31 December 1961|
Aurel (A.) Babeș was a Romanian scientist and one of the discoverers of the vaginal smear as screening test for cervical cancer. He was the nephew of Victor Babeș, co-author (with Cornil) of the first treaty of bacteriology.
Aurel Babeș was born in 1886, in Romania. His father, also named Aurel, was a chemistry professor. Aurel Babeș married fellow gynecologist Lucia Serbanescu in 1930. They adopted a daughter, who became an acclaimed opera singer. Babeș was 74 years old when he died in Bucharest in 1961.
It is said that Aurel Babeş was very aware of the great international reputation that Georges Papanikolaou had gained in contrast to his own. In a spirit of recognition and fairness, Romania refers to cervical testing as "Methode Babeș-Papanicolaou" in honor of Babeș.
Although Georgios Papanikolaou is generally credited for the invention of the cervical cancer screening test by cervical cytology, O'Dowd and Philipp believe that Babeș was the true pioneer in the cytologic diagnosis of cervical cancer. He discovered that if a platinum loop was used to collect cells from a woman's cervix, and the cells were then dried on a slide and stained, it could be determined if cancer cells were present. This was the first screening test to diagnose cervical and uterine cancer. Babeș presented his findings to the Romanian Society of Gynaecology in Bucharest on 23 January 1927. His method of cancer diagnosis was published in a French medical journal, Presse Médicale, on 11 April 1928, but it is unlikely that Papanicolaou was aware of it. Moreover, the two techniques are different in their design according to Diamantis et al. Even though Babeș preceded Papanicolaou, the design of the Pap test belongs to Papanicolaou. This breakthrough in cervical cancer diagnosis has saved the lives of over 6 million women.
- O'Dowd MJ, Philipp EE. The History of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. London: Parthenon Publishing Group; 1994: 547
- Diamantis A, Magiorkinis E, Androutsos G., What's in a name? Evidence that Papanicolaou, not Babeș, deserves credit for the Pap test., Diagn Cytopathol. 2010 Jul;38(7):473-6. doi:10.1002/dc.21226
-  whonamedit.com article about the discovery of the cytologic screening of cervical cancer (accessed September 25, 2006)
-  Medscape article on cervical cancer screening (accessed April 21, 2006)
-  Link to article at Scienceheroes.com
- What's in a name? Evidence that Papanicolaou, not Babeș, deserves credit for the Pap test. PMID 19813255