How one scientist averted a national health crisis - Andrea Tone

  • Published on Jun 7, 2018
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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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Comments • 1 331

  • TED-Ed
    TED-Ed  5 months ago +521

    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!

    • Arnav Kelkar
      Arnav Kelkar Month ago

      TED-Ed (

    • Nesiah Coward
      Nesiah Coward 3 months ago

      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
      Simrah 4 months ago


    • TheSassi42
      TheSassi42 5 months ago

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

    • lalla jha
      lalla jha 5 months ago

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

  • jimbobbyrnes
    jimbobbyrnes 2 days ago

    back when people actually tried to save people and not just make money

  • Jasmine and Rose Huang

    Just think. If her name was Elizabeth or Mary, we might still be using these dangerous drugs today!

  • Steve Tomson
    Steve Tomson 8 days ago

    What did you study person who voiced this?

  • Squirtle
    Squirtle 9 days ago

    It's been proven through statistics (at least from wgat I've heard) that the reason why women don't join STEM fields is because they'd rather do something else. This is just based on what I've heard, but I find it more believable than "they can't join because they're women"
    Awesome video though

  • lol out laod
    lol out laod 9 days ago

    you know its going down when she rolled her sleeve 0:17

  • Harkish Brar
    Harkish Brar 10 days ago +1

    Did you guys she the picture at the bottom side of the screen?
    It was real people
    It looked like a family
    Ted Ed if there’s any connection answer it

  • Braydo B.
    Braydo B. 12 days ago

    If she graduated at the age of 15, why do they make her look so old?

  • Fyak Yuu
    Fyak Yuu 13 days ago

    not today, she would be silenced for trying to help, money talks

  • 612Tiberius
    612Tiberius 15 days ago

    Keep in mind that anyone now living who was born between 1961 and 1965 (including here in America) could very well have been one of those prenatally exposed to their mothers taking this biotoxin (for lack of a better word); and if so, if even born at all would probably have been born with these genetic afflictions, negatively impacting the quality and quantity of their entire life and the viability of reproducing (no children born, or similarly afflicted). I fit into that age cohort, as do millions of others in this country and the world. Consider that when appraising the prudence of judgement (or lack thereof) in FDA fast-tracking so-called "miracle drugs" that is so rampant these days. Always keep this video in mind as a cautionary tale....

  • Elizabeth Hall
    Elizabeth Hall 16 days ago

    this video made me proud to be a Chemical Engineering major, i'm following my passion and proving women belong in STEM

  • Salim Hassan
    Salim Hassan 18 days ago

    who else search dr frances kelsey after watching this video

  • Yuriy Dovhan
    Yuriy Dovhan 18 days ago

    I hope FDA pumps out phage treatments quick so that we could kill those bacteria

  • Dolfy Parodies
    Dolfy Parodies 22 days ago

    Where is her Nobel Peace Prize

  • ppppppppppp
    ppppppppppp 23 days ago

    Esa señora murió y ahí se corrompió todo!!

  • smurfx
    smurfx 24 days ago

    if this happened today she would have probably gotten fired and replaced with a yes man.

  • MBM
    MBM 25 days ago +1

    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 26 days ago

    Feels like scientists and business ppl are natural opponents

  • Stephanie Chiong
    Stephanie Chiong 26 days ago

    Yeesh, Merrell are crazy idiots

  • roy rogers
    roy rogers 27 days ago

    Yay, she did her job.

  • Linda Wright
    Linda Wright Month ago

    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 Month ago +1

    Forever immortalized in a great Billy Joel song.

  • cakepoprock
    cakepoprock Month ago

    I hope the people who wanted to approve it feel guilty

  • Hanhil
    Hanhil Month ago

    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 Month ago

    why isn’t she more recognized? this is an awesome story!

  • ゆParakoi
    ゆParakoi Month ago


    STELLAR! Month ago

    She lived *101 YEARS??* why is no one talking about that?!

  • Lyndis S.
    Lyndis S. Month ago

    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 Month ago

    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 Month ago

    She saved so many children. Hurrah for her and others like her. 🙌

  • Aaron Brown
    Aaron Brown Month ago +1

    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
    Xexomaru Month ago

    The time when the FDA used to do its job

  • aditya gupta
    aditya gupta Month ago

    this made me cry

  • keto11
    keto11 Month ago

    Thanks for not making this a sexist issue
    EDIT: yeah nvm me

  • electromt
    electromt Month ago


    *Read more*

  • P B
    P B Month ago

    All the men crying in the comments section. Smh.

  • John Michael Damian

    Wow. She's cool.

  • Alden Wang
    Alden Wang Month ago!

  • Josie Joestar
    Josie Joestar Month ago

    You had me till about the 5 minute mark. Then you lost me.

  • august smith
    august smith Month ago

    Cool, yeah, whatever, cool vid, blah

  • Crowel Lovecraft
    Crowel Lovecraft Month ago

    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 Month ago

    Those thoughts before each clip are very apt , please keep doing those ...

