How one scientist averted a national health crisis - Andrea Tone

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In 1960, Frances Kelsey was one of the Food and Drug Administration’s newest recruits. Before the year was out, she would begin a fight that would save thousands of lives - though no one knew it at the time. Andrea Tone explains how Kelsey was able to prevent a massive national public health tragedy by privileging facts over opinions, and patience over short-cuts.
Lesson by Andrea Tone, animation by TED-Ed.
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7-Iyn, 2018

TEDTED-EdTededTed EducationTED EdAndrea ToneFrances KelseyFood and Drug Administrationpublic healthmedicinethalidomidedrugpregnancybabiesheroscientific breakthroughwomen in STEM



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TED-Ed 4 oy oldin
If you're a student with a passion for science, share your ideas, discoveries and hopes with the world through TED's student idea platform: bit.ly/2M7hd87. If your passions lie elsewhere, we want to hear from you, too! TED-Ed is creating a space to celebrate and amplify student ideas on a wide range of topics - from human rights to staying organized in school - and we want you to be a part of it! Check it out!
Arnav Kelkar
Arnav Kelkar 27 kun oldin
TED-Ed (
Nesiah Coward
Nesiah Coward 2 oy oldin
I love this channel because your illustrations are magnificent and your commentators have such soothing voices. There are things that I have learned from this channel, which helps me so much in school. Its amazing, thank you so much.
Simrah 4 oy oldin
TED-Ed Hello
TheSassi42 4 oy oldin
lalla jha I don't understand. Why.is this video political. I thought it was about a scientist/doctor.
lalla jha
lalla jha 4 oy oldin
Tedx stop using it for political benefits. It's a learning organization not a political one.
smurfx 14 soat oldin
if this happened today she would have probably gotten fired and replaced with a yes man.
MBM Kun oldin
Good story but I can tell you why they are disproportionately represented in STEM fields, IT DOESN’T APPEAL TO THEM
ahua luo
ahua luo 3 kun oldin
Feels like scientists and business ppl are natural opponents
Stephanie Chiong
Stephanie Chiong 3 kun oldin
Yeesh, Merrell are crazy idiots
roy rogers
roy rogers 3 kun oldin
Yay, she did her job.
Linda Wright
Linda Wright 7 kun oldin
This is a classic example of how Big Business cares more about profits than about the well-being of its customers. What is most scary is that today the corrupt Trump administration controls who heads the FDA and is clearly pro-business and anti-consumer. Is the FDA now approving pharmaceuticals just as dangerous as thalidomide in order to further enrich the CEOs and rich shareholders of Big Pharma? We have recently seen the slow federal response to the trickery used by one pharmaceutical company to convince physicians it was safe to prescrib highly addictive opioids as general painkillers for public and how this created an epidemic of opioid-addicted people. Be cautious about deciding to use any new medications approved by the FDA under the Trump administration -- you do not want to be a human test case for a poorly researched/fraudulently researched medication rushed to the US market to enrich corporate shareholders.
Nathan Murphy
Nathan Murphy 10 kun oldin
Forever immortalized in a great Billy Joel song.
cakepoprock 11 kun oldin
I hope the people who wanted to approve it feel guilty
Hanhil 11 kun oldin
I appreciate this heroine. I also appreciated the fact that her colleagues at FDA supported her. It would have been so much more worse for her if they didn't.
JJ Unicorn
JJ Unicorn 11 kun oldin
why isn’t she more recognized? this is an awesome story!
ゆParakoi 12 kun oldin
STELLAR! 12 kun oldin
She lived *101 YEARS??* why is no one talking about that?!
Lyndis S.
Lyndis S. 13 kun oldin
Ah. It's great to remember that the United States had been a fertile ground and a patron for science! Can we keep that up?
