Date of Award


Document Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History and University Honors








In 1889 an aging Charles Eduard Brown-Sequard began injecting himself with extracts made from dog and guinea pig testicles. This principle behind this was simple. If seminal fluid was the source of a male vitality then older men perhaps suffered from a depletion of semen subsequently condemning them to final years spent in weakness and senility.' Brown-Sequard was a respected French physician and his ideas on the power of testicular extracts to restore the vitality of aging men were taken seriously by his peers. Brown-Sequard's experiments may have been erroneous in conception and flawed in practice, but his research sparked international interest in the study of "internal secretions," later known as sex hormones.

Scientists felt that hormones represented a new field of scientific research. In response to a new field of research, scientists evaluated hormones through a framework through that was very much shaped by the institutional and social contexts. The beginning of the twentieth century was a period of growth and institutionalization of many scientific disciplines, from physics and biology to medicine. As a sub field of medicine, endocrinology pertains to the study of the hom1ones produced by the eponymous endocrine glands. Not simply limited to sex organs, the endocrine system encompasses the thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands, the pancreas, as well as the ovaries and testes. I have limited my paper, however, to a discussion of the study of the sex hormones. This decision is perhaps disingenuous to the complex nature of the endocrine system. The relationship between hormones and glands is intricate and to discuss sex hormones in a way that limits them to the sex organs is somewhat inaccurate. However, the decision to limit my paper is such is not an entirely arbitrary one. For endocrinologists, sex hormones were the first area of concerted research, arising out of observations on the effects of ovarian or testicular grafts. In its early days the endocrinological community focused almost entirely on the study of sex hormones. By the 1930's and 1940's, the field had expanded to include many of the other glands and hormones but sex hormones continued to be an area of intense focus.


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