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Fortunio Liceti (1577–1657)

Fortunio Liceti studied natural philosophy and medicine in Italy during the first half of the seventeenth century. Liceti wrote greater than seventy works on a wide range of topics, including the human soul, reproduction, and birth defects observed in animals and human infants. In the seventeenth century, people commonly addressed birth defects using superstition and considered them as signs of evil, possibly caused by spiritual or supernatural entities. Liceti described infants with birth defects as prodigies and monsters to be admired and studied rather than feared.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Thesis: Dismantling Legal Constraints to Contraception in the 1900s

In the late nineteenth century, the Comstock Act of 1873 made the distribution of contraception illegal and classified contraception as an obscenity. Reflecting the predominant attitude towards contraception at the time, the Comstock Act was the first federal anti-obscenity law that targeted contraception. However, social acceptance of birth control changed at the turn of the twentieth century. In this thesis, I analyzed legislation, advocates, and literature pertinent to that social change to report on the events leading up to the decriminalization of contraception.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: People, Legal, Reproduction

Austin Bradford Hill (1897-1991)

During the twentieth century, Austin Bradford Hill researched diseases and their causes in England and developed the Bradford Hill criteria, which comprise the minimal requirements that must be met for a causal relationship to be established between a factor and a disease. Hill also suggested that researchers should randomize clinical trials to evaluate the effects of a drug or treatment by monitoring large groups of people.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes (1880-1958)

Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 15 October 1880 to Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, a suffragist, and Henry Stopes, an archaeologist and anthropologist. A paleobotanist best known for her social activism in the area of sexuality, Stopes was a pioneer in the fight to gain sexual equality for women. Her activism took many forms including writing books and pamphlets, giving public appearances, serving on panels, and, most famously, co-founding the first birth control clinic in the United Kingdom.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction

Ian Donald (1910–1987)

Ian Donald was an obstetrician who developed the technology and therapy of ultrasound diagnostics during the twentieth century in Europe. Ultrasound is a medical diagnostic technique that uses sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. During the early 1900s, physicians had no way to see inside a woman’s uterus during pregnancy. Donald developed the first method of scanning human internal anatomy in real time, which enabled doctors to diagnose potentially fatal tumors and cysts.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Pope Gregory XIV (1535-1591)

Pope Gregory XIV, born Nicolo Sfondrati, reversed the bull of Pope Sixtus V, Effraenatum, under which an abortion at any time of gestation can be punished by excommunication. He supported the Aristotelian distinction between an "animated" and "unanimated" fetus, making abortion of an unanimated fetus punishable by lesser means. This decision contributed to the historical debates within the Roman Catholic Church on when a fetus has a soul, and when abortion was punishable by excommunication.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Pope Sixtus V (1520-1590)

Known for dropping a long-held distinction in the Catholic Church between the animated and unanimated fetus, Felice Peretti was born in Grottamare, Italy, in 1521, son of a Dalmatian gardener. In his early years, Peretti worked as a swineherd, but soon became involved in the local Minorite convent in Montalto, where he served as a novice at the age of twelve. He went on to study in Montalto, Ferrara, and Bologna, continuing his devotion to religious life, and in 1547 Peretti was ordained as priest in the city of Siena.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Pope Pius XII (1876-1958)

Pope Pius XII was born Eugenio Maria Giuseppi Giovanni Pacelli on 2 March 1876 in Rome, Italy, to Virginia and Filippo Pacelli. Known for his oft-disputed role in the Roman Catholic Church's approach to the Nazis and World War II, Pope Pius XII also contributed a number of important documents regarding conception, fertility, abortion, and reproductive control to the Vatican's collection of writings and doctrine on procreation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Pope Pius IX (1792-1878)

Pope Pius IX, born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, marked his contribution to the abortion debate by removing the distinction between an "animated" and "unanimated" fetus from Catholic doctrine, and established the edict that a human should be protected starting from the moment of conception onward. This proclamation made abortion at any time of gestation punishable by excommunication. Pope Pius IX's decision became Canon Law of the Catholic Church.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Pope Innocent XI (1611-1689)

Pope Innocent XI, born Benedetto Odescalchi, made considerable contributions to the Roman Catholic approach to embryology by condemning several propositions on liberal moral theology in 1679, including two related to abortion and ensoulment. His rejection of these principles strengthened the Church's stance against abortion and for the idea of "hominization," meaning the presence of human qualities before birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Eugen Steinach (1861–1944)

Eugen Steinach researched sex hormones and their effects on mammals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Europe. He experimented on rats by removing their testicles and implanting them elsewhere in their bodies, and he found that the testes interstitial cells produce male sex hormones. He developed the Steinach Rejuvenation Procedure, which he claimed could rejuvenate men by increasing their production of sex hormones. Steinach’s work on female sex hormones and on ovarian extracts led to the development of the first standardized injectable estrogen.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Katharina Dorothea Dalton (1916–2004)

Katharina Dorothea Dalton was a physician in England in the twentieth century who defined premenstrual syndrome (PMS) as a cluster of symptoms suspected to begin one to two weeks before menstruation and disappear upon the onset of a new menstrual cycle. Prior to Dalton, there was little research on pre-menstrual issues and those that existed linked the problem to excessive water retention or estrogen. Dalton hypothesized that PMS resulted from a deficiency in the hormone progesterone and advocated for hormone replacement therapy to lessen the symptoms of the syndrome.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

James Marion Sims (1813-1883)

James Marion Sims developed a surgical cure for ruptures of the wall separating the bladder from the vagina during labor, ruptures called vesico-vaginal fistulas, and he developed techniques and tools used to improve reproductive examinations and health care for women in the US during the nineteenth century. Sims's lateral examination position allowed doctors to better see the vaginal cavity, and his speculum, a spoon-like object used for increased view into the vagina, helped to make gynecological examinations more thorough.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Charles Knowlton (1800–1850)

Charles Knowlton was a physician and author who advocated for increased access to information about reproduction in the nineteenth century in the US. Throughout his early medical education, Knowlton was particularly interested in anatomy and on several instances robbed graves for bodies to dissect. In 1832, Knowlton authored The Fruits of Philosophy, a pamphlet that contained detailed descriptions of the reproductive organs and information on conception and methods to control reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

James Young Simpson (1811–1870)

James Young Simpson was one of the first obstetricians to administer anesthesia during childbirth in nineteenth century Scotland. Before his work in the 1800s, physicians had few ways to reduce the pain of childbirth. Simpson experimented with the use of ether and chloroform, both gaseous chemicals, to temporarily relieve pain. He found that those chemicals both successfully inhibited the pain women felt during childbirth and pain during other surgeries. Patients under the influence of chloroform fell asleep and were unaware of the intense pain of childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People