Microbiology pioneer dies

Esther Lederberg dies at 83

Stanford University microbiologist Esther Miriam Zimmer Lederberg, a trailblazer for female scientists and the developer of laboratory techniques that helped a generation of researchers understand how genes function, has died at Stanford Hospital.

Professor Lederberg, who lived at Stanford, was 83 when she died Nov. 11 of pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

She discovered the lambda phage, a parasite of bacteria that became a key tool for the laboratory study of viruses and genetics, and was the co-developer with her husband [Nobel prize winner Joshua Lederberg] of replica plating, a technique for rapid screening of bacteria for desired mutations.

“She developed lab procedures that all of us have used in research,” said cancer researcher Stanley Falkow of the Stanford University School of Medicine.

She was also a pioneer of women’s rights, becoming a full professor at a time when women were rare on the faculties of Stanford and other major universities. “She was a real legend,” said Dr. Lucy Tompkins of Stanford.

(More after the jump…)
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Pediatrics Grand Rounds–last call!

I’m traveling tonight and tomorrow to take the kids and myself back to Ohio for Thanksgiving (props to U of Iowa for not having any classes next week), so my internet access will be limited. So this is the last call for submissions for Pediatrics Grand Rounds, which I’ll write up Saturday afternoon (probably during the OSU-Michigan game) and schedule to appear here on Sunday. Send submissions (any posts relating to children’s health–I’d love to see some more research posts!) to aetiology AT gmail DOT com by Saturday noonish for inclusion.

The war on women’s health continues

PZ and others have already blogged about this, but since it deals with public health in a big way, I thought I’d give it a mention here as well. Seems Bush has made yet another highly questionable appointment in the Department of Health and Human Services. Shocking, I know.

The Bush administration has appointed a new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as “demeaning to women.”

More after the jump…
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November Animalcules is up!

Check it out over at Bamhaus, and much thanks to Andreas for hosting this month’s carnival. If anyone wans to volunteeer for future months, be sure to drop me a line; next edition will be Thursday, December 14th and is looking for a good home.

North Korea has more than nukes

I was just lecturing yesterday on streptococci, and discussing how the diseases caused by the group A streptococcus (Streptococcus pyogenes). This is the bacterium that causes diseases as varied as “strep throat,” streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, and necrotizing fasciitis (aka the “flesh-eating disease.”) It’s also caused historical epidemics of scarlet fever, a major scourge in many countries from the mid-1800s or so until around the turn of the century, when it started to wane for no apparent reason. (The worry over this illness was captured in Margery Williams’ 1923 book, “The Velveteen Rabbit,” where The Boy suffers from scarlet fever). The bacterium also has–and still does, in many developing countries–caused outbreaks of rheumatic fever, which can damage heart valves and result in rheumatic heart disease.

Yesterday, S. pyogenes was again in the news with a report of a scarlet fever outbreak in North Korea (more after the jump).
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Animalcules and Pediatric Grand Rounds–call for submissions

It’s that time again. The November edition of Animalcules will go live this coming Thursday, and is being hosted by Andreas. Send your links to him (abaeumer at gmx dot de) by Wednesday, and go ahead and include more than one if you like since we missed the October round.

Second, I’ll be hosting the upcoming edition of Pediatric Grand Rounds here on Sunday. Send entries to me (aetiology at gmail dot com) preferably by Saturday afternoon. Anything I get after that I may be able to squeeze in, but I won’t make any guarantees.