Tag Archives: George Papanikolaou

Profile on: George Papanikolaou, creator of the cervical Pap smear test

This is the third in a series of posts about interesting, inspiring and influential people. Today’s profile is on George Papanikolaou, a man responsible for saving millions of lives through his method for early cervical cancer detection.


Image from http://atschool.eduweb.co.uk/campionhs/europeanProject/papanikolaou.htm 

Who: George Papanikolaou, Greek cell biologist and early cancer detection researcher
Born: 13th May, 1883
Died: 19th February, 1962 (Aged 78)
Claim to fame:Invented the Pap smear test


Snapshot of Notable Facts & Achievements:

  • Graduated with Honours from the University of Athens. Papanikolaou received his medical degree in 1904 and then six years later he received his Ph.D. from the University of Munich.
  • In 1913 he emigrated to the United States and found a position at the Weill Medical School’s Department of Anatomy at New York’s Cornell University.
  • In his early research, Papanikolaou discovered that abnormal cells could be observed under a microscope. He later wrote, “The first observation of cancer cells in the smear of the uterine cervix gave me one of the greatest thrills I ever experienced during my scientific career.”
  • He reported that cervical and uterine cancer could be diagnosed by means of a vaginal smear in 1928, but this claim was not recognised until a research paper he published in 1943 with a colleague, Herbert Traut.
  • In 1950 Papanikolaou was awarded a Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research. He won many other prestigious medical awards for his contribution.
  • In 1961 he moved to Florida to develop the Papanikolaou Cancer Research Institute at the University of Miami, but he passed away from heart failure not long after, in 1962.
  • In 1978 his work was recognised by the US Postal Service with a 13-cent stamp for Early Cancer Detection.

Stamp image from http://arago.si.edu

  • Papanikolaou’s portrait appeared on the Greek 10,000 drachma note from 1995 – 2001 (before being replaced by the Euro.

Banknote image from http://www.coinsworld.eu/shops/gant/item1580/

For more information on cervical cancer screening, see the following links:

Cervical cancer screening in Australia
Cervical cancer screening in New Zealand
Cervical cancer screening in the UK
Cervical cancer screening in the USA

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