Posts tagged: John Rock

Staff Finds: Arthur Hertig and Carnegie #7699

By , July 18, 2017

While processing the papers of Arthur Hertig, Center staff came across drafts and notes from an article by Hertig and John Rock entitled “Two Human Ova of the Previllous Stage, Having an Ovulation Age of about Eleven and Twelve Days Respectively” (Contributions to Embryology 29 (1941): 127-56). The paper describes Carnegie embryos #7699 and #7700, with #7699 being at that point the youngest human ovum discovered by researchers. Hertig was working with Rock and the Carnegie Institution of Washington to conduct studies of early human embryos, research which enabled later advances in the birth control pill and in vitro fertilization.

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Arthur Hertig

The embryos were taken from women who were scheduled to undergo hysterectomies, who were married, under 45, and who had at least two children. Rock’s assistant Miriam Menkin recruited the eligible women, and guided them through the process of recording their body temperature in order to determine their time of ovulation. Loretta McLaughlin, in her book The Pill, John Rock, and the Church, describes the next step in the process:

At this point Rock and Hertig’s version of the instructions given the women differs somewhat from Miriam’s. But it was she, not they, who was dealing directly with the “candidates.” Rock and Hertig hold that the women were advised in the final month to continue their normal pattern of sexual intercourse – but this time without using any precautions to prevent conception. The women were asked to keep a record of the dates of any intercourse, and that was all. Miriam says there was a little more than that to it. Miriam would point out to the candidates “these other women sitting on the bench in the fertility clinic. They are women who would like to have a baby, who can’t. We want to find out more about how to help them by finding out more about the early stages of a baby. “ She would reassure the women that “even if you have intercourse you won’t have a baby because you have to have the operation anyway.” She would hint at least that it would be useful to the research if they had intercourse during the final fertile period. “After all,” she rationalized, “the practical fact of it was that there wasn’t much point in going to all the trouble of preparing the women for the study, if none were going to at least give their eggs a chance to be exposed to their husband’s sperm. There was a crude pregnancy test at the time but it couldn’t work until a woman was six to eight weeks pregnant. Neither we nor they could know whether they were pregnant at the time of the surgery.”

Below are scans from the above-mentioned article drafts. Included are drafts of text and tables demonstrating how Hertig and Rock were able to date the ovum.

For information regarding access to these collections, please contact the Public Services staff.

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Arthur Hertig Papers Open to Research

By , March 10, 2017
Arthur Hertig

Arthur Hertig

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the reopening of the Arthur Tremain Hertig papers, 1922-1987. Hertig (1904-1990) was a pathologist, human embryo researcher, and professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School. Hertig collaborated with John Rock to conduct studies of early human embryos, research which enabled later advances in the birth control pill and in vitro fertilization. Hertig was also Shattuck Professor of Pathological Anatomy and Chairman of the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. After stepping down as Chairman in 1968, Hertig moved to the New England Regional Primate Research Center in the Division of Pathobiology.

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Arthur Hertig

The papers are the product of Hertig’s activities as a pathologist, embryology researcher, author, and Harvard Medical School faculty member. The papers contain: Hertig’s professional correspondence and research records, including those records related to his human embryo research with John Rock; Harvard Medical School records; records from professional meetings and conferences; notes and illustrations from his time as a student at the University of Minnesota, along with photographs and other personal records.

The finding aid for the Hertig papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

 

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Miriam Menkin Papers Open to Research

By , July 17, 2015
Miriam Menkin

Miriam Menkin

The Center for the History is pleased to announce the opening the of Miriam F. Menkin papers, 1919-2003 (inclusive). Menkin was a laboratory assistant and researcher at the Free Hospital for Women in Brookline, Mass. The papers include records from her research with John Rock on reproductive health, as well as her professional correspondence. Menkin’s professional writings, notes and commentary on John Rock’s writings, and collected subject files and clippings on topics related to reproductive health are included as well. The Menkin papers were discovered in two accessions (2009-045, 2009-053) of the John Rock papers and were combined with a series of Menkin’s papers from the existing Rock papers to form this new collection.

