Conceiving the Pill

Conceiving the Pill

The work of John C. Rock was central to the development of the science of reproductive medicine. His biographers Margaret Marsh and Wanda Ronner point out that in 1926, when Rock became the director of the sterility clinic at the Harvard-affiliated Free Hospital for Women,

"Surgeons could view a woman’s pelvic organs only if they cut open her abdomen… Doctors had no way to predict accurately when a woman would ovulate. Medical researchers and practitioners understood only dimly the process in which a human sperm fertilized an egg. They knew even less about such things as the length of time it took the newly fertilized egg to find its way into the uterus and successfully implant. And although scientists knew about the existence of the so-called female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, they had not yet figured out how to isolate the latter or synthesize either of them." (The Fertility Doctor, 3)

This exhibit, Conceiving the Pill, follows the work of John C. Rock and other notable scientists like Arthur T. Hertig and Gregory Pincus as they endeavored to conceive and deliver the birth control pill.


Conceiving the Pill is an exhibit curated by Jessica Murphy for the Center for the History of Medicine. The online exhibit was created in OnView by Andra Langoussis and Julie Seifert in July 2013.