Rock, John C. personal and professional papers, 1918-1983. H MS c161

Dublin Core


Rock, John C. personal and professional papers, 1918-1983. H MS c161


John Charles Rock (1890-1984), was the founder of the Rock Reproductive Study Center at the Free Hospital for Women in Brookline, Mass., and Clinical Professor of Gynecology at Harvard Medical School. Rock collaborated with colleague Gregory Pincus and Pincus's assistant Min-Chueh Chang, during the 1950s in the clinical trials and development of oral contraceptives, commonly known as the birth control pill. Rock is also credited with colleague Arthur Hertig and laboratory assistant Miriam F. Menkin for completing the earliest human in vitro fertilization experiments in the United States in 1944. As a fertility specialist, gynecologist, and medical educator, Rock, a Roman Catholic, gained notoriety for advocating the usage of birth control despite his religious beliefs. His research areas included fertility, early stages of contraception, human embryo development,in vitro fertilization, the freezing and preservation of sperm cells, and clinical disorders of human reproductive physiology.
Consists of Rock’s research records from his tenure as director of the Fertility and Endocrine Clinic at the Free Hospital for Women in Brookline, Mass., including research notebooks, correspondence, data, memoranda, research files, lantern slides, and patient records, including note cards, laboratory microscope slides, and photographs produced from his clinical activities. The collection also includes Rock's collaborative writings, reproductive health research notes, and correspondence with individuals involved in birth control research, including Katharine McCormick, and colleagues Gregory Pincus, Min-Chueh Chang, Celso-Ramon Garcia, Edris Rice-Wray regarding their work on the development of the birth control pill. Additional writings, lecture notes, film reels, and audio recordings produced from his reproductive health research address such topics as the development of the birth control pill, in vitro fertilization, sperm freezing for preservation, corpus luteum, and human embryo development. The collection also contains lantern slides, notes, and laboratory data resulting from Rock's collaboration with Arthur Hertig on in vitro fertilization and human embryo development research funded by the Carnegie Institute of Washington. Writings, notes, lantern slides, laboratory data and notebooks record Rock and labortory assistant Miriam Menkin's research on in-vitro fertilization, the development of oral contraceptives, and other aspects of human reproduction. Included are photographs of in vitro fertilization and charts of data on embryos.
Also contains Rock's lecture notes from his classes taught at Harvard Medical School, Rock's personal correspondence, and photographs of Rock. The collection also includes a small amount of Miriam Menkin's personal correspondence, scrapbooks, and publication files.

Collection Items

Suitable Experimental Subjects
Gregory Pincus had success testing a hormonal compound in animals; to pursue oral hormone contraceptive for humans, he needed an experienced clinician. Rock, who had used hormone treatments to successfully halt ovulation in his infertility patients…

The Sexual Behavior of Primates
In response to the 1929 NCHM survey, Harvard Medical School’s Dean David Edsall reported, “The men are taught something of the methods of contraception and sterilization during their regular course work, but there is no specific class in…

In Vitro Fertilization Notes
As the IVF experiments continued, adjustments were considered from the initial protocols established in 1941.

Embryo Case Questionnaires
Each participant that entered into the Rock-Hertig study was asked to fill out a survey form and monitor her cycle, as well as record dates of coitus. This information was then used during the ‘egg hunting’ process after surgery.

Human Ova Plan and IVF sketch
These notes outline the procedures for the year’s work on in-vitro fertilization. Along with the outline came a test tube sketch from James Snodgrass to Miriam Menkin.

Enovid Medical Brochure
The pill was intensely scrutinized by the Food and Drug Administration. Results from these trials lead the FDA to approve the Enovid pill in 1957, but only for disorders of the female reproductive system. Searle would then seek the approval for the…

Fan Mail
One letter from many addressed to Dr. Rock by women interested in birth control and other fertility matters. In this letter, the author applauds his work as described in the Good Housekeeping article, and asks where to find more information on the…

The Free Hospital for Women
The hospital was the focal point of Rock’s early career and provided him with the needed participants to conduct his various research trials. His infertility studies here would later provide crucial information concerning the effects of hormones on…

Fertilized Egg
Another project was under way at the same time by Rock and Miriam Menkin that focused on in-vitro fertilization. Gregory Pincus had previously performed successful in-vitro fertilization studies with rabbits earlier in his career at Harvard. The…

Miriam Menkin with her daughter Lucy
With Miriam Menkin, Rock paved the way for the million-plus children since conceived through in vitro fertilization. With eggs harvested from consenting women having hysterectomies, Menkin fertilized the first egg in vitro in 1944.
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