The Fertility Doctor: John Rock and the Reproductive Revolution

The Fertility Doctor: John Rock and the Reproductive Revolution

by Margaret Marsh, Wanda Ronner

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As Louise Brown—the first baby conceived by in vitro fertilization—celebrates her 30th birthday, Margaret Marsh and Wanda Ronner tell the fascinating story of the man who first showed that human in vitro fertilization was possible.

John Rock spent his career studying human reproduction. The first researcher to fertilize a human egg in vitro in the 1940s, he became the nation’s leading figure in the treatment of infertility, his clinic serving rich and poor alike. In the 1950s he joined forces with Gregory Pincus to develop oral contraceptives and in the 1960s enjoyed international celebrity for his promotion of the pill and his campaign to persuade the Catholic Church to accept it.

Rock became a more controversial figure by the 1970s, as conservative Christians argued that his embryo studies were immoral and feminist activists contended that he had taken advantage of the clinic patients who had participated in these studies as research subjects.

Marsh and Ronner’s nuanced account sheds light on the man behind the brilliant career. They tell the story of a directionless young man, a saloon keeper’s son, who began his working life as a timekeeper on a Guatemalan banana plantation and later became one of the most recognized figures of the twentieth century. They portray his medical practice from the perspective of his patients, who ranged from the wives of laborers to Hollywood film stars.

The first scholars to have access to Rock’s personal papers, Marsh and Ronner offer a compelling look at a man whose work defined the reproductive revolution, with its dual developments in contraception and technologically assisted conception.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781421402086
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 10/31/2008
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Margaret Marsh is a professor of history and interim chancellor, Rutgers University-Camden. Wanda Ronner is a clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. They are coauthors of The Empty Cradle: Infertility in America from Colonial Times to the Present, also published by Johns Hopkins.

Table of Contents

1. Family Matters
2. Choosing Medicine, Coming of Age
3. New Discoveries in Human Reproduction
4. Firing the First Shot in the Reproductive Revolution
5. The World of the Patients
6. The Fertility Doctor Meets the Pill
7. The Era of the Pill Begins
8. The Face and Voice of the Pill
9. The Pill Falls from Grace
10. A True Visionary

What People are Saying About This

Luigi Mastroianni

"A spell-binding analysis of the development of modern reproductive medicine. The authors, a gynecologist and a historian, interpret the conflicts and frustrations in this new field through the life and career of John Rock, whose medical and communication skills, coupled with his sincere commitment to the Catholic Church, made him uniquely qualified as one of the field's principal protagonists. The authors pay close attention to the social and scientific forces of the time when a new and controversial approach to pregnancy prevention was launched—with distinct moral and social interactions."

Elizabeth Siegel Watkins

"A fascinating biographical study of a key figure in twentieth-century America... a complete portrait of John Rock as a son, brother, husband, father, student, doctor, researcher, and public figure."

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