On this Day in Medical History: (Apr 28th, 1910): Edouard Van Beneden died at age 64. An accomplished scientist, he was a Belgian embryologist with backgrounds in cytology and marine biology. By studying every physician’s favorite roundworm (Ascarius), incidentally known to be one of the grossest (medically speaking) parasitic infection causes in the world. We invite you to Google pictures of it if you wish.
Van Beneden figured out in 1883, that sexual fertilization resulted from the union of two types of cell with half the amount of chromosomes a typical animal or human cell has. He observed the process of “meiosis” whereby the chromosomes are cut in half in the specialized cells that participate in reproduction. Though he was studying worms, the same process happens in the creation of egg and sperm in humans as well as in their uniting during fertilization. Once the two cells unite, the resulting cell (called a zygote) now has the full amount of chromosomes that any given cell in the human body will be found to have–except, of course, for egg and sperm cells. That zygote will go on to divide in a different process, called “mitosis” and will copy the same number of chromosomes to each new cell made.
Though Van Beneden wasn’t a physician, his work contributed heavily to the early understanding of embryology and the foundations of sexual reproduction. I would like to argue, given his observation of two sex cells uniting under a microscope lens was a first, that he saw the first and most scientifically important peep show in medical history. That’s something, no?
Sources: https://todayinsci.com/4/4_28.htm & Wikipedia.org
[Doctor with a mustache]