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Journal articles

Sexual chemistry before the pill : science, industry and chemical contraceptives, 1920-1960

Abstract : The history of contraceptives met the history of drugs long before the invention of the contraceptive pill. In the first half of the twentieth century, numerous pharmaceutical laboratories, including major ones, manufactured and marketed chemical contraceptives: jellies, suppositories, creams, powders and foams applied locally to prevent conception. Efforts to put an end to the marginal status of these products and to transform them into 'ethical' drugs played an important role in the development of standardized laboratory tests of efficacy of contraceptive preparations; debates on the validity of such tests; evaluation of the long-term toxicity of chemical compounds; and the rise of collaborations between activists, non-profit organizations and the pharmaceutical industry. Chemical contraceptives were initially associated with quack medicine, shady commercial practices and doubtful morality. Striving to change the status of contraceptives and to promote safe and efficient products that reduced fertility in humans shaped some of the key features of the present-day production and regulation of pharmaceuticals.
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Ilana Löwy. Sexual chemistry before the pill : science, industry and chemical contraceptives, 1920-1960. British Journal for the History of Science, Cambridge University Press (CUP), 2011, 44 (2), pp.245-274. ⟨10.1017/S0007087410000762⟩. ⟨hal-03478137⟩



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