Jesse Olszynko-Gryn: "From patients to consumers: A history of pregnancy testing in Britain"
- Date: –15:00
- Location: Engelska parken - The Rausing Room
- Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
- Contact person: Solveig Jülich
The History of Medicine Seminar
Jesse Olszynko-Gryn, University of Cambridge: "From patients to consumers: A history of pregnancy testing in Britain"
Today, home pregnancy testing is taken for granted. It is the basis for decisions about individual futures, and omnipresent in all kinds of public discourses about reproduction, from teen pregnancy and abortion to the biological clock and IVF. And yet, only fifty years ago, the majority of women waited not minutes but months, to find out whether they were pregnant or not. In this presentation I will sketch the contested rise of a surprisingly controversial yet little-studied industry, from around 1900 to the present day. I will show how the interest in and demand for pregnancy testing decisively shifted from doctors to women, first seen as patients and then as consumers. While sketching this story I will also present 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 women’s (and even men’s) everyday life. Along the way, I will attempt to open up a new vista in the history of medicine. Whereas histories of the controversial pharmaceutical industry and prestigious biomedical research lab nowadays fill entire bookshelves, surprisingly little is known about the history of everyday medical practices such as routine diagnostic testing. Addressing this imbalance, and through the gendered case of pregnancy testing, I will attempt to redirect historical attention towards the diagnostic laboratory, a surprisingly little-studied institution, and the massive, though similarly little-studied global diagnostics industry.