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Embryos Under the Microscope


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About the Author

Jane Maienschein is Regents' Professor, President's Professor, and Parents Association Professor at the School of Life Sciences and Director of the Center for Biology and Society at Arizona State University. She is also Adjunct Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.


From abortion and contraception through stem cell research, human embryos find themselves at the center of numerous political debates...[Maienschein's] goal here is to provide the sort of biological knowledge that will elevate the quality of dialogue and decision-making about these controversial issues. Balancing a rich historical perspective with modern insights, Maienschein demonstrates that some of the most deeply held beliefs--beliefs that run contrary to our scientific understanding--are consistent with those professed centuries ago. While awareness of biological realities should shape public policy, she is politically astute enough to recognize 'that underlying faith and belief will trump any other evidence, including scientific.' Maienschein explains the biological basis for the Roe v. Wade decision and weighs in on the debate over fetal pain, asserting that it is impossible for fetuses to feel pain as early as proponents claim since they don't have the necessary 'neural wiring' until after week 24...[Embryos under the Microscope] illuminates and clarifies debates often obscured by emotion. * Publishers Weekly *
A balanced combination of history and science. We track the thoughts of philosophers Aristotle and Descartes; follow the development of modern experimental embryology by scientists such as Frank Lillie; and examine the twentieth- and twenty-first-century focus on understanding the molecular and genetic contribution of the sperm, egg and embryo to the offspring. Through this, Maienschein...interweaves the science of embryology and the many controversies that it continues to spark...Maienschein covers broad territory with surprising depth and concision. It seems unlikely that a more readable text will soon emerge to illuminate the journey from theory to observation to ethical considerations in this exciting science. -- Renee Reijo Pera * Nature *
Maienschein explores the scientific, cultural, legal and philosophical history of embryos. This is a big task for a single book, but she does a thorough job...Embryos Under the Microscope made me appreciate the phenomenally complex chain of events by which a person or animal develops. It really is amazing that any of us exist at all. -- Linda Geddes * New Scientist *
Maienschein examines research on human embryos, correcting misconceptions spread in popular media by citing scientific studies as well as her own experience as a biologist... Maienschein also addresses stem cells as well as scientific efforts to dismantle, reconstruct, and synthesize embryos. Drawing from a vast body of her own scientific research and that of other scientists, the author makes the case that the general public must be educated about human embryos and kept apprised of current research... Recommended for anyone who wants to learn about human embryos and how investigation on them affects society. -- Tina Chan * Library Journal *

Many labs around the world aim to harness the power of human embryonic stem cells to restore function to degenerating tissues. The public reaction to such regenerative therapies is a mixture of excitement, fear and confusion. Maienschein sifts the hope from the hype, setting out what is currently possible and where the technical and ethical
limits lie...Her book helps us to navigate a path through this dizzying rhetoric by presenting us with a view of embryonic development that is both clear-headed and captivating.

-- Sally Lowell * Times Higher Education *

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