Happy Birthday Dr. George Papanicolau Invents Pap Smears

Dr. George Papanicolaou Inventor of the pap smear
Dr. George's birth day was May 13th. Dr. Sam. Berkow quoted Aristotle when describing Dr. George Papanicolaou, the credited inventor of the pap smear. He quoted his discovery and his story as an epic, with the components of an epic, in Aristole's words: a dignified theme, organic unity, and an orderly progress of action. Dr. Sam. Berkow went on in one  of his famous essays to say" the theme (of the pap smear) was no less than an odyssey, in which the course of which a key is found which opens the gate of cancer detection and also fits locked doors of gynecologic endocrinology." Both the young Aristotle and the young Dr. George Papanicolaou walked the island of their birth Euboea, having another thing in common. From that small island there are forested walks from which one can see the Mediterranean and gaze out over Asia Minor, perhaps inspirational in thinking about the grand picture, at least we might like to think so. Dr. George began his career in a very different direction, and his doctoral thesis was on parthenogenesis. In his original appointment to Cornell medical school the research guinea pig colony had an over abundance of animals, and he decided to begin to look at material that might help him discover sexual differentiation from the x and y chromosomes. It was a messy and inaccurate business to constantly have to kill the animals to get at stages of the ovary to obtain the cells he wanted to study when a light bulb went off in his head: he'd only have to start studying the periodic vaginal discharge. It was so scant, he decided to study those cells with daily vaginal smears: and the pap test was inventive.The test quickly became used in New York, beginning around 1923, but his landmark paper was published in 1928. So on this day, when you remember to get your pap smears, think of Dr. George!


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