In the late 1850s, a physician in New York City used a syringe and glass tube to inject half a drop of sperm into a woman’s uterus, marking the first recorded instance of artificial insemination. From that day forward, doctors and scientists have turned to technology in ever more innovative ways to facilitate conception. Fertility Technology surveys this history in all its medical, practical, and ethical complexity, and offers a look at state-of-the-art fertility technology in various social and political contexts around the world.
Donna J. Drucker’s concise and eminently readable account introduces the five principal types of fertility technologies used in human reproduction—artificial insemination; ovulation timing; sperm, egg, and embryo freezing; in vitro fertilization; and IVF in uterine transplants—discussing the development, manufacture, dispersion, and use of each. Geographically, it focuses on countries where innovations have emerged and countries where these technologies most profoundly affect individuals and population policies. Drucker’s wide-ranging perspective reveals how these technologies, used for birth control as well as conception in many cases, have been critical in shaping the moral, practical, and political meaning of human life, kinship, and family in different nations and cultures since the mid-nineteenth century.
Series Overview: The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series offers accessible, concise, beautifully produced books on topics of current interest. Written by leading thinkers, the books in this series deliver expert overviews of subjects that range from the cultural and the historical to the scientific and the technical. In today’s era of instant information gratification, we have ready access to opinions, rationalizations, and superficial descriptions. Much harder to come by is the foundational knowledge that informs a principled understanding of the world. Essential Knowledge books fill that need. Synthesizing specialized subject matter for nonspecialists and engaging critical topics through fundamentals, each of these compact volumes offers readers a point of access to complex ideas.