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  • Writer's pictureWomen's Cancer Research Foundation

The Importance of Observation

Many important scientific advances have occurred through individual observation. The microwave oven was invented when an early microwave researcher found that his coffee cup that he had set on the microwave generator warmed up. That led him to investigate the heating properties of microwaves and the invention of the microwave oven that we all use today.

Antibiotics have been used for thousands of years. The Egyptians applied moldy bread into infected wounds and noted improvement. That was the first observation that molds and bacteria produce compounds that can kill bacteria.

An Englishman, Dr. Alexander Fleming, returned from a Scottish vacation. He was known to be an absent-minded professor. In his messy laboratory, he had colonies of Staphylococcal aureus (a Gram-positive round-shaped bacterium frequently found in the upper respiratory tract) growing in numerous petri dishes. Examining them under the microscope, Fleming found that the penicillium mold had contaminated his Staphylococcal dishes. He was amazed that there was no evidence of Staphylococcus wherever the penicillium mold was growing. Fleming understood the importance of this observation and wrote a letter about this finding on September 28, 1928, noting that he had discovered what he called the first antibiotic.

Many scientific advancements are due to careful observation of unexpected events. The researcher's curiosity and alertness to these findings are key. This was true in ancient times and today. Modern, grinding, multibillion dollar, multiyear projects are also major contributors to scientific and technologic advances. The importance of individual observation though, even in those formats, are key to discovery, analysis and development of new treatments and technologies.

Dr. John Paul Micha, Founder & Chairman

Women's Cancer Research Foundation

About Women’s Cancer Research Foundation The Women’s Cancer Research Foundation (WCRF) is one of Southern California’s and the nation’s most active research organizations for female cancers. We are dedicated to serving the interests of patients, families, and friends affected by women’s cancers. WCRF partners with physician-scientists nationally to make differences in women’s lives by offering hope, strength, and progress.

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