Gybbson Lesly
Gybbson Lesly 13 kun oldin
So she did her job to the best of her abilities to standards that she was supposed to stand up to as requirements for her jobs and lucked upon one out of hundreds of thalidomide products which as part of her job she rejected it. Then rejected it again until she became famous. I mean other people did notice the problems with the product and the rest of the few backed her up. She basically was just lucky. And I guess so are we. But literally anyone doing their job properly in fda could have become famous. And a few years earlier at that. Thalidomide could also have passed if the company that sold the T. based product did better research or found away to use T. safely.
Cool Watermelon ShowTM
This was a good video
Zombie Flâneuse
Zombie Flâneuse 13 kun oldin
She saved so many children. Hurrah for her and others like her. 🙌
Aaron Brown
Aaron Brown 13 kun oldin
There is a lack of women in STEM because most women choose not to enter STEM. The trend is due almost entirely to personal choice, not institutional discrimination as in Ms. Kelsey's case.
Xexomaru 14 kun oldin
The time when the FDA used to do its job
aditya gupta
aditya gupta 19 kun oldin
this made me cry
keto11 21 kun oldin
Thanks for not making this a sexist issue EDIT: yeah nvm me
electromt 21 kun oldin
Nice *Read more*
P B 23 kun oldin
All the men crying in the comments section. Smh.
John Michael Damian
John Michael Damian 26 kun oldin
Wow. She's cool.
Alden Wang
Alden Wang 28 kun oldin
Alden Wang
Alden Wang 28 kun oldin
Josie Joestar
Josie Joestar 28 kun oldin
You had me till about the 5 minute mark. Then you lost me.
august smith
august smith 29 kun oldin
Cool, yeah, whatever, cool vid, blah
Crowel Lovecraft
how an amazing story of an ultra amazing person was ruined by gender war my advice stop watching at 4:35 if u dont want to buy the bs the gender hero is trying to oush here . shame on u
Manu Nr
Manu Nr Oy oldin
Those thoughts before each clip are very apt , please keep doing those ...
Undertale _fan 93
I will remember you docter Kelsey
Holly O'Connor
That lady saved more than just lives; she 'in some ways' saved the future. Rock on, Dr. Kelsey!!!
Arleigh Peterson
Why women aren't in STEM: They don't wan't to be
Virginia Gordon
Virginia Gordon 11 kun oldin
Or....... Women aren't invited in the science field
That Russian
That Russian Oy oldin
So, her achievement was not really a scientific breakthrough, but rather an educated bureaucratic checklist. Gotcha.
Sangita Barai
Sangita Barai Oy oldin
This is where the losers comments are
Astariol Oy oldin
50 years later the Trump administration is trying to prohibit the use of the term "evidence-based".
Love INDIA Oy oldin
The Great People are Not Born by Birth They Become Great by their Works and Decisions. She is A Great Gift to Humanity.
Angel Benitez
Angel Benitez Oy oldin
Can we just celebrate her as a brilliant scientist not a female scientist who was subjected to 'social norms'? You diminish her accomplishment by painting her as a victim.
Christine McManus
Christine McManus 15 kun oldin
Facing gender bias doesn't make a person a victim - you're only a victim if you let it control your life. She didn't. Not acknowledging the difficulties women in STEM faced back then would be ahistorical, and wouldn't paint the full picture of what she was up against when she refused to approve Thalidomide. She was a brilliant scientist who saved millions of lives and overcame gender barriers. One achievement does not diminish or negate the other.
Lesbian Amazon Sister
It’s hard to imagine a time when the U.S. was more precautionary than Europe with new drugs. (Look up the precautionary principle practiced in Europe).
Hobo The Dog
Hobo The Dog Oy oldin
crystal beats
crystal beats Oy oldin
one of my teachers last names is davies shes my english teacher
crystal beats
crystal beats Oy oldin
Ioan Jivan
Ioan Jivan Oy oldin
seems more than national security
The Fiddly Diddler
She was a hero because she saved thousands of lives, not because she was a women.
