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A 100 Percent Complete (and Accurate!) Timeline of Birth Control Throughout Human History

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1700 BC: The Sumerian epic of Atrahasis, translated from stone tablets, reveals that the god Enki has collaborated with fertility goddess Nintu to make sure one-third of all women miscarry. By subcontracting out to pasittu demons, this compromise among the gods was meant to fix overpopulation by more "humane" means than famine, flood, and smiting.

100 AD: Roman medical scholar Soranus documents the most popular abortion aids. Apparently pomegranate skin was a hit—but the chart-topper was silphium, a giant, wild fennel plant. The aborting plant is now extinct, but it was so beloved that it once graced the currency of Grecian city-state Cyrene.

984: Japanese physician Yasuyori Tamba takes ancient Chinese medical texts and rewrites them as a treasure-trove collection of sexual behavior. The Taoist concept of "returning the ching to nourish the brain" is described by the action of a man gripping his testicles to keep from ejaculating. If done correctly, the ching travels from "the jade stalk" up the spine into the brain.

1864: Edward Bliss Foote promotes the Womb Veil, a rubber diaphragm, in his guidebook Medical Common Sense. "It places conception entirely under the control of the wife, to whom it naturally belongs," he writes. Though considered illegitimate by law and polite society, his mail-order business would prove successful in the late 19th century underground birth-control market.

1956: Co-inventor of the first birth-control pill, Gregory Pincus secures a location for medical trials in advance of applying for FDA approval: Puerto Rico. Where better to advance modernity than a gleaming white housing complex built over a former slum called "The Little Mud Hole"?

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