This is a project about medicine and the history of a condition called premenstrual syndrome (PMS), its “discovery” and conceptual development at both scientific and socio-cultural levels. Since it was first mentioned in medical literature, PMS has been explored empirically as a medical condition and conceptually as a non-somatic cultural phenomenon. Many attempts have been made to produce scientific, empirical evidence to bolster the theory of PMS as a biological disease. Some non-medical perspectives argue that invoking biology as the cause of PMS medicalizes a natural function of the female reproductive system and shallowly interrogates what is actually a complex bio-psycho-social phenomenon. This thesis questions both sides of this debate in order to reveal how criteria for PMS were categorized despite disagreement surrounding its etiology.

The 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was a significant event in the story of fetal personhood—the story of whether embryos and fetuses are legal persons. Roe legalized abortion care in the United States (US). However, the story of fetal personhood began long before the 1970s. People have been talking about embryos, fetuses, and their status in science, the law, and society for centuries. I studied the history of fetal personhood in the United States, tracing its origins from Ancient Rome and Medieval England to its first appearance in a US courtroom in 1884 and then to the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973.

Johann Gregor Mendel studied patterns of trait inheritance in plants during the nineteenth century. Mendel, an Augustinian monk, conducted experiments on pea plants at St. Thomas’ Abbey in what is now Brno, Czech Republic. Twentieth century scientists used Mendel’s recorded observations to create theories about genetics.