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.
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Comments • 1 442

  • TED-Ed
    TED-Ed  2 months ago +434

    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!

    • Nesiah Coward
      Nesiah Coward 7 days 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 Siddiqui
      Simrah Siddiqui Month ago


    • TheSassi42
      TheSassi42 2 months ago

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

    • lalla jha
      lalla jha 2 months ago

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

    • TheSassi42
      TheSassi42 2 months 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.

  • Lord Felidae
    Lord Felidae 7 hours 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 Day ago

    she’s like im just doing my job dudes

  • Johannes Weger
    Johannes Weger 2 days ago

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

  • casually casual
    casually casual 2 days ago

    honestly this video only makes me lose faith in humanity

  • K B
    K B 3 days 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 4 days ago

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

  • Sofia dk
    Sofia dk 4 days ago

    I absolutely loved this video!!

  • Hakan Töre
    Hakan Töre 4 days ago +1

    dislikes are this guys 2:32

  • Timmy Ledwon
    Timmy Ledwon 5 days 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 5 days 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 6 days 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 7 days ago

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

  • william
    william 9 days ago

    true hero

  • Leah Winningham
    Leah Winningham 9 days 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 11 days 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 11 days 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 11 days ago

    Wow :'-)

  • Lovin9Lives
    Lovin9Lives 12 days 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 12 days ago


  • LilmsKobe V
    LilmsKobe V 12 days ago

    She died when I was 10

  • Vaut
    Vaut 13 days ago

    I’m so proud of her

  • Pixel Bytes
    Pixel Bytes 13 days ago

    Amazing video loved it
    But why did you have to advertise political ted talks?

  • Mohamed Humaid
    Mohamed Humaid 14 days ago


    BLUEGENE13 14 days ago

    atleast they didn't promote the gender propaganda

  • Seal Of Apoorval
    Seal Of Apoorval 14 days ago

    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
    ordinarylover 17 days ago

    That is why we need regulations...

  • Maeve McCann
    Maeve McCann 17 days ago

    Thalidomide caused awful results in Britain

  • The Seal
    The Seal 17 days ago

    Great video! And loads of sensitive men crying about the ending in the comments is entertaining lol

  • Dom Vasta
    Dom Vasta 20 days ago +1

    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
    Matthew Freedlander 21 day ago

    Canada represent!

  • Dragon Dimosthenis
    Dragon Dimosthenis 21 day ago

    one also one scientist saved million of men

  • Javier Lemus
    Javier Lemus 22 days ago

    Scientist who is averting gender ideology plague?

  • Young Mo$e$
    Young Mo$e$ 26 days ago

    Can y'all do some more men

  • NoriMori
    NoriMori 28 days ago

    Thank God the FDA backed her up. This could have turned out a lot differently otherwise.

  • Husnain Ali
    Husnain Ali Month ago

    amazing work...

  • 000000 000000
    000000 000000 Month ago

    Women are underrepresented in STEM fields because women tend to be less interested in STEM fields.

  • Hi, I'm Hot Rod
    Hi, I'm Hot Rod Month ago

    Why don't you humans have a day for her? She save people's lives!

  • Pulse VII
    Pulse VII Month ago

    Everyone is talking about Kelsey, but Merrel sounds like an *ss

  • Jakédsoké
    Jakédsoké Month ago

    I’m Canadian

  • Dravelen Hawk
    Dravelen Hawk Month ago

    What if it was a guy?

  • Elinor
    Elinor Month ago

    My dad was almost a thalidomide baby. My grandmother was prescribed thalidomide (in Sweden in the 60s) and fortunately she never took it.

  • TMHedge
    TMHedge Month ago

    4:42 "Pervasive gender biases"
    It wasn't gender bias that did that, it was money.
    You said it yourself earlier in the video!, it was a 2.24 billion dollar industry!, the company that sold the drug wanted in to that industry regardless of the risk to the public.
    They targeted her because she was the one most in charge of approving/rejecting the case!, not because of her gender, but because she was the one person in their way stopping them from getting their drug on the markets.

  • montork
    montork Month ago

    stereotype: women value feelings over facts and are too emotional.
    stereotype: women are too nitpicky and difficult.
    males will literally flip flop if it will get them what they want.

  • Being Greatest
    Being Greatest Month ago

    Respect for the lady👏👏

  • shingshongshamalama

    If you ever doubt the brutal inhumanity of corporate business, just remember that this company was complaining to the FDA and whining to get a drug approved for sale that THEY KNEW AT THE TIME CAUSED BIRTH DEFECTS.

