leave in 1940, whereupon he went to the U.S. and opened a practice in New York City.

He became famous for his studies of woman's genitalia, and human female sexual physiology. His published studies include the seminal, The Role of Urethra in Female Orgasm in 1950, describing female ejaculation, and an erogenous zone where the urethra is closest to the vaginal wall. In 1981 sexologists John D. Perry and Beverly Whipple named that area the Gräfenberg spot, or G-spot, in his honor.

He was a pioneer of medicine who has not received overdue peer accolades. Dr. Sanger, Dr. Kinsey, and Drs. Masters and Johnson credit his extensive physiological work. While the medical community has not embraced the whole concept of the "G-Spot", Dr. Gräfenberg remains a widely heralded physician who narrowly escaped death by the Nazis to become the Father of the sexual Holy Grail.

John Langdon Down

John Langdon Haydon Down (November 18, 1828-October 7, 1896) was a British doctor best known for his description of what is now called Down Syndrome.

He entered the Royal London Hospital as a medical student in 1853. There he had a career distinguished by honours and gold medals and he qualified in 1856 at the Apothecaries Hall and the Royal College of Surgeons. In 1858 he was appointed Medical Superintendent of the Earlswood Asylum for Idiots in Surrey.

People were astonished that he should wish to pursue a career working in the neglected and despised field of idiocy. He had been one of the outstanding students of his time with every prospect of election to the staff of the Royal London Hospital. He was concerned that all children who were afflicted by mental alienation or incapacity of any kind were placed in the category of idiots and regarded as beyond help.

He was elected Assistant Physician to the London Hospital and continued to live at Earlswood and practice there and in London. John Langdon Down was quite liberal and advanced for a Victorian gentleman. He vigorously defended the higher education of women and denied that it made them more liable to produce feeble minded offspring. His ethnic classification of idiots led him to maintain that if a mentally defective member of a white race could show the racial features of a non-white race, it proved that racial differences were non-specific. He used this argument to refute the apologists for Negro slavery in the Southern States at the time of the American Civil War and to support the concept of the unity of mankind. He is most famous for his classification of what is known as Down Syndrome, named after him.