Carl Jakobsson
A great deed by Kelsey, but to think that americans are 'protected' by the FDA is a bit strange. Because, with the new stringent requirements on drugs it would take longer and longer for beneficial drugs to be sold on the market. There are various estimates of how many die due medicine being available but illegal to prescribe to patients, but some suggests that prohibiting propranolol, a beta-blocker, may have resulted in the death of 30 to 280 thousand people; and maybe 80 thousand died from the prohibition of Septra, an antibiotic. See "Economics of Public Issues", pp 6-7.
That one friend
She fought prejudice because of her gender and greedy companies that gave Faldo accusations to become a saviour of so many people. Another underrepresented genius in my opinion, I mean, what a badass!
Blue Hoodie8
Blue Hoodie8 Oy oldin
When idiots try to tell a smart person to change
cerci Ironborn
#feminism for doing her work?
Captain Landalien
This was a really great video, very educational, but I would like to point out that at the end, while it was true back then, nowadays, women are unrepresented in stem fields not because they are accepted less, or paid less, but because they apply less, infact employers even prefer a female over an equally qualified male. There are probably social factors that affect this, yes, not not the points this video gave.
Guy White
Guy White Oy oldin
I didn't really like personal commentary, at the end. You should put a name on it. Don't just imply it's that it's all men. That's just as bad as the claim you are making about them. Thumbs up, though. Whomever disliked this should have their head examined. What's not to like about healthy babies? Am I right?
Julian Qarim
Julian Qarim Oy oldin
Damn gurl!
Thorerx Oy oldin
Loved it up until the end. Inspiring story. Nothing wrong with women choosing not to go into stem fields. Nothing wrong with men choosing not to go into nursing fields. Nothing wrong with men choosing not to get an education in psychology. Why do we care what field people focus on based on their gender?
Alejandro Reyes
it's because women love to cheer on hard-working female scientists, but don't want to be one themselves for a variety of reasons. it's a matter of interest imho
jazmine Oy oldin
thank you for telling her story. please tell more stories of these unknown heros
TheFlowMind Oy oldin
We had not been so lucky in EU. No one stopped the drug and thousands of people were born with terrible disabilities. My mum was born in 1962 in Italy and she’s one of the Thalidomide’s children.
Mr. Meeseeks
Mr. Meeseeks Oy oldin
Sad. Now the FDA can be bought by the highest bidders.
Nelson Torres
Nelson Torres Oy oldin
Because motivation is different motivation in career choosing!
Zack Vine
Zack Vine Oy oldin
this episode was good until the end where it turned into leftist propaganda
The Real Deal
The Real Deal Oy oldin
Ancaps, I’ve got my eye on you.
kcmn00 2 oy oldin
What a true hero
Miko Mido
Miko Mido 2 oy oldin
Why are women underrepresented in STEM? It certainly not the Patriarchy
Should she have received an award for doing her job?
Veronika Alcoba
Veronika Alcoba 2 oy oldin
She finished an undergraduate AND postgrad in 2 years?!!!! Not to mention 4 freakin degrees?? Hot dammmnnn 👏👏👏 #powertowomen
SirJMO 2 oy oldin
I disagree with the ending notion: women being unrepresented in stem fields. If anything it's young
Piññaġnaqtuq 2 oy oldin
Why is nursing (including masters, NP, and PhD) ever-snubbed as a STEM field? Because it's already women-heavy. Include nursing in your STEM counts and you may see those numbers inch a little closer towards what we would like to see as far as 50/50
RandomdudeZ9 2 oy oldin
Moral of the story. Follow what you f*cking say.
Lord Felidae
Lord Felidae 2 oy oldin
I am so glad she got to see the good she did.
Sam Seidel • 11 minutes ago
We love our individuals
Alexis Marie
Alexis Marie 2 oy oldin
she’s like im just doing my job dudes
Johannes Weger
Johannes Weger 2 oy oldin
Im from Italy and I know many Peopel whos Kids or Friends where deformed.
Myranda Partaker
Myranda Partaker 2 oy oldin
honestly this video only makes me lose faith in humanity
K B 2 oy oldin
I'm a college student. From my experience, women are only underrepresented in Engineering, Physics, Computer Science, and Philosophy... *Every* other major (from Chemistry to Sociology) has a good number of men and women. And women make up the majority in some majors. That said, I've seen sexist attitudes from people in majors that are mostly male or female.
