History’s Hidden Heroes: Luis E. Miramontes

photo of Luis MiramontesLuis Miramontes (full name: Luis Ernesto Miramontes Cardenas) is the reason, or rather one of the reasons, that women can safely plan their families.  A Mexican chemical engineer, He was the co-creator of one of the most important components of the birth control pill.

Miramontes was born in Mexico in 1925.  When he was still an undergraduate, he was recruited to work with the European scientists  George Rosenkranz and Carl Dejerassi.  He was instrumental in synthesizing norethindrone, an oral protestin.  A progestin is a compound that mimics the behavior of progesterone, which suppresses ovulation.  Norethindrone was the first highly active progestins that was synthesized that could be taken orally.  It was used in the first three version of birth control pills although its use is less common today.

Miramontes’ contributions highlight the collaborative nature of the scientific process.  The common image of an inventor is of a loner like Edison or Tesla, who has a brilliant idea and invents a thing single-handedly.  But many inventions are the work of many.  The invention of the birth control pill included the molecule synthesized by Miramontes, without which an effective oral birth control pill would not have been possible.  Other scientists before and after Miramontes’ invention were also vital in the project.  The birth control pill has been frequently ranked among the most important inventions of all time, and Miramontes as one of the most influential chemists of all time.

You can find more about Luis Miramontes Cardenas at his website.

 

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