Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins (1926-2010)
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Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins devoted much of his professional life to obstetric research. Liggins demonstrated that hormones created by the fetus helped initiate labor, rather than hormones originating solely from the mother. Liggins also discovered that cortisol given to pregnant mothers helped delay premature labor, and that it increased the likelihood that premature infants would breathe normally after birth. Prior to cortisol treatment, premature infants often died of respiratory distress syndrome characterized by the inability to inflate immature lungs. Before the clinical application of Liggins' discoveries in the 1980s, premature infants born before 32 weeks of gestation generally died because of respiratory distress.