Monday, 13 May 2013

Elizabeth Maplesden Ramsey

Elizabeth Ramsey lecturing at Rotterdam in 1980

A legend in her lifetime Elizabeth Ramsey was always kind to young investigators and an inspiration to women scientists. She wrote a slim volume on The Placenta of Laboratory Animals and Man that offers valuable insight into the realm of comparative placentation. 

Twenty years have passed since her death. As a researcher Elizabeth is best remembered for two things. At the very start of her career as a pathologist she discovered a very early human implantation site, the Yale embryo. This marked the start of her affiliation with the Carnegie Institution of Washington from 1934 until well beyond her retirement.

Corrosion cast of vessels in a rhesus monkey placenta. Maternal spiral artery red and fetal vessels white. The handwriting is Elizabeth Ramsey's

Second she studied the maternal placental circulation in the rhesus monkey and other primates beginning with 3D wax reconstructions of the blood vessels and proceeding through corrosion casts (above) to visualization of the blood flow by cineradioangiography. An appreciation of this work in its historical context has been written by Larry D. Longo and Giacomo Meschia (here).

My personal debt to Elizabeth dates back half a century when I was an undergraduate. In reply to my letter she sent many words of encouragement and reprints of her papers. It was typical of her generosity. 

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