Sofia dk
Sofia dk 2 oy oldin
It inspires us tô not give up, even with the different threatment we get Just for benigno women
Sofia dk
Sofia dk 2 oy oldin
I absolutely loved this video!!
Hakan Töre
Hakan Töre 2 oy oldin
dislikes are this guys 2:32
Timmy Ledwon
Timmy Ledwon 2 oy oldin
I love the video but women are getting a degree in women's studies then complaining that there aren't any women in stem fields.
KAT PHAM 2 oy oldin
I was actually very surprised to hear that the FDA firmly backed her up considering the fact that women were looked down upon, back then
jordan park
jordan park 2 oy oldin
Didn't appreciate the crude and reductionist lecture at the end, but the rest of the video was nice and inspiring.
Nesiah Coward
Nesiah Coward 2 oy oldin
For anyone wondering, she lived to be 101 years old. That amazing
william 2 oy oldin
true hero
Leah Winningham
Leah Winningham 2 oy oldin
Women don't go into STEM fields normally. The only reason is because they don't find interest in it. Women are free to choose
terry ferguson
terry ferguson 2 oy oldin
Science is largely sorcery and magic,carried out by demons,NOT people with aspergers syndrome.The technology comes from the fallen angels and demons that inhabit people.Read the book of Enoch.Audio version on youtube.See Trey Smith`s video on the Nephiim.
John Marshall
John Marshall 2 oy oldin
She stooped the drug but the harm was already done thalidomide was in USA from 1956 to 1962 as samples millions of pills were given out
Karl Palomo
Karl Palomo 2 oy oldin
Wow :'-)
Lovin9Lives 2 oy oldin
all thanks to the "mistake" of thinking she was male when accepted for her phd! Mr. Oldham and she was able to get her further education and saved lives!
jerrij4242 2 oy oldin
LilmsKobe V
LilmsKobe V 2 oy oldin
She died when I was 10
Vaut 2 oy oldin
I’m so proud of her
Pixel Bytes
Pixel Bytes 2 oy oldin
Amazing video loved it But why did you have to advertise political ted talks?
Mohamed Humaid
Mohamed Humaid 2 oy oldin
BLUEGENE13 2 oy oldin
atleast they didn't promote the gender propaganda
Seal Of Apoorval
Seal Of Apoorval 2 oy oldin
I bet today Trump would have called her fake news and said she was on a witch hunt, eventually supporting the big billion $$ company. And the worse part? A majority of people would have supported that today
ordinarylover 2 oy oldin
That is why we need regulations...
Maeve McCann
Maeve McCann 2 oy oldin
Thalidomide caused awful results in Britain
The Seal
The Seal 2 oy oldin
Great video! And loads of sensitive men crying about the ending in the comments is entertaining lol
Dom Vasta
Dom Vasta 2 oy oldin
But for every thalidomide blocked from the market, there are a dozen other drugs like beta blockers which are held up for months awaiting FDA approval, while patients who would otherwise be receiving the life saving treatment die. FDA approval should be required for advertisement and marketing of drugs, but not for their sale and use, let patients who would otherwise die take the risk to their safety into theirs and their doctor's own hands, allow them access to all the studies done on the drug, not just the ones that the pharmaceutical companies decided to send to the FDA, as well as access to the drug itself, while it is pending approval. No one should die when a cure for their illness exists, but a government body has yet to approve it.
Matthew Freedlander
Canada represent!
Dragon Dimosthenis
one also one scientist saved million of men
Javier Lemus
Javier Lemus 2 oy oldin
Scientist who is averting gender ideology plague?
Young Mo$e$
Young Mo$e$ 3 oy oldin
Can y'all do some more men
NoriMori 3 oy oldin
Thank God the FDA backed her up. This could have turned out a lot differently otherwise.
Husnain Ali
Husnain Ali 3 oy oldin
amazing work...