The latest episode of the Radio 4 series Making History (tx 16th April 2013), includes a segment on pregnancy testing in the 1950s and the surprising laboratory methods used in this process.
The segment highlights the research of Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (a PhD student at the University of Cambridge), who has investigated the use of South African Xenopus toads for pregnancy testing and after extensive research tracked down Audrey Peattie who had worked in a laboratory that carried out this method of testing.
This little-known aspect of medical history is explored in the programme by historian Helen Castor, who interviews Audrey and speaks to Jesse in the Wellcome Library. The Library holds the archive of the Family Planning Assocation (SA/FPA), which includes material on this intriguing topic.
Making History is available for listeners in the UK on the Radio 4 website. More details on Jesse’s research is available from the Generation to Reproduction website, produced by the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.