How one scientist averted a national health crisis - Andrea Tone

  • Published on Jun 7, 2018
  • TED wants to promote student ideas! Learn more here:
    View full lesson:
    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.
    Thank you so much to our patrons for your support! Without you this video would not be possible! Claudia Mayfield, Justus Berberich, Pavel Zalevskiy, Yankai Liu, Duo Xu, Ghassan Alhazzaa, Miloš Stevanović, Joy Love Om, Gi Nam Lee, Shawn Quichocho, Simone Kidner, Anika Westburg, Barun Padhy, Brandy Jones, Devin Harris, Tony Trapuzzano, Stephen Michael Alvarez, Tom Lee, Juliana, Jason Weinstein, Kris Siverhus, Alexander Walls, Annamaria Szilagyi, Morgan Williams, Abhijit Kiran Valluri, Mandeep Singh, Sama aafghani, سلطان الخليفي, Marylise CHAUFFETON, Marvin Vizuett, Jayant Sahewal, Quinn Shen, Caleb ross, Elizabeth Cruz, Elnathan Joshua Bangayan, Gaurav Rana, Mullaiarasu Sundaramurthy, Jose Henrique Leopoldo e Silva, Dan Paterniti, Jerome Froelich, Tyler Yoshizumi, Martin Stephen, Justin Carpani, Faiza Imtiaz, Khalifa Alhulail, Tejas Dc, Benjamin & Shannon Pinder, Srikote Naewchampa, Ex Foedus, and Sage Curie.

Comments • 1 367

  • TED-Ed
    TED-Ed  16 days ago +384

    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: 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!

    • Simrah Siddiqui
      Simrah Siddiqui 2 days ago


    • TheSassi42
      TheSassi42 12 days ago

      lalla jha I don't understand. this video political. I thought it was about a scientist/doctor.

    • lalla jha
      lalla jha 12 days ago

      Tedx stop using it for political benefits. It's a learning organization not a political one.

    • TheSassi42
      TheSassi42 13 days ago

      The title is not chosen very well... The health crisis already happend. She averted it from spreading to the US and more countries. But saying she averted it could come over belittling to the health crisis that already happened, if the word is interpreted wrongly. I would recommend «averted it from the US» or similar.

    • miguel Saavedra
      miguel Saavedra 13 days ago

      phoenixkhost kd,wlöwylsodosls
      Pkw 101a
      A a

  • Woofie Play
    Woofie Play 6 hours ago +1

    Not every superhero wears a cap

  • Mariana Torres
    Mariana Torres 7 hours ago

    Basically, a brain with legs 💖

  • anthony white
    anthony white Day ago


  • Prometheus Kapoor
    Prometheus Kapoor Day ago +1

    i want to cure AIDS

  • phoeniximperator

    I'm surprised that they didn't brand her as a communist and anti capitalist

  • Josélina Aygretto
    Josélina Aygretto 2 days ago

    why is STEM so important?

  • bubmah axr
    bubmah axr 2 days ago

    how did someone could enter an undergrad and master degree at the same time? wow.

  • Tenhys
    Tenhys 2 days ago

    _Frances Oldham Kelsey_
    She lived 101 years ?! Holy guacamole ! Color me impressed.

  • Noodle Kaboodle
    Noodle Kaboodle 3 days ago

    The most horrifying thing about thalidomide is that it's STILL used in Brazil despite the well documented damage to feotuses

  • Hershel Katz
    Hershel Katz 3 days ago

    she's so cool

  • xxthecapitalistxx
    xxthecapitalistxx 4 days ago

    Maybe women are naturally more atracted to some jobs, and men to others.

  • will k
    will k 4 days ago

    If drugs are associated with harm, then why is weed illegal. And why do you have to make this video a gender issue, if a female wants to do a stem subject she can, THERE IS NO BARRIER in the way of her getting any sort of work in that field

  • Mohdzahrin Bin Abdul Rahman

    Im not american so this is the first time i heard bout her.phew i was so worried that she would not get the recognition she deserved as i watch it at the early part..bravo!

