Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Hamilton, Boyd and Mossman

Human implantation site (lacunar stage) Carnegie No. 7700

Little is known about early human development. In vitro fertilization is widespread and with it has come a wealth of information on development to the blastocyst stage. The next step is implantation of the embryo in the uterus and the first stages of placentation. This is not feasible to study for ethical considerations.
Therefore our knowledge is derived largely from two data sets collected many years ago. The first was a carefully dated series of embryos obtained at hysterectomy by Arthur T. Hertig and John Rock. Their material was studied at the Department of Embryology of the Carnegie Institute of Washington and now forms part of the Carnegie Collection. A tutorial based on this collection by Allen C. Enders is now available on the web. One of his micrographs appears above.

The second set of data came from from the collections of J. Dixon Boyd at Cambridge and William J. Hamilton of the Charing Cross Hospital. The Boyd Collection is now at the Centre for Trophoblast Research in Cambridge and will shortly be reunited with Hamilton’s Collection.

Hamilton and Boyd wrote an amazing book The Human Placenta (Heffer, Cambridge, 1970). Copies rarely come on the market and command steep prices. Mossman’s book on fetal membranes, mentioned in a previous post, has also gone out of print. So here is a tip. Together, Hamilton, Boyd and Mossman wrote a textbook on Human Embryology that went through four editions. It contains many iconic images of early placentation. At the back is a comprehensive appendix on mammalian fetal membranes by Mossman in full colour. Plenty of second hand copies can be found and most are reasonably priced.

Dixon Boyd and Hamilton each raised four sons. Richard and Robert Boyd recently joined forces to chronicle the contribution of Cambridge academics to fetal and placental research from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. This account makes fascinating reading.

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