  • Al Cor
    Al Cor Month ago

    She has a school named after her on Vancouver Island, British Columbia

  • Aisha Bhat
    Aisha Bhat Month ago +1

    Very nice animation and speaker but I want Addison Anderson 😂😂😂

  • Ntokozo Moyo
    Ntokozo Moyo Month ago

    Doing the right thing is so rare that you get a medal for it. She's an example of why it's so important.

  • Sophie Jones
    Sophie Jones Month ago

    Too bad no one like this works at the FDA anymore. "that continue to protect people today" lol. the only people protected by the FDA these days are pharmacists.

  • Connor Shaw-case
    Connor Shaw-case Month ago

    Why are women underepresented in stem when they have a 2:1 advantage in being hired and are graduating college more then men? Maybe its to do with less women wanting to do stem not everyone is as sexist as the 1940s

  • Hailey25
    Hailey25 Month ago +1

    To any young girls (or anyone for that matter) interested in science, there is this amazing book called "Women in Science" by Rachel Ignotofsky. It talks about the work of over 50 different female scientists from Roman times to the Space Race from all over the world. It's a fairly easy read and very detailed, and many of the women did these absolutely revolutionary things yet almost no one today will recognize their names. I recommend it to anyone.

  • Andrew Aziz
    Andrew Aziz Month ago +1

    As a pharmacist, I thank Dr. Kelsey for her contribution to the profession. As my mentors have told me "always practice evidence-based medicine, not eminence-based medicine"

  • V D.O.
    V D.O. Month ago +1

    Lmfao the amount of sexist guys on the comments is too damn high.

  • Kezbardo
    Kezbardo Month ago

    Yooo I remember this from Breaking Bad, when Walter explained chirality in his class, he used Thalidomide as an example

  • Hensley JeanBaptiste
    Hensley JeanBaptiste Month ago +1

    She lived to 101 wow she really was a doctor of medicine

  • ruzzell907
    ruzzell907 Month ago

    Countless children have been saved without us knowing.

  • Woofie Play
    Woofie Play Month ago +1

    Not every superhero wears a cap

  • Mariana Torres
    Mariana Torres Month ago

    Basically, a brain with legs 💖

  • anthony white
    anthony white Month ago


  • Prometheus Kapoor
    Prometheus Kapoor Month ago +1

    i want to cure AIDS

  • phoeniximperator
    phoeniximperator Month ago

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

  • Josélina Aygretto
    Josélina Aygretto Month ago

    why is STEM so important?

  • bubmah axr
    bubmah axr Month ago

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

  • Tenhys
    Tenhys Month ago +1

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

  • Noodle Kaboodle
    Noodle Kaboodle Month 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 Month ago

    she's so cool

  • xxthecapitalistxx
    xxthecapitalistxx Month ago

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

  • will k
    will k Month 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 Month 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 Month ago

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

  • driftster99
    driftster99 Month ago

    0:57 that fade though 👌

  • winnkey
    winnkey Month 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 Month ago

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

  • Devan S.
    Devan S. Month 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 Month 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 Month ago +2

    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 Month 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 Month ago

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

  • Christian Prepper
    Christian Prepper Month ago

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

  • Katen Cyan
    Katen Cyan Month ago

    I love hearing stories about great scientists!

  • TheNinjaMarmot
    TheNinjaMarmot Month ago

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

  • Ryan Wei
    Ryan Wei Month ago

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

  • Jonah Safern
    Jonah Safern Month ago

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

  • Velcon X13
    Velcon X13 2 months ago

    This is amazing that u actually found thus

  • Bella B
    Bella B 2 months ago +1

    We was all born for a reason.

  • Dank Paradox
    Dank Paradox 2 months 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 2 months ago

    101 years! Wow! 👏👏👏

  • Kyori Nicks
    Kyori Nicks 2 months ago

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

  • Captain Doom
    Captain Doom 2 months 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 2 months ago

    Sis was getting her education 👏👏👏

  • Chidz Hustle
    Chidz Hustle 2 months 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 2 months ago

    She would be fired or ignored thinking that way now

  • Jad Sayegh
    Jad Sayegh 2 months ago

    McGill pride!

  • MindTech
    MindTech 2 months ago


  • John Marshall
    John Marshall 2 months ago

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

  • Elliander Eldridge
    Elliander Eldridge 2 months 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 2 months ago

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

    • Devilmonkey
      Devilmonkey 2 months ago

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