Podcast: Where do babies come from? How developmental genetics revealed the secrets of life’s earliest stages

artificial embryo structures show insight into fetal development

Geneticist Dr Kat Arney goes back to the very beginning, telling the stories of the midwives of the field of developmental genetics, two talented researchers whose work helped to reveal the secrets of life in its very earliest stages in the latest episode of the Genetics Society’s ‘Genetics Unzipped’ podcast.


The field of genetics began to emerge with the rediscovery of Mendel’s laws of inheritance around the turn of the 20th century, with the founding of The Genetics Society by William Bateson and Edith Rebecca Saunders following in 1919. But around the same time, another new field of biology was emerging: embryology. From the 1880s, scientists began asking how organisms developed – life unfolding from a single cell to many, with cells dividing, dying and specializing from one stage to the next. Or, to put it less scientifically, how are babies made?

In the early 1900s, embryology was considered a completely separate field from heredity or genetics. But over the next century, scientists would reveal the interplay between the two, and the exquisite links between genetics and development. The new field of developmental genetics was born, and its midwives included several remarkable women, two of whom we’re going to take a closer look at: Hilde Mangold and Salome Gluecksohn-Waelsch.

The tale of developmental genetics is a thrilling one, with everything you need for a good story. There’s politics, drama, upheaval, prejudice, and even a suspicious death. So hold on tight, this is a good one.

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Full show notes, transcript, music credits and references online at GeneticsUnzipped.com.

Genetics Unzipped is the podcast from the UK Genetics Society, presented by award-winning science communicator and biologist Kat Arney and produced by First Create the Media.  Follow Kat on Twitter @Kat_Arney, Genetics Unzipped @geneticsunzip, and the Genetics Society at @GenSocUK

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