History, Department of


Date of this Version

January 2003


Published in Journal of the History of Biology 36 (2003), pp. 205–207. Copyright © 2003 Springer Verlag. http://www.springerlink.com/content/0022-5010 Used by permission.


When I was asked to write a review of Djerassi’s recent book, This Man’s Pill, I had no idea what to expect. As a historian of birth control, I of course knew his name and his role in the development of oral contraceptives, but beyond that I knew little else. And so when his book arrived, I was surprised and also in many ways pleased, for this is not your usual academic publication but something quite different. Telling the story both of the Pill and his own life, Djerassi alternates between prose and verse, narration and dialog, ultimately giving concrete example to what emerges as his larger mission: the integration of the sciences and the arts in order to reach audiences beyond the walls of the academy. And in this call, Djerassi could have found no more sympathetic reader. But there was something else which intrigued me about the book as well: not intended as a straight rendition of historical “facts,” it was instead written as if to suggest a larger journey, in part towards the development of the Pill but also where the development of the Pill led Djerassi.

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