Jacques Donnez
Fertility and Sterility

Jacques Donnez, a doctor in France, was conducting a routine hysterectomy when he discovered the ovary was coincidentally in the process of expelling an egg. He captured these photos, which clearly show what a dramatic event it is. The word “explosive” seems apt enough, but it’s not quick; Donnez captured these photos over a period of 15 minutes.

I don’t know what’s more alarming: that these are the best images to date of how each one of us started life, or the realization that my own personal ovaries have done this more than 200 times. Yowch!

Donnez’ photos demonstrate what a misleading term “egg” is, applied to the human oocyte. The general public conception of “egg” is a streamlined, elegantly object with clean curves – a bird’s egg, or an abstract shape – like Beijing’s beautiful National Centre for the Performing Arts, colloquially called “The Egg”:

National Centre for the Performing Arts/National Grand Theatre, Beijing
via The Guardian

Beijing, which has been going crazy with innovative architecture lately, also has a “Bird’s Nest,” btw.

Anyway, ovulation is a messy, ungraceful process, the human oocyte is tiny, non-ovoid, and unshelled, and the whole idea of this going on in over half the world’s population on a routine basis is weird. But cool. You know what I mean.

via Wired.


  1. #1 Jan-Maarten
    June 28, 2008

    It actually seems huge.. I never realized a human egg would be visible to the naked eye!

  2. #2 mordicai
    June 28, 2008

    Jan– I remember reading in one of my elementary biology texts that the human egg was the size of the period at the end of that sentence. That blew my mind. Anyhow, I think it looks JUST like an egg…a fish egg.

  3. #3 PhysioProf
    June 28, 2008

    Wow! If the information is available, it would be great to see some scale bars on those photos, to get a sense for the size of things.

  4. #4 Jan-Maarten
    June 28, 2008

    > these are the best images to date of how each one of us started life

    1. Probably because endoscopic surgery only recently became a mainstream technology (if the abdominal cavity hadn’t been inflated with nitrogen, the egg would have looked like something watery in liquid..).

    2. In contrast, the male equivalent of this process is extremely well documented! Something’s rotten in the intertubes.

  5. #5 michael
    June 29, 2008

    Having just ended a night serving sushi, I’d have to agree with Mordicai… looks like Tobiko to me.

  6. #6 Jessica Palmer
    June 29, 2008

    The human egg IS huge – supposedly the largest cell in the human body (by volume). Neurons can be much longer, of course. 🙂

    mmmmm, sushi.

  7. #7 John Ohab
    June 30, 2008

    I was going to post a comment, but I don’t think you’d find it eggceptable.

  8. #8 LadyMeerkat
    July 2, 2008

    If the egg – which does look like a fish egg – is as small as a full stop then ovaries are much smaller than I have always imagined them to be! Or are we only looking at part of an ovary?

  9. #9 Jan-Maarten
    July 2, 2008

    LadyMeerkat, a quick Google search revealed each ovary to be ‘about the size of a walnut’. Does that match your conception of ovary size? It doesn’t seem to match well with this human egg supposedly being the size of a full stop..

    Maybe the lack of fluid pressure expanded the egg somewhat in this picture. Or the full stop that is referred to is one lifted from a book for the visually challenged.

  10. #10 Lord Zero
    July 4, 2008

    Seems like a egg to me.
    Interesting, seeing it, make
    feel more human in a sense.
    Or more like any other animal of this phylum.
    Just part of the evolutionary process.

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