2. Invention of the Pap Smear

New York Hospital at Fifth AvenueOld New York Hospital when it was at Fifth Avenue and 15th Street. Illustration from King’s Handbook of New York City, from Wikimedia Commons

In 1941 while working at New York Hospital as a pathologist, Dr. George N. Papanicolaou invented his namesake Pap smear that could detect cervical cancer. A Pap smear analyzes cells collected from the outer opening of the cervix and aims to detect potential precancerous cell changes.

The Pap smear has significantly reduced the number of cervical cancer cases (by 80% according to one finding) and is widely used today across the world. Dr. Papanicolaou was repeatedly considered for the Nobel Prize, but the Nobel Committee rejected him each time because he had never cited research done by Romanian scientist Aurel Babeș, who made similar discoveries as Papanicolaou and likely inspired what became the Pap smear.

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