Friday, February 12, 2016

Birth of the Pill

I would have expected invention of The (birth control) Pill to be a top down kind of effort: Some pharma companies putting in a great deal of work to find glory and profit in a product that was sure to sell by the million. But the reality was completely different. In Birth of The Pill, Jonathan Eig tells the story of how this revolutionary invention was conceived.

Attitudes towards sex in the early part of the 20th century were such that no one wanted to go near the idea of experimenting with such a product. Religious extremists took the view that sex was only for procreation, and that this view should be assumed even by those who weren't religious. The larger pharma companies (though totally dwarfed by today's standards!) were scared of the political and consumer strength that the extremists would be able to wield against their existing products.

So it took some mavericks to do what the large companies wouldn't. There were some female heroes who changed the societal view of female sexuality, some financial heroes who financed the research no one else would, and the scientific heroes who didn't care how they were perceived by the public as they pressed forward.

Eig's story-telling is excellent. He tells us enough about the heroes and their backgrounds that we understand their motives and views, but not so much that we fall asleep learning about them.

I recommend the book to anyone who finds this topic interesting.

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