7th Nov 2015: Cattle Yarn and Horse Tale; History and Industry of Artificial Insemination by Dr Ruby Raheem

Artificial Insemination

Come along to The Central Library  at 2pm (George Washington Browne Conference Room which is one floor down from the front entrance) to listen to Ruby’s talk. There will be some food provided and an opportunity to socialise…


Title of talk: 

Cattle Yarn and Horse Tale: History and Industry of Artificial Insemination


Bullet points of what you would like to talk about:

  • What is Artificial Insemination (AI)?
  • History of Sperm from Animalcule to Spermatozoon
  • History of AI – where did it start and how did it spread.
  • Perspectives on dairy, meat, and agricultural – the large scale farming industry
  • Advantages and disadvantages of AI
  • Some facts about horses, asses and zebras
  • Preservation of dying species
  • Returning to Nature

I became interested in the history and societal impact of AI and started delving into the subject during my research at Edinburgh University. I hope the talk will help to raise awareness of dying species, the environment, Nature and Technology.


A few paragraphs on your subject:

Artificial insemination (AI) is the process by which pregnancy is achieved through human intervention and involves a veterinary (for animals) or medical (for humans) procedure. Historically, 3rd century Jewish thinkers pondered over accidental virgin pregnancies from bathing in bath waters contaminated with semen. 14th century Arab chieftains were known to breed horses after extracting semen on cotton swabs from famous stallions belonging to their enemies. Scientific publications state that sperms were first observed under a microscope in 1678 by Leeuwenhoek – Father of Microbiology. Sperms were described as “living animalcules”. These microscopic animals were described as miniature models of the animal they originated from.
Over a century later, a catholic priest and professor of natural history – Spallanzani (1729 – 1799) known as the father of AI – was the first person to use the animalcules from a spaniel to produce pups. AI protocols were in place to breed horses for military use in Russia another hundred years later. Various animals – horses, foxes, rabbits and chicken were raised using AI in many parts of Europe and Japan.
By early 20th century, AI was used to develop dairy cattle. When technology was developed to freeze and store semen, using milk, egg yolk, antibiotics and glycerol, the application of AI spread rapidly and many farming communities around the world adopted AI. Large-scale use of AI started in the 1930s. Synchronised insemination of cows was used in managed cattle breeding, to reduce labour and cost. Research on nutrition and genetics was used for rapid breeding of bulls and meat cattle. Large-scale agriculture, sperm cryopreservation banks and intense cattle farming industry thrived interdependently by mid 1900s.
Organic farming is gaining popularity in the 21st century because of greater awareness of stress and animal welfare, carbon footprint and the effect of antibiotics and growth hormones on human health. AI has been successfully used in preserving some of the dying species and in treating human infertility.

A few paragraphs about you:

I am originally from south India and have an academic background in Physics and Optics. After postgraduate studies and a decade long R&D career in the high tech industries (AMD and Corning) in the US, I came to the UK and pursued a career in academia – optical computing and 3-d imaging. At the University of Edinburgh, I researched DNA health of live cells, using Raman spectroscopy and optical tweezers. Even though the biology was new to me, I became fascinated by the topics related to ‘life’ and ‘health’. Probing embryo and foetal development is not vastly different from the quests of physics – the languages can be a bit confusing, but they both explore the ‘origin of life’, albeit differently.


What free internet knowledge resources would you recommend to others if they wish to explore your chosen theme further?

Google search will bring up many topics related to AI. A few references worth reading are –

What are your weblinks?

Public Email –Any others…LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/rubyraheem/1a/aa9/822


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