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Arguably, the most important test developed by a Badger is the Apgar test, created by Virginia Apgar. If you were born after the 1950s, you probably took — and passed — the test. Virginia Apgar came to the UW in 1937 to train as an anesthesiologist (the UW created the world’s first department of anesthesiology). But her future wasn’t in knockout gas. She went on to become a professor at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and after World War II, she took an interest in obstetrics. Noting how many newborns died in the first 24 hours, she developed a test by which doctors could assess a baby’s health within the first minute of life. The test gave a score between 0 and 10 on each of five characteristics, with 10 indicating ideal health and 0 indicating acute distress. In time, these five health indicators were assigned to the letters of Apgar’s name, turning Apgar into a backronym: A for appearance (is the newborn blue, indicating lack of oxygen?), P for pulse, G for grimace (will the baby cry when stimulated, indicating good reflexes?), A for activity (do the newborn’s muscles show tone and resistance?), and R for respiration. Within a few years, the Apgar test was adopted by nations around the world, and Apgar now has its own acronymic meanings in Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and Czech. Thanks to Apgar and her test, infant mortality fell dramatically in the second half of the 20th century.

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