The contraceptive pill: a Mexican invention

That a Mexican was the one who invented the contraceptive pill might surprise some.

The contraceptive pill: a Mexican invention
Luis Ernesto Miramontes. Image: Wikimedia

The synthesis of the active ingredient of the contraceptive pill is perhaps the Mexican contribution with the greatest social impact in the 20th century. The contraceptive pill changed the behavior and reproductive health of millions of people around the world. Until that day there had not been an invention in the history of our country with such revolutionary consequences.

Luis Ernesto Miramontes

Born in Tepic, Nayarit on March 16, 1925, Luis Ernesto Miramontes was a leading Mexican chemist. He studied at the high school level at the National Preparatory School. Later he decided to study the degree in chemical engineering in the classrooms of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

The life of Luis Miramontes was divided between teaching, research, and the pharmaceutical industry. He worked as a researcher and co-founder of the Chemistry Institute of the UNAM. In the branch of teaching, he was a professor at the Faculty of Chemistry of the UNAM. He is also director and professor of the School of Chemistry of the Universidad Iberoamericana and deputy director of basic research of the Mexican Petroleum Institute (IMP).

A whole life dedicated to science generated very extensive work. Composed of numerous written works and about 40 national and international patents.

Origin of the contraceptive pill

The company Syntex, directed by George Rosenkrantz, was the pioneer in the investigations of synthetic substances with hormonal activity. The project was directed by the American chemist Carl Djerassi who had as a collaborator the young student of chemical engineering Luis Miramontes.

Norethynyltestosterone is an anovulatory agent similar to progesterone. On October 15, 1951, Luis Miramontes, only 26 years of age, was able to synthesize it for the first time. The creation of the contraceptive pill has had, over the years, revolutionary consequences on the behavior and sexual health of people around the world. The director of Syntex achieved the commercialization of the first oral contraceptive that took the name of "Norinyl".

The only Mexican in the US Inventor's Hall of Fame

The contribution of Luis Miramontes about the synthesis of the main component of the contraceptive pill, which has received several awards, was so revolutionary. The most outstanding was having been included as the only Mexican in the US Inventor's Hall of Fame, sharing honors with scientists like Pasteur and Edison.

In a survey conducted in Britain by the Engineering and Technology Board (ETB), the contraceptive pill ranked 20th in the list of the most important inventions created by humanity.

Luis Miramontes was also a member of different scientific societies such as the American Chemical Society, the Mexican Institute of Chemical Engineers (Mexico), the Chemical Society of Mexico, the National College of Chemical and Chemical Engineers, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

The first synthesis was made by Miramontes

The invention of the pill is usually attributed only to Carl Djerassi and George Rosenkranz. However, several historians agree that the first synthesis was made by Miramontes.

Carl Djerassi corroborated the version that the first synthesis was made by Luis Miramontes. Also, the scientific article where the synthesis is reported has Miramontes as the first author. As a final test, the method of synthesis was registered on October 15, 1951, in the personal notebook of laboratory notes of Miramontes himself.

Sometime later, Luis Miramontes - along with Carl Djerassi and George Rosenkranz - received the patent for the active compound of the contraceptive pill. Luis Miramontes died in Mexico City on September 13, 2004, leaving an enormous legacy for the science of our country.

Source: Mexico Desconocido