Miriam Friedman Menkin (1901-1992), BA, Cornell University, 1922, MA, Columbia University, 1923, was a laboratory assistant to John Rock at the Free Hospital for Women. She was born in Riga, Latvia in 1901 and immigrated with her family to the United States in 1903. Menkin is best known for performing the first in vitro fertilization of a human egg, in 1944. Prior to joining Rock in 1938, Menkin had worked on fertility research with biologist Gregory Pincus.

Archives for Women in Medicine Fellow Sarah Rodriguez recently published an article in Women’s Studies about Menkin’s research career.

The finding aid for the Menkin papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

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New Addition to John Rock Papers

By , July 17, 2015
John Rock

John Rock

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that two new accessions (2009-045, 2009-053) to the John Rock papers have been processed and integrated into the collection. The additions include a new series, III. Correspondence 1932-1983, and several smaller additions to existing series, among them Rock Reproductive Study Center records and a subseries of subject files. Included in the Correspondence series are letters between Rock and the pharmaceutical company G. D. Searle about Enovid, the birth control pill.

Also found in the new accessions are papers from the work of Miriam Menkin, Rock’s laboratory assistant and a researcher at the Free Hospital for Women. These papers have been separated from the Rock records and processed for researcher access. The finding aid for the Menkin papers can be found here.

Rock (1890-1984; S.B., Harvard College, 1915; MD, Harvard Medical School, 1918) was a fertility specialist, gynecologist, and medical educator known for his role in the development of the birth control pill. A Center online exhibit, Conceiving the Pill, can be found here.

The finding aid for the Rock papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

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Staff Finds: Images of the First In Vitro Fertilization

By , July 17, 2015
Original Caption: "This is a picture of the first human egg to be fertilized in a test tube (watch glass). It was taken by Dr. John Rock's associates at the Free Hospital for Women in Brookline, Mass. in 1944. Mrs. Miriam F. Menkin, Dr. Rock's research assistant, did the laboratory work on the experiment. The egg is in the two-cell stage. This photograph was taken after 45 hours incubation. It shows two blastomeres within zona pellucida. At the edge of zona pelliucida are numerous spermatozoa."

First in vitro fertilization

While processing the papers of Miriam Menkin, Center staff discovered images of the first successful human in vitro fertilization, performed by Menkin in 1944 at the Free Hospital for Women, in Brookline, Massachusetts. The original caption for the photograph at right is as follows:

This is a picture of the first human egg to be fertilized in a test tube (watch glass). It was taken by Dr. John Rock’s associates at the Free Hospital for Women in Brookline, Mass. in 1944. Mrs. Miriam F. Menkin, Dr. Rock’s research assistant, did the laboratory work on the experiment. The egg is in the two-cell stage. This photograph was taken after 45 hours incubation. It shows two blastomeres within zona pellucida. At the edge of zona pellucida are numerous spermatozoa.

Miriam Friedman Menkin (1901-1992, BA, Cornell University, 1922, MA, Columbia University, 1923) was a researcher and laboratory assistant to John Rock at the Free Hospital for Women. She began her work with Rock on in vitro fertilization in 1938 and in the next six years followed a weekly routine for experimentation. However, on the day in 1944 that she finally succeeded, Menkin, exhausted from being up all night with her daughter who was getting her first teeth, fell asleep and let the egg and sperm expose for double the time specified in the protocols. The too-short exposure time was confirmed by similar successes in the coming weeks.

For an account of Menkin’s work with Rock on in vitro fertilization, see former Archives for Women in Medicine Fellow Sarah Rodriguez‘s recently published article in Women’s Studies about Menkin’s in vitro research.

