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Rutgers scholar authors definitive biography of reproductive medicine pioneer
Date:10/17/2008

CAMDEN As Louise Brown the first baby conceived by in vitro fertilization celebrates her 30th birthday in 2008, a new book coauthored by a Rutgers medical historian offers the first comprehensive insight into the influence of John Rock, the Harvard-affiliated gynecologist and pioneering researcher, in shaping the field of modern reproductive medicine.

Rock was the first researcher to fertilize a human egg in vitro in the 1940s and the co-developer of the first oral contraceptive a decade later. His groundbreaking studies of the human embryo, tracing the path from ovulation to implantation in the uterus, provided the first visual record of the earliest stages of pregnancy.

A new book by Margaret Marsh, distinguished professor of history and interim chancellor at Rutgers UniversityCamden, and her sister, Wanda Ronner, a clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, closely examines Rock's 50-year career. His work defined the reproductive revolution, with its twin symbols of the birth control pill and technologically assisted reproduction.

Their collaboration, "The Fertility Doctor: John Rock and the Reproductive Revolution" (John Hopkins University Press, 2008), is the first full-scale historical biography of Rock, who began his working life as a time-keeper on a banana plantation in Guatemala, later became the nation's leading figure in the treatment of infertility, and ended his career as perhaps the world's most recognized advocate for the birth control pill.

"He was the leading clinician in the field of reproductive medicine before the field even had a name," Marsh explains. "We were fascinated by him. We thought he deserved a serious biography."

The authors found Rock's personal story compelling as well. In the 1930s, he was the only Catholic doctor in Massachusetts to support the repeal of a Massachusetts law that prohibited the use of birth con
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Contact: Mike Sepanic
msepanic@camden.rutgers.edu
856-225-6026
Rutgers University
Source:Eurekalert

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