Gregory Goodwin Pincus, Physiologist & Endocrinologist – Your Invisible Mentor
Gregory Goodwin Pincus and his colleagues developed the oral contraceptive pill and transformed family planning across the globe, allowing women to plan a family, their life and career.
Name: Gregory Goodwin Pincus
Birth Date: April 9, 1903 – August 22, 1967
Job Functions: Mammalian Reproductive Physiology & Endocrinology
Fields: Scientific research
Known For: Developing the oral contraceptive pill
To get the most from The Invisible Mentor Profile of Gregory Pincus, while you are reading the profile in wisdom, reflectively answer the following questions:
- What can you learn from the person profiled?
- Look at the way you currently do your job, are there ideas from the profile that could help you to become more efficient?
- After reading the profile, what is one concrete action you can take?
- What are your five takeaways from the profile?
- How do the concepts in the profile relate to what you already know?
- How can you combine key ideas from the profile to what you already know to create a new idea?
While working on his Masters degree at Harvard University, Gregory Pincus worked under scientists, W. E. Castle on genetics and W. J. Crozier on physiology. It was the influence of these scientists why he pursued study in reproductive physiology.
Lessons from Gregory Pincus
- Build a solid foundation – master the fundamentals in your field and then build on that.
- Surround yourself with the best in your field.
- Seek partners whose skills complement yours.
- Share you knowledge with those who it will assist.
- Apply your knowledge and experience to problems worth solving.
Gregory Pincus’ Steps to Success
- Build a solid foundation by getting the proper credentials. He acquired his undergraduate degree from Cornell University and while there, he founded and edited the Cornell Literary Review. He acquired both his Master of Science and Doctor of Science degrees from Harvard University in 1927. That same year, Pincus won a three-year fellowship from the National Research Council. He went to Cambridge University in England and worked with FHS Marshall and John Hammond, two pioneers in the field of reproductive biology.
- Built a research career on the inheritance of physiological traits and then zeroed on reproductive physiology, particularly sex hormones and gonadotrophic hormones.
- His work on ovarian hormones in the 1930s was the start of his research on developing an oral contraceptive pill. His research included: Transplanting animal eggs from one female to another, developing techniques to produce multiple ovulation in lab animals, analyzing the effects of ovarian hormones on the function of the uterus.
- Along with Hudson Hoagland, they researched the relationship between stress and hormones for the United States Navy and Air Force.
- Along with biochemist Samuel Gurin and physiological chemist Robert W. Bates, they reshaped the conference on hormones, and renamed it the Laurentian Conference. Became the chairperson for the conference and undertook the huge task of editing the twenty-three volumes of Recent Progress in Hormone Research, a compendium of papers presented at the annual conferences.
- With Hoagland, they co-founded the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology (WFEB) in 1944.
- Although he had been researching sterility and hormones from the 1930s, it was not until the 1950s that Pincus applied his knowledge to find a solution to world overpopulation. In 1951, he was introduced to the work of Margaret Sanger, an American nurse who was concerned “with how low income women of New York were devastated by self-induced abortions and unwanted pregnancies….Her work led to the group Planned Parenthood.”
- Working with Min-Chueh Chang at the WFEB, studying the effects of steroids on the fertility of laboratory animals, his research partner discovered a group of compounds called progestins which worked as ovulation inhibitors.
- Presented the research findings to the G. D. Searle Company where the research was shifted to human beings. Pincus added human reproduction specialists John Rock and Celso Garcia to the project. They conducted clinical trials of the oral contraceptive in Massachusetts and ultimately a large-scale clinical field trials in Puerto Rico and Haiti.
- A huge contributor to Gregory Pincus’ success is his ability to study under, and work with the best.
Biggest Accomplishments Why Gregory Pincus’ Contribution Matters
Pincus’ work on an oral contraceptive pill which gave women more options and enabled them to plan a family, their life and career. Low income women also did not have to subject themselves self-induced abortions.
Ideas That Matter
- Pincus had been conducting research on sterility and hormones since the 1930s. In the 1950s he decided to apply his knowledge to finding a solution to problem of overpopulation in the world.
Why would Gregory Pincus make a good invisible mentor?
- The American Association for the Advancement of Science sponsored the first conference on hormones in the spring of 1943 to be held at a private club. At the time, African Americans were excluded from the club. Pincus pressured the management of the club to allow scientist Percy Julian to attend the conference. There are many time we witness injustices around us, but we are caught up in our own lives so do nothing hoping that another will right those wrongs. It’s not intentional, and we mean no harm, we are just taking care of business. Pincus found the time to correct a wrong.
- Pincus and Hudson Hoagland co-founded the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology (WFEB) in 1944 as research center on steroid hormones. The organization provided training young biochemist in the methods of steroid biochemistry.
- The Eggs of Mammals, 1936
- Co-editor, The Hormones, volumes 1-5.
- The Control of Fertility., 1965.
- Co-authored Steroid Dynamics, 1966.
- Editor, Recent Progress in Hormone Research, proceedings of the 1966 Laurentian Hormone Conference (vol. 23, 1967).
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Book links are affiliate links.
Encyclopedia of World Biography
Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography
Science and Its Times – Biography
“Issues and Developments in Birth Control since 1950,” Science and Its Times