ArchiveGregory Pincus. Father of The Oral Contraceptive Pill. Bound collection of 31 rare offprints of Pincus’s scientific publications on fertility research and the first oral contraceptive. 10.5 x 7.5 in. Dark red textured cloth boards. “Gregory Pincus Vol. 3 (1950-1959)” gilt on front cover. “Gregory Pincus Vol. 3” gilt on spine. Most offprints bound with original paper wrappers. Offprints from the most important time in Pincus’s career when he was working to develop the oral contraceptive pill. During this period Pincus continued research on human fertility and moved beyond the laboratory with the first practical test trials of oral contraceptives in 1956. Offprints are the rarest and most collectible forms that a journal article can take. Few are printed, perhaps only two or three, and these are usually given to the authors of the piece; as such rare items, offprints are akin to the first separate edition of a work.
In 1951, Pincus and Margaret Sanger first met; as founder of Planned Parenthood, she took an immediate interest in Pincus’s research in fertility and the effects of synthetic sex hormones. Sanger procured a grant from Planned Parenthood Federation of America for Pincus to begin research on hormonal contraceptives.By 1956, the research team was ready to conduct field trials of the Pill in Puerto Rico. To participate in the Puerto Rico study, participants had to meet four criteria: be in good health, be under 40, to already have had at least two children (to prove they were fertile), and agree to have a child if they became pregnant during the study. Two of the included offprints include initial findings from this first test trial. In “Effectiveness of an Oral Contraceptive,” the scientists write on the Puerto Rico test and conclude, “It is clear that if the regimen is followed faithfully, practically 100-percent contraception occurs.” They point out lifestyle reasons why some women may be better suited towards this type of contraception, and the article closes with a number of points to convince readers that this new type of contraceptive care is safe and reliable. “Is the method contraceptively effective? yes (ii) does it cause any significant abnormalities of the menstrual cycle? no … does it affect the sex life of the subject adversely? No...is the method acceptable? Yes, but to an extent which varies with motivation, economic situation, and other factors.” In ‘Fertility control with oral medication’: “Following the demonstration of the ovulation-inhibiting effectiveness of several oral progestational 19-nor steroids in animals,and in a group of selected patients, a field trial in Puerto Rico was undertaken, with the use of these compounds.” Their experiment led to a “reduction of 80 per cent in the pregnancy rate” among the group included in the trial. There were significant findings on how hormonal treatments can suppress ovulation and reduce pregnancies. “Presumption of suppression of ovulation is strengthened by the fact that conception did not occur in any instance in which the medication schedule...was followed faithfully.” In 1957, the FDA approved the Pill (branded Enovid) to regulate women’s menstruation cycles (Pincus’s research found that it helped women have lighter, more predictable cycles), and in 1960 it was officially approved for sale as a contraceptive.
Beyond his work to help women limit their ability to conceive, Pincus also worked to help infertile women who wanted to have children. In “Synthetic progestins in the normal human menstrual cycle” from 1957, Pincus and colleagues used synthetic hormones to improve fertility for women who struggled to conceive. “In an effort to relieve inexplicable failure of reproduction in 50 women, one or another of 3 synthetic progesterone-like steroids was administered...the effects of these three compounds on ovulation, menstruation, and fertility were evaluated...within 5 months following the treatment, there were 7 conceptions in a group of 38.” There are also two articles co-authored by M.C. Chang, an important scientist at Pincus’s Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology whose research in ‘in vitro’ fertilization contributed to the first “test tube baby.” “There is a great deal of work to be done in order to better understand the physiology of fertilization in mammals, for instance: the physiology of the fallopian tubes where fertilization occurs, the physiology of sperm in the female tracts, the interrelation between spermatozoa and ova in the tubes, the histochemistry of ova before and after the penetration of spermatozoa, and the practice of activation and fertilization in vitro.”
Selection of the 31 offprints listed below. Complete index included in object photographs. All are incredibly rare. None of the copies listed below are listed in any institutional collections, according to OCLC Worldcat:
“Effectiveness of an Oral Contraceptive.” Science, Vol. 130, July 1959.
“Fertility control with oral medication.” American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Vol., 75, June 1958.
“Synthetic progestins in the normal human menstrual cycle.” Recent Progress in Hormone Research, Vol. 13, 1957.
“The Physiology of ovarian hormones.” The Hormones, Vol. 2, 1950.
“Physiology of fertilization in mammals.” Physiological Reviews, Vol. 31, Jan. 1951. Co-authored with M.C. Chang.
“Does phosphorylated hesperidin affect fertility?” Science, Vol. 117, March 1953. Co-authored with M.C. Chang.
“Anti-progestation activity of estrogens in rabbit endometrium.” Proc. Soc., Vol. 99, Nov. 1958.
“Hormonal requirements of implantation in the rabbit.” Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, Vol. 91, April 1956.
“The biosynthesis of adrenal cortical steroids.” Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, Vol. 33, Sept. 1957.
“Chemical transformation of steroids by adrenal perfusion.” Journal of Biological Chemistry, Vol. 203, July 1953.