  • ElGringo
    ElGringo 5 days ago

    “The only reason more women aren’t in stem fields is because of patriarchy” has better not be in any of those videos if TED wants me to keep taking them seriously. Fingers crossed

  • Mark Smith
    Mark Smith 6 days ago

    Scientifically train bureaucrat. The FDA is a bureaucracy- sometimes behaving more bureaucratically and sometimes being out of control organisation.

  • driftster99
    driftster99 6 days ago

    0:57 that fade though 👌

  • winnkey
    winnkey 6 days ago

    This was a great possitive story one which needs to be told in this day and age where we are having a resurgence of drugs trying to be rushed through the process with dodgy science. I was about to share but your shoehorn political push which was already covered by your narrative tarnished this for me. I have nothing against your desire to diversify the field of stem. Diverse people, equal diverse thinking and that is always a possitive in science.
    Its just i clicked on this and wished to share this because of a strong story about the revolution of a field, but then you made me have to then also share a political statement as well.... i didnt want to make a strong political statement. I wanted to share a strong story

  • Brendan Goosen
    Brendan Goosen 6 days ago

    Why would you turn this into a gender thing? So annoying! Get over yourselves! it's 2018 FFS

  • Devan S.
    Devan S. 6 days ago

    Then people in 2018 take it too far and we get anti-vacciners. uneducated people lead to uneducated research, educated people lead to life saving research.

  • Kate Hu
    Kate Hu 6 days ago

    I was loving the video until that gender commentary... ANYONE who stands their ground as a gatekeeper against a nuerotoxin should be lauded. That's all that matters.
    We need more like Frances not because she is a she but because she is a person of good morale.

  • SR Creative Media
    SR Creative Media 6 days ago

    Maybe there is not equality of outcomes in STEM because men and women don't want the exact same thing. But I see nothing but equality of opportunities being presented now... even back in the 1950s... She worked hard and got what she worked for and made a difference.

  • random guy
    random guy 6 days ago

    Maybe women are underrepresented in STEM because less women want to take STEM then men - just like the inverse for, say, nursing.

  • Tak Tsing
    Tak Tsing 7 days ago

    I really feel the pressure she faced, especially when German had already approved the use.

  • Christian Prepper
    Christian Prepper 7 days ago

    3:57 Then they turn a blind eye or attack the competition of well funded pharmaceutical companies.

  • Katen Cyan
    Katen Cyan 7 days ago

    I love hearing stories about great scientists!

  • TheNinjaMarmot
    TheNinjaMarmot 7 days ago

    She would have been on PETA.'s hitlist despite saving many human lives at the expense of animals

  • Ryan Wei
    Ryan Wei 8 days ago

    am i the only one who noticed she graduated high school at 15

  • Jonah Safern
    Jonah Safern 8 days ago

    Oh, good GOD! They just *had* to make it about feminism and women's supposed inequalities, didn't they?

  • Velcon X13
    Velcon X13 8 days ago

    This is amazing that u actually found thus

  • Bella B
    Bella B 8 days ago +1

    We was all born for a reason.

  • Dank Paradox
    Dank Paradox 8 days ago

    Women are not "unrepresented in STEM fields." They simply choose areas like nursing and business more frequently and men choose areas like physics and engineering more frequently. What's in these studies simply show the result of men and women's free choices. Good video other than the common misconception that the reason women don't join STEM is because they're persuaded not to

  • Lisa Mae Gilbert
    Lisa Mae Gilbert 8 days ago

    101 years! Wow! 👏👏👏

  • Kyori Nicks
    Kyori Nicks 9 days ago

    Wage gap doesn't exist us men must protect ourselves from feminism. 1 min later FBI OPEN UP!

  • Captain Doom
    Captain Doom 9 days ago

    And to think, if she didn't get the job, there would be a HUGE national health issue ALONGSIDE the news and mainstream media.

