Ramsey, Elizabeth M. (1906–1993)

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Ramsey, Elizabeth M. (1906–1993)

American physician and placentologist. Name variations: Elizabeth M. Klagsbrunn; Mrs. Hans A. Klags brunn. Born in New York City on February 17, 1906; died in Washington, D.C., on July 2, 1993; daughter of Charles Cyrus Ramsey and Grace (Keys) Ramsey; graduated from Bishop's School, La Jolla, California; Mills College, B.A., 1928; Yale Medical School, M.D., 1932; Medical College of Pennsylvania, D.Sc., 1965; also studied in Hamburg, Germany; married Hans Alexander Klagsbrunn (a lawyer), on January 27, 1934.

Graduated from Yale Medical School as one of two women in her class (1932); while conducting a routine autopsy, discovered and then extensively studied a 14-day-old embryo (1930s); Society for Gynecologic Investigation named her distinguished scientist of the year (1987).

Elizabeth M. Ramsey was born in 1906 in New York City but grew up in California, where she graduated from Mills College in 1928. She went on to study ini Hamburg, Germany, and at Yale Medical School, where she was one of two women to gradute in the class of 1932. A few years after that she married Hans Klagsbrunn, a lawyer with whom she would later run a pig and dairy farm in Virginia.

Ramsey worked as a pathologist at Yale Medical School in the 1930s, and while autopsying a woman one day she, along with several coleagues, found a 14-day-old embryo. "It was the most interesting professional thing in my life," she later said, for the embryo, which became known as the "Yale Embryo," was at the time the youngest ever seen. Her discovery led her to extensively study the anatomy of human embryos and to publish her findings. She continued her research by studying monkeys to understand the circulatory system of their embryos and placentas. With Martin Donner of the radiology department at Johns Hopkins, she later used radioactive dyes and X-rays to conclude that the human embryo and placenta have a similar circulation system.

Ramsey was the author of over 100 scientific articles as well as two books, The Placenta of Laboratory Animals and Man (1975) and, with Donner, Placental Vasculature and Circulation (1982). She spent 36 years working in the Carnegie Institute's embryology department at Johns Hopkins University, where she also taught and lectured. In addition to serving on the Dean's Council of the Yale Medical School, she guest-lectured at Georgetown and George Washington universities, and served on the boards of the National Cathedral Choral Society and the National Symphony Orchestra.

Ramsey was the recipient of the distinguished service award of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which also elected her to its hall of fame. She served as a vice president of the American Association of Anatomists, and the Society of Gynecologic Investigation named her its distinguished scientist for 1987. She died of a stroke in 1993 in Washington, D.C., less than two weeks after her husband's death.


The Day [New London, CT]. July 4, 1993.

Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont

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Ramsey, Elizabeth M. (1906–1993)

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