In January 2019 Dr Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (University of Cambridge) joined us to talk about ‘A Woman’s right to know: Pregnancy testing in twentieth-century Britain’.
The event was co-hosted with Exeter’s Centre for Medical History
Abstract: Today, home pregnancy testing is completely taken for granted. It is implicated in personal decisions and public discourses around all aspects of reproduction, from miscarriage and abortion to the biological clock and IVF. And yet, only three generations ago, women typically waited not minutes, but months to find out whether they were pregnant. In this presentation I will recover the contested rise of a little-studied technology, from around 1900 to the present day. I will show how the demand for pregnancy testing decisively shifted from doctors to women, first as patients and then as consumers, and work through the core argument of my book-in-progress, which seeks to explain the remarkable transformation of pregnancy testing from a taboo diagnostic service to a commonplace of everyday life.
Dr Olszynko-Gryn is a historian of modern science, technology and medicine, especially in twentieth-century Britain. His research and teaching interests are broad, but cluster around the topics of the diagnostics, reproduction and cinema. More lately he has been looking at the unresolved controversy over the use and regulation of sex hormones in pregnancy. Dr Olszynko-Gryn’s book, A Woman’s Right to Know: Pregnancy Testing in Twentieth-Century Britain, will recover the contested rise of a controversial and little-studied technology from around 1900 to the present. It will show how the demand for pregnancy testing shifted from doctors to women, first as patients and then as consumers. It will also help to open up a new topic for the history of biomedicine—the laboratory and home diagnostics industry.