  • Løvely Lady
    Løvely Lady 9 days ago

    Sis was getting her education 👏👏👏

  • Chidz Hustle
    Chidz Hustle 9 days ago

    That’s funny, when I studied Thalidomide in school they never mentioned Kelsey, I understand it wasn’t relevant to the course but she was a massive reason it never spread in the US

  • DPowered Smith
    DPowered Smith 9 days ago

    She would be fired or ignored thinking that way now

  • Jad Sayegh
    Jad Sayegh 9 days ago

    McGill pride!

  • MindTech
    MindTech 9 days ago


  • John Marshall
    John Marshall 9 days ago

    Dr. Helen B. Taussig was one that stopped thalidomide in USA

  • Elliander Eldridge
    Elliander Eldridge 9 days ago

    Unfortunately, "evidence based policies " seem to be less and less the case, with the precautionary principle rarely being applied. In one 90s case, a genetically modified organism was developed to cheaply produce fuel from useless biomass, namely the part of crops not used after a harvest. The FDA required that tests be conducted in sterile conditions, which demonstrated safety and it was approved. Then, during the peer review process, a sample was tested at a German University under real world conditions where it was quickly discovered that it spreads into the soil, persists such that the Earth would havto be cooked several feet down to remove, and kills living plants to then convert to fuel. Had this been released we'd be looking at a worst case scenario, and all because the FDA doesn't accept tests under real conditions. Or course, after this was published the FDA withdrew their approval. It's been a very long time since I read about it and I can't remember much more about it, but it was very interesting. And no, I don't actually oppose genetic engineering being that I major in genetics, but I do think more needs to be done to ensure safety.

  • Cry Whit
    Cry Whit 9 days ago

    The FDA needs to pull her out of retirement, and rehire her. Somebody over there is slipping up...

    • Devilmonkey
      Devilmonkey 9 days ago

      She died 3 years ago at 101 years old.
      So that might be hard to do.

  • D D
    D D 9 days ago

    She lived 101 years

  • Terd Ferguson
    Terd Ferguson 10 days ago

    Because most women chose the easy way. Like Gender Studies instead of stem cell research, lol.

  • xXevilsmilesXx
    xXevilsmilesXx 10 days ago

    had me up till the end. Virtue signaling is the antithesis of everything the video supported. You just under-cut this amazing story with gender politics.

  • Anthony Flores
    Anthony Flores 10 days ago +2

    Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide bew...bee...dow..dow

  • Chris F
    Chris F 10 days ago

    she showed character by doing what is right and saveing the babies from deth and defects over submitting to all the pressure those people put on her to aproove there drug

  • fyukfy
    fyukfy 10 days ago

    There are less women in STEM because women don't want to be in STEM

  • KaidaCestro
    KaidaCestro 10 days ago

    Damn 1930 was brutal to women

  • M P
    M P 10 days ago

    I wonder what domestically made alernatives she saw approved instead of thalidomide and what was the offer she couldnt refuse

  • Ella Aston
    Ella Aston 10 days ago

    What does STEM mean ?

  • jonas andersson
    jonas andersson 10 days ago

    what's STEM?

  • Joey Prette
    Joey Prette 10 days ago +1

    This video was great... Until they spewed some left propaganda at the end.
    (Also, before you reply I'm not saying that only the left does this. I am merely stating my distaste for how TED uses its influence for political gain. And my opinion would be the same if a person or an organization did the same on the right)
    Anyways, good on her, and dang... I wanna live that long, she clearly did something right!

  • Debra Timms
    Debra Timms 10 days ago

    44bebea 1108debra ok 44bebea 1108debra pat 44bebea 1108debra ok 44bebea ok yes 3pm pat 44bebea jpsdebra

  • Robby S
    Robby S 10 days ago +1

    03:21-03:32 is a pretty blatant example of why we NEED government oversight.

    • Devilmonkey
      Devilmonkey 9 days ago

      I'd rather have a government that I can control than a company that can fleece me.

  • Tsubaki Turtle Cannon
    Tsubaki Turtle Cannon 10 days ago


    AGRADONTÉ 10 days ago

    This is cool because prevention is better than cure

  • Alexander Schwartz
    Alexander Schwartz 10 days ago

    This was beautiful till the agenda at the end rolled in, if you want a job in STEM go get it... stop blaming men

  • wasabi
    wasabi 10 days ago

    I got goosebumps

  • zaimah Begum-Diamond
    zaimah Begum-Diamond 10 days ago

    Go Frances. Wish I had your courage.

  • ThomasKT
    ThomasKT 10 days ago

    not all heroes wear capes, some wear lab coats instead

  • Bob BS
    Bob BS 11 days ago

    Cool animation

  • AppleAmor
    AppleAmor 11 days ago

    She probably lived to 101 because she didn't take all those drugs

  • Frank The Dank Plank
    Frank The Dank Plank 11 days ago

    It was actually 2 scientists

  • M.C wolf Phoenix
    M.C wolf Phoenix 11 days ago

    I just finished watching so many vine videos, so everything is so funny to me right now!!

    BOBS YEAH 11 days ago

    101 years LOL

  • Newbytooby
    Newbytooby 11 days ago +2

    Why does the “moral of the story” have to be about how one women did it and it’s because she’s a women that it happened? Why can’t it be about how a strong willed individual stuck with their gut instinct and stood up for what she believed was right?

  • Julia Rhoden
    Julia Rhoden 11 days ago

    I really like this video and how they don't make it seem like an accident that she did something good like some other channels do when they talk about women.

  • Prakash Aryal
    Prakash Aryal 11 days ago

    President Trump has now signed a bill called as "Right to Try" Bill.That basically says that you have right to use certain drug even if it dont has FDA approval. So, Good luck with that. Republicans are pro-business, bad or good.

    • Ao Li
      Ao Li 11 days ago

      Sounds like you can choose not to so...

  • R. Downgrade
    R. Downgrade 11 days ago

    ((Starting off, yes, Andrea Tone did a good thing and this isn't a gripe on *HER* . Okay? Okay.))
    Why were extra laws, by Congress no less, implemented when Ms. Tone here clearly demonstrated that she was enough? If anything, why was the FDA restructuring it's own rules to have without Congress meddle?
    I mean, did I not watch the same video everyone else did? Because she did here job right, Congress made more laws that her doing her job right already covered.
    Does no one else see how willfully and foolishly redundant that is?

  • Lammy Lams
    Lammy Lams 11 days ago

    My issue with this video is I do not feel it paints a big enough picture of the damage thalidomide did in other countries, including mine, Australia.
    Yes, the title includes the phrase "a national crisis", and one can assume that it'll be about the US, based on the narrator's accent alone (if not the US's domination of all media), however, there are still people alive today who have suffered terribly because Australia didn't have a Frances Kelsey, as, obviously no other country did.
    I feel it's slightly insulting to dedicate 6-7 seconds on those people, their families, and the lawyers who have fought for their compensation.
    As well as, ultimately, not giving Frances Kelsey enough credit for avoiding all the heartbreak, disharmony, and legal sagas that other countries have faced.

  • Schiff Granger
    Schiff Granger 11 days ago

    _Thank God FDA backed this. Good job Kelsey!_

  • frawding
    frawding 11 days ago

    Nice video. Simply answer to the Women in STEM question: it's simply because women don't want to.

  • migaca
    migaca 11 days ago

    tham medics they live forever (101)

  • Arushi Aishwarya
    Arushi Aishwarya 11 days ago

    I'm so glad the FDA backed her up :)

  • LittleArmyNut
    LittleArmyNut 11 days ago

    Lol she was right the whole time and people thought she was wrong and then karma struck with birth defects

    • Blake Pfitzner
      Blake Pfitzner 11 days ago

      +LittleArmyNut well only her fellow scientists knew about her no one believed her because no one knew there was that possibility of birth defects

    • LittleArmyNut
      LittleArmyNut 11 days ago

      Blake Pfitzner Karma towards the other people that didnt believe her not the scientists

    • Blake Pfitzner
      Blake Pfitzner 11 days ago

      I'm sorry but how is a mother with a child with birth defects karma towards the medical scientists (or whatever they were I don't remember what they said)

  • Vuph 2
    Vuph 2 11 days ago

    Press F to pay respect

  • Enrico Tessadro
    Enrico Tessadro 11 days ago

    Of course this is a 5 minutes video and many details on her story can't be told in such a short time frame, but surely she is an inspiring examples. I personally believe that work ethics and scientific facts importance are highly underestimated nowadays.

