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Elisabeth H. Winterhalter (1856-1952): the pioneer and her eponymous ovarian ganglion.

  • Author(s): Tucker, Richard P
  • et al.

Elisabeth Winterhalter was a German neuroanatomist, physician, feminist, and promoter of the arts. After earning her medical degree and completing postgraduate work in surgery and gynecology she was denied the opportunity to take the medical licensing exam in her native Germany. In 1896, while working part time in Frankfurt as an assistant to two physicians, she used Golgi staining to identify neurons in human ovaries. Others, including one of the period's leading researchers of reproductive biology, were unable to find "Winterhalter's ganglia" in their preparations and concluded that Winterhalter had observed non-neuronal cells. Almost a century later, researchers using histochemical techniques rediscovered autonomic neurons in primate ovaries, vindicating Winterhalter and supporting parts of her "nervous influence theory" of ovarian function.

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