We live in the present and are always planning for our futures. But we all have a past that we can learn from: a personal past, in which we better ourselves by examining our mistakes, and from the broader past of human history, where we are able to learn from the ideas of all of the generations that have preceded us.
This is the value of studying history. The study of history doesn’t have to be limited to that which we learn in the classroom; it is something that can become a lifelong pursuit that is constantly rewarding us with new insights and a deeper understanding of the world and the people and societies who inhabit it.
In an earlier time it was enough for someone to have a head filled with facts: that knowledge justified itself. In terms of history it was enough for someone to be able to rattle off what were generally accepted as key dates, such as the Norman conquest of England in 1066; or being able to identify Alfred Russel Wallace, who came up with the theory of evolution around the same time as Charles Darwin, and with Darwin co-authored the first published article on natural selection. Such knowledge was a sort of screening device that confused the possession of mere data with intelligence.
The real beauty of history, according to a more modern perspective, is its ability to show us where we came from and the reasons why, and perhaps inform the present with an understanding of the past. Alexander Potoczak of Ohio attended Hamilton College and enjoys reading about history and many other subjects.
Stem cell research is considered by many people to be the next big thing in medicine, something that holds the promise of medical breakthroughs in research into cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease, among other conditions. But it is a highly controversial topic that some call murder, because one type of stem cells involves come from human fetuses.
Stem cells are immature cells that can develop into different types of cells in the body. There are two basic types: adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells can be found not only in adults, but in children and infants. These are stem cells that live in tissue that is already developed. Research with adult stem cells has been limited, because of the difficulty in growing them in lab conditions.
Embryonic stem cells are produced when a newly fertilized human egg begins to divide. This type of stem cell can become any type of cell in the body.
Scientists have been researching the biology of stem cells for decades, trying to find out how development works, and find new ways of treating disease and other health problems. Because stem cells can develop into any tissue found in the body, they have great potential for medical applications. Medical researchers say stem cell research ma hold the key to preventing or curing a host of diseases, including type 1 diabetes and heart disease. It is possible that they might one day be used to replace or repair tissue that has been damaged by disease or injury.
Alexander Potoczak of Ohio is studying Economics, Biology and Religious Studies at Hamilton College, but also has experience in graduate level biology and stem cell research.