THE OLDEST medical prescriptions for the prevention of conception still extant in writing are found in the Egyptian Papyri. The Petri Papyrus, found at Kahun in April 1889, and dating from the reign of Amenemhat III of the 12th Dynasty (c 1850 BC), is a medical papyrus consisting of gynecological instructions and prescriptions. Himes1 presents a fascinating discussion of the extent to which the suggested contraceptive methods (crocodile dung, honey, oil, and a large variety of sticky and gummy substances) were exclusively magical or whether their use, empirically determined initially, was not also based upon some appