Josef Warkany – Foundations of Teratology

It is proper to recognize heroes whose achievements saved human lives and suffering. In this site we remember and honor them “in-brief”, and in a fuller mode in Pandora Word Box, a website dedicated to medical humanities. This page is in honor of Dr. Josef Warkany, known by many as the “Father of Teratology”). It is rarely that viewers can hear the actual heroes recount their paths to victory over death and misery (see below). Few physicians earned the honor for having eliminated common, painful, often lethal childhood disorder (Acrodynia), and that was just the beginning of the victories achieved by Warkany (see the story in “Dreaming on Solid Grounds”). The most important, in my view, is that the work of Dr. Warkany destroyed the long-standing dogma that malformations were expressions of parental genetic flaws (exploited by various fascist ideologies that sustained eugenics and euthanasia).

Warkany demonstrated that environmental factors are the main cause of malformations and revived and provided a scientific basis of Medical Teratology. His investigations led the FDA to demand that drug testing should include their safety for the unborn – this prevented the marketing of Thalidomide in the US in contrast to Canada, UK, Australia, Germany and other nations where thousands of children perished or were severely malformed (in the US there was no epidemic).

Below is the list of short segments from interviews with Dr. J. Warkany.