Arthur John Birch portrait.

19: Chance and Design: An Historical Perspective of the Chemistry of Oral Contraceptives (1974)

Arthur John Birch


The 19th Liversidge Research Lecture, delivered before the Royal Society of New South Wales, 15th August, 1974. Reproduced by permission of the Royal Society of New South Wales from J. Proc. Roy. Soc. N.S.W., 1974, 107, 100-113.

"The requirement of total synthesis of sex and cortical hormones is discussed in the historical context of evolution of ideas and techniques leading to biologically active analogues. In particular, the desire to make 18- and 19-norsteroids led to development of the technique of metal-ammonia reductions and eventually to the 19-norsteroid hormones used as oral contraceptives. This history is considered against a background of the role of chance and design in scientific research in general and pharmaceutical research in particular."

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