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The pioneering woman who invented a life-saving test for newborns

08 June 2018

Though Apgar stayed away from women's movements, she would say "women were liberated the day they were born: they just had to be better at what they did to succeed in a man's world or profession".

Virginia Apgar is the subject of the Google home page's latest Doodle. Virginia Apgar, would have celebrated her 109th birthday Thursday.

Later, Apgar's studies of obstetrical anesthesia led to her creating the Apgar score.

Born in New Jersey in 1909, Apgar always had a keen interest in science.

As a medical student, Apgar noted that a number of babies that had seemed healthy at birth were dying soon after leaving the hospital.

The Apgar Score checks a few of the basic functions of the body, such as heart rate, respiration, colour, muscle tone, reflex irritability and provides a score within minutes, so that a proper steps can be taken to save the life of a child.

Depending on the observed condition, each category is scored with 0, 1, or 2.

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Google's Doodle today honors a Mount Holyoke College graduate - Dr. Virginia Apgar. An anesthesiologist by training, she climbed the ranks at New York's Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in the 1930s and '40s, when anesthesiology wasn't recognized as a medical specialty.

The doctor was the first woman to become a professor at the prestigious Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeon in 1949. An Apgar Score between 4 and 6 may mean some medical intervention is needed. In her later years, she worked for March of Dimes, a non-profit founded by President Franklin Roosevelt that initially targeted polio but went on to focus on the prevention of birth defects.

Dr Virginia Apgar developed the score in 1952 to quantify the effect of obstetric anaesthesia on babies.

Apgar was quick to realise the trend and concentrated on the methods for decreasing the infant mortality rate specifically within the first 24 hours of the newborn's life.

Her contributions are even more noteworthy as she did her research and inventions at a time when women were discouraged to pursue higher education in medicine. In 1995, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, and in 1973, she co-authored the landmark book Is My Baby All Right?

She never married and died of cirrhosis of the liver on August 7, 1974.

She worked nearly up until her death at the age of 64.

The pioneering woman who invented a life-saving test for newborns