  • Iftekhar Ahmed
    Iftekhar Ahmed 11 days ago

    wow hats off !

  • Khianne Geriane
    Khianne Geriane 11 days ago

    I couldn't agree more about the gender issue for women in STEM professions. I find it difficult to find a job overseas though I am qualified for it. My application is always disapproved as they we're requesting men for that certain job. I am an architect btw.

  • omgidkwh atimdoing
    omgidkwh atimdoing 11 days ago

    that last thing about women n stem is an easy thing to answer.
    Stem is hard, women in a more general sense don't want to do hard things.
    At least that's where all the signs point.

  • Toriqul Islam Shimanto

    Respect 👏👏👏👏

  • Libby O'Dwyer
    Libby O'Dwyer 11 days ago

    no wonder she lived to be over 100

  • Matthew Ferrara
    Matthew Ferrara 12 days ago

    Does nursing count as stem?

  • Trevor Manning
    Trevor Manning 12 days ago

    Someone Please sub to this channel

  • Trevor Manning
    Trevor Manning 12 days ago

    Please sub to this channel

  • Trevor Manning
    Trevor Manning 12 days ago

    Please sub to this channel

  • Spuds Potato
    Spuds Potato 12 days ago +1

    I want to like it for Frances Kelsey, but they had to make it political. 🙄

  • Hegeleze
    Hegeleze 12 days ago +1

    Instead of focusing on HOW her reasoning was done or WHAT the problem was, you created a puff piece which tries to commend the fact that the person happens to be female. The focus should always be the science and the reasoning, never the gender of the person doing the reasoning. Trite propaganda per usual.

  • Hai Dinh
    Hai Dinh 12 days ago

    She’s brilliant. But the title gives her too much credit! How about the FDA’s leaders who back her decision? The researchers or reporters who later pointed out that drug is bad. It’s not one-person job. A click-bait indeed.

  • Peyton Woeller
    Peyton Woeller 12 days ago +1

    Hi TED-Ed! This really inspired me and my girlfriend. Were both in sixth grade going to seventh and we were both asked to be apart of a college STEM program. We had to take Manu tests and we can have our associates degree before we graduate highschool and I was even offered a scholorship for the program. This imspired us because it shows that if we work had we can make a difference. You guys impact so many lives for the better and I want to thank you.

  • Brenna Seah
    Brenna Seah 12 days ago

    Thalidomide is still used but under Orphan Drug. If I remember correctly from class, it is used to treat cancer now.

  • Blind Bob
    Blind Bob 12 days ago +1

    I actually went to School with A few thalidomide kids, the deformities were just horrific.
    My mother took it for morning sickness
    The sibling before me aborted, I might have had another sibling.
    but I do know my parents are hiding something.. but don't know what......

  • nightingale mori
    nightingale mori 12 days ago

    For the question at the end. It's because not a lot of women prefer to work in stem fields comparing all women who work and get paid to those in stem fields is unjust and pushing women into a job they may not want but feel obligated to.

  • Sai Gungurthi
    Sai Gungurthi 12 days ago +2

    Women are underrepresented in STEM because there are more men who find STEM appealing than women.

  • bush did creation club

    Godamn it you can't force women into stem

  • andrew angel
    andrew angel 12 days ago

    Cute. I love ted ed

  • biggie red2978
    biggie red2978 12 days ago

    thank God for her and other scientists for finding out the truth about thalidomide

  • John Keith
    John Keith 12 days ago

    Thank god for heroes like Andrea Tone!
    She should run for president...