Georgios Papanikolaou (1883-1962)
Georgios Papanikolaou is the doctor who discovered the revolutionary ‘Pap’ smear test used to this day regularly by hundreds of millions of women as a means of early detection of cervical cancer.Born in Kimi, a small town of Evoia island, he was the second son of a doctor and long serving mayor of Kimi. As a young boy he loved philosophy and upon completion of his secondary education he moved to Athens to study. He abandoned his studies in humanities and music (he was a good violinist) and switched to medicine, graduating from the university of Athens in 1904. Not very keen to work as a doctor, he moved to Germany in 1907 to study biology and clinical research in Jena, Freiburg and Munich. After a brief return to Greece during the Balkan wars of 1912-14 he was persuaded to move to the United States where he spent the rest of his life working on scientific research in the medical school of Cornell University.Papanikolaou introduced his screening method for the discovery of cancerous cells as early as 1927 but his findings were met with skepticism by the scientific community. It was not until 1941, when with gynaecologist Herbert Traut, he published a paper on the diagnostic value of vaginal smears and gained wide recognition by the medical community. Since then, Pap smear has been the standard method for early detection of cervical cancer that has saved millions of women’s lives.Papanikolaou suffered a heart attack and died in Miami while he was setting up a Cancer Research Institute in 1962. His figure was featured on the largest Drachma banknote of 10,000.