Graham Liggins, a New Zealand obstetrician and physiologist, is widely remembered for two related observations made in the 1960s: that administering corticosteroids to lambs in utero induced labour and also helped their lungs mature structurally as well as functionally. The first observation was a key finding in advancing our understanding of the mechanisms of parturition. The second observation inspired Liggins to conduct a randomized prospective clinical trial in Auckland, New Zealand, of administering antenatal glucocorticoids to women in premature labour. This treatment, first reported by Liggins and Ross Howie in 1972, subsequently became the mainstay of prevention of respiratory distress syndrome in prematurely born infants worldwide and arguably the most important therapeutic finding in the development of modern neonatology. It is accepted that Liggins's innovation and subsequent derivative approaches have saved many thousands of lives.
- © 2013 The Author(s) Published by the Royal society