Gregory Goodwin Pincus

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Gregory Goodwin Pincus (April 9, 1903 - August 22, 1967), American physician, biologist, and researcher, was co-inventor of the contraceptive pill. Pincus began studying hormonal biology and steroidal hormones early in his career. He was instrumental in persuading Searle to fund this research, at a time when Pfizer and Parke-Davis were reluctant to fund human trials.

Pincus's first breakthrough came early, when he was able to produce in vitro fertilization in rabbits in 1934.

His experiments involving parthenogenesis produced a rabbit that appeared on the cover of Look magazine in 1937 and led to his dismissal from Harvard University.

In 1953, Margaret Sanger and Katherine McCormick sought out Pincus for a project involving contraception. Pincus, along with Min-Chueh Chang, investigated and established that progesterone would act as an inhibitor to ovulation. However, despite early success in preventing ovulation, and therefore fertilization, a study with beagle dogs that had been on the pill for three years showed an incidence of breast tissue nodules. Pincus had to establish long term safety, as well as efficacy, of his progesterone contraceptive.

In order to prove the safety of "the pill," human trials had to be conducted. These were conducted on medical students in Massachusetts, and low-income women in Puerto Rico and Haiti. There was a high incidence of severe side effects, which led to the Massachusettes trials being abandoned when the women refused to continue taking the contraceptive. Pincus, however, dismissed these accounts of side effects and occasional pregnancy, dismissing the concern of his female colleagues Dr. Edris Rice-Wray and Adeleine Satterthwaite.

His successes led to Searle introducing the first widely available oral contraceptive ("the pill"). The social, religious, ethical, and medical ramifications of this discovery are still being felt throughout the world, and Pincus's discoveries also led to the burgeoning sciences of steroidal hormone research, sex hormone research, and new forms of oncology. Pincus's work may be some of the most influential science of the twentieth century.

See also: A&E's Biography of the Millennium

References

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