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October 21, 1974

How the Oral Contraceptives Came to be Developed

Author Affiliations

From the Southwest Foundation for Research and Education, San Antonio, Tex (Dr. Goldzieher), and the Brookdale Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY.

JAMA. 1974;230(3):421-425. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03240030039023

IT IS an appealing and romantic notion to think that great discoveries spring fullblown from the brow of genius, catalyzed by trivial events such as an overflowing bathtub or a falling apple; indeed, some great discoveries may have happened in this way. However, in today's world, with its virtually instant information access and the living presence of nine tenths of all the scientists who ever existed, discoveries are more likely to arise from a coincidence of information, technological advances, intellectual and societal timeliness, and financial support.

The development of hormonal contraceptives is one of the epochal events of the 20th century. Its direct and remote effects on moral, social, and other cultural values; on the interaction of population, resources, and environment; and thus on the ultimate state of the human condition remain for future historians to assess.

The Idea  It has been said that every idea has a pedigree. The