Pap Smear Pioneer Georgios Papanikolaou Celebrated in Google Doodle

Maricruz Casares
May 15, 2019

Today's Google Doodle is honoring the Greek medical pioneer Georgios Papanikolaou, who worked with his wife to develop the life-saving Pap smear.

Pioneering scientist, Georgios Papanikolaou would have been 136 years old Monday.

Google is celebrating Georgios Papanikolaou, the Greek cytopathologist behind the smear test, with a special commemorative Doodle on what would have been his 136th birthday.

Georgios was born in the town of Kymi, on the Greek island of Euboea on May 13, 1883. He immigrated to the U.S.in 1913, initially working as a carpet salesman and playing violins in restaurants until Cornell recruited him to join their staff.

Although Papanikolaou first discovered the ability to diagnose uterine cancer through a vaginal smear in 1928, it was only in 1943, after having published the book "Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer by the Vaginal Smear" that his work received recognition. Although he initially studied music and the humanities, he later chose to follow in his father's footsteps and go into the medical field.

He was preparing to establish the Papanicolaou Cancer Research Institute at the University of Miami when he died on 19 February, 1962, at the age of 89. In 1913, he immigrated to the US with his wife, Andromachi Mavroyenis.

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Papanikolaou started medical school at age 15, and after graduation served as an army surgeon in the Balkan wars.

The couple's breakthrough arrived after they asked a group of friends to participate in a study for their research looking at how cells in the vagina and uterus change during the menstrual cycle; a test which involved undergoing a Pap smear.

His discovery of the Pap smear, which he worked on with his wife Andromachi Mavroyenis, has saved countless lives across the world through the early detection of cervical cancer. The Pap smear is still used across the world for early detection of cancer, though in recent times some countries, such as Australia, use a method that no longer requires creation of a smear and instead looks at one of the root causes of cervical cancer: human papillomavirus.

Nominated twice for the Nobel Prize, Papanikolaou received the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research in 1950 and his portrait appeared on the Greek 10,000 drachma banknote as well as a 1978 USA postage stamp.

All this should suggest the direction of work of Georgios Papanikolaou.

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