The finding aid for the Menkin papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

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October 21: The Birth of the Pill

By , September 29, 2014

The Center for the History of Medicine and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics present:

The Birth of the Pill

Jonathan Eig, writer and journalist

Join us as New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Eig discusses his new book, The Birth of the Pill. Eig tells the stories of four people who played a key role in the creation of the birth-control pill: Margaret Sanger, Katharine McCormick, Gregory Pincus, and John Rock.

October 21, 2014
5:00-6:00 PM
Book signing to follow.

Ballard Auditorium, fifth floor
Countway Library of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
10 Shattuck Street, Boston MA 02115

Registration is required. To register, click here.
This event is free and open to the public.

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A Researcher Reports: K.C. Jaski, Harvard College ’13

By , April 24, 2013

K.C. Jaski, a Harvard Undergraduate concentrating in History of Science with a secondary degree in Government and citation in French, will graduate in May 2013. She spoke with us about her experiences conducting research in a variety of Center collections.

What was the topic of your thesis? Why did you select that topic?
The title of my thesis was, “Conceiving History: A Case Study of In Vitro Fertilization, Reproductive Research, and Care at the Free Hospital for Women, 1938-1945.” In the thesis, I sought to understand how the conceptualization of IVF by John Rock, Miriam Menkin, and those financing Rock’s Fertility Clinic fit within or diverged from the larger understandings of reproductive politics, fertility, and heredity from 1938 (when Rock began to direct IVF research and two years after he founded The Fertility Clinic) to 1945 (a year after Rock and Menkin first published their findings and when Rock’s efforts in IVF began to dwindle). I sought to demonstrate how the social hierarchy of gender, a new national emphasis on reproductive health research being conducted at hospitals, and the transformation of the hospital into a major bureaucratic institution entangled with one another during this time. I argued that conducting IVF research within the context of World War II and within the specific institutional framework of the Free Hospital for Women influenced Rock and Menkin’s research that eventually led to success.

I selected this topic based on a longstanding fascination and intrigue into the way scientific innovation is incorporated into American society at large at the legal level, and more intimately in the private sphere (in schools, the family, or home). Whether it was after researching the ethical controversies of in vitro fertilization to learn more about the way I was conceived or participating in medical discussions at the dinner table with my parents who are physicians, tracing the historical origins of IVF at the Free Hospital for Women seemed to be a perfect confluence of my intellectual interests that also resonated personally.

What were your initial thoughts about going to the Center for the first time to use the special collections? Had you been in the Countway Library before this year?
I first went to the Center to look at the John Rock collection in the spring of my junior year, intrigued by his relationship to the birth control pill, to begin research for a paper in my History of Science junior tutorial. Upon my first visit, I was astounded by the wealth of rich resources the Center contained. Looking at the primary source documents only piqued my interest in the topic and expanded my interest to include the Free Hospital for Women as a complex and unique institution itself.

Were you able to find the necessary materials and information about the collections via Hollis and Oasis? Were there other resources that you found helpful? Which collections(s) did you use?
I was able to locate a vast majority of materials using Hollis and Oasis. Whenever I did have a question, reference archivist Jessica Murphy was extremely helpful in assisting me to find the necessary resources, including secondary sources on my topic. I used several collections at the Center for History of Medicine. I primarily used the Free Hospital for Women records, 1875-1975, the John C. Rock personal and professional papers, 1918-1983 (that included his colleague, Miriam Menkin’s papers), and the 1953 Free Hospital for Women Scrapbook.

Did you discover any extremely interesting item(s) or information in the collection(s) that you used?
I found many pieces in the collections extremely interesting! Of particular note would be the 1953 scrapbook of the Free Hospital for Women (also digitized online). Its inclusion of fantastic photographs of the interior and exterior of the Free Hospital for Women that traced its development, of doctors and nurses at work, in addition to popular articles written about the hospital, its patients, and research conducted there provided a wealth of information that colorfully textured the Free Hospital for Women’s history and how IVF, John Rock, and Miriam Menkin, fit into it. In addition, Dr. Rock’s fan mail and his exchange with patients provided fascinating insight into the dynamic doctor-patient relationship.

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