On October 15, 1951, in a small laboratory in Mexico City, one of the key episodes in 20th century social history occurred: the first synthesis of a steroid oral contraceptive-an event that triggered the development of the Pill. Carl Djerassi has been honored worldwide for that accomplishment, which ultimately changed the life of women and the nature of human reproduction in ways that were not then foreseeable. (...)
This Man's Pill presents a forcefully revisionist account of the early history of the Pill, debunking many of the journalistic and romantic accounts of its scientific origin. Djerassi does not shrink from exploring why we have no Pill for men or why Japan only approved the Pill in 1999 (together with Viagra). Emphasizing that development of the Pill occurred during the post-War period of technological euphoria, he believes that it could not be repeated in today's climate. Would the sexual revolution of the 1960s or the impending separation of sex ("in bed") and fertilization ("under the microscope") still have happened? Djerassi also credits the Pill with radically altering his life, allowing him to become one of the few American chemists to have a second career, that of a novelist and playwright.
The first birth control pill produced in the United States in 1957 was riddled with side effects and it wasn’t until 1961, when Flemish obstetrician and gynecologist Ferdinand Peeters developed an improved version, that the pill could be widely used by women.
The Belgian doctor’s pill was the first combined oral contraception introduced outside the US that had ‘acceptable’ side effects and used on a global scale.
Belgium was strictly Catholic at the time of the pill’s creation, forcing Peeters, who was a conservative Catholic himself, to keep quiet about his experiment to avoid falling foul of Belgian law and religious prohibition on hormonal contraception. Peeters never patented his pill, which would likely have earned him a fortune, and instead it was sold to a German pharmaceutical company and marketed as Anovlar.