Google Doodle honored on Georgios Papanikolaou on what would have been his 136th birthday. The Greek pioneer in cytopathology and early cancer detection is most notably known for his invention of the Pap Smear.
Cancer of the female reproductive system
Papanikolaou was born on May 13, 1883, in the town of Kimi, on the island of Euboea in Greece. He started medical school at only 15 years old and received his Ph.D. from the University of Munich in 1910.
Three years later he immigrated to the US with his wife, Andromahi Mavrogeni, where they both took jobs as researchers at Cornell University.
They worked in the department of anatomy studying cancers of the female reproductive system. That is when in 1928, Papanikolaou discovered that taking vaginal smears and examining them under the microscope could lead to the detection of cancers.
He began his experimental research by carrying out vaginal smears on actual guinea pigs. He noticed that he was able to see differences between normal and malignant cervical cells when viewing swabs smeared on microscopic slides.
The Pap smear
Unfortunately, it wasn't until 1943 that his work was published when he collaborated with Dr. Herbert Traut, a gynecological pathologist. From then on, it served as the basis for the Pap smear test.
In 1961 Papanikolaou was headed to Miami to lead Miami’s Cancer Institute. Unfortunately, three months after arriving there, he suffered a fatal heart attack on February 19, 1962, at the age of 78.
Today, the Pap Smear is a cheap and simple test that is the basis of screening for cervical cancer, precancerous dysplasia and other diseases of the female reproductive system.
Papanikolaou is recognized worldwide for this key contribution and was even previously featured on stamps of the US Postal Service.