  • shhh it's all over now

    I will remember you docter Kelsey

  • Holly O'Connor
    Holly O'Connor Month ago

    That lady saved more than just lives; she 'in some ways' saved the future. Rock on, Dr. Kelsey!!!

  • Arleigh Peterson
    Arleigh Peterson Month ago

    Why women aren't in STEM:

    They don't wan't to be

    • Virginia Gordon
      Virginia Gordon Month ago

      Or....... Women aren't invited in the science field

  • That Russian
    That Russian 2 months ago

    So, her achievement was not really a scientific breakthrough, but rather an educated bureaucratic checklist. Gotcha.

  • Sangita Barai
    Sangita Barai 2 months ago

    This is where the losers comments are

  • Astariol
    Astariol 2 months ago

    50 years later the Trump administration is trying to prohibit the use of the term "evidence-based".

  • Love INDIA
    Love INDIA 2 months ago

    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 2 months ago

    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 Month ago

      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
    Lesbian Amazon Sister 2 months ago

    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 2 months ago

    SHE LIVED FOR 101 YEARS?!?!?!

  • crystal beats
    crystal beats 2 months ago

    one of my teachers last names is davies shes my english teacher

  • Ioan Jivan
    Ioan Jivan 2 months ago

    seems more than national security

  • The Fiddly Diddler
    The Fiddly Diddler 2 months ago

    She was a hero because she saved thousands of lives, not because she was a women.

  • Carl Jakobsson
    Carl Jakobsson 2 months ago

    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
    That one friend 2 months ago

    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 2 months ago

    When idiots try to tell a smart person to change

  • cerci Ironborn
    cerci Ironborn 2 months ago

    #feminism for doing her work?

  • Captain Landalien
    Captain Landalien 2 months ago

    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 2 months ago

    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 2 months ago

    Damn gurl!

  • Thorerx
    Thorerx 2 months ago

    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
    Alejandro Reyes 2 months ago

    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
    jazmine 2 months ago

    thank you for telling her story. please tell more stories of these unknown heros

  • TheFlowMind
    TheFlowMind 2 months ago

    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 2 months ago

    Sad. Now the FDA can be bought by the highest bidders.

  • Nelson Torres
    Nelson Torres 2 months ago

    Because motivation is different motivation in career choosing!

  • Zack Vine
    Zack Vine 2 months ago

    this episode was good until the end where it turned into leftist propaganda

  • The Real Deal
    The Real Deal 2 months ago

    Ancaps, I’ve got my eye on you.

  • kcmn00
    kcmn00 2 months ago

    What a true hero

  • Miko Mido
    Miko Mido 2 months ago

    Why are women underrepresented in STEM?
    It certainly not the Patriarchy

  • Whitninjathemovie
    Whitninjathemovie 2 months ago

    Should she have received an award for doing her job?

  • Veronika Alcoba
    Veronika Alcoba 2 months ago

    She finished an undergraduate AND postgrad in 2 years?!!!! Not to mention 4 freakin degrees?? Hot dammmnnn 👏👏👏 #powertowomen

  • SirJMO
    SirJMO 2 months ago

    I disagree with the ending notion: women being unrepresented in stem fields.
    If anything it's young

  • Piññaġnaqtuq
    Piññaġnaqtuq 2 months ago

    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
    RandomdudeZ9 2 months ago +1

    Moral of the story. Follow what you f*cking say.

  • Lord Felidae
    Lord Felidae 3 months ago

    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 3 months ago

    she’s like im just doing my job dudes

  • Johannes Weger
    Johannes Weger 3 months ago

    Im from Italy and I know many Peopel whos Kids or Friends where deformed.

  • Myranda Partaker
    Myranda Partaker 3 months ago

    honestly this video only makes me lose faith in humanity

  • K B
    K B 3 months ago

    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 3 months ago

    It inspires us tô not give up, even with the different threatment we get Just for benigno women

  • Sofia dk
    Sofia dk 3 months ago

    I absolutely loved this video!!

  • Hakan Töre
    Hakan Töre 3 months ago +1

    dislikes are this guys 2:32

  • Timmy Ledwon
    Timmy Ledwon 3 months ago

    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 3 months ago

    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 3 months ago

    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 3 months ago

    For anyone wondering, she lived to be 101 years old. That amazing

  • william
    william 3 months ago

    true hero

  • Leah Winningham
    Leah Winningham 3 months ago

    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 3 months ago

    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 3 months ago

    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 3 months ago

    Wow :'-)

  • Lovin9Lives
    Lovin9Lives 3 months ago

    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
    jerrij4242 3 months ago


  • LilmsKobe V
    LilmsKobe V 3 months ago

    She died when I was 10

  • Vaut
    Vaut 3 months ago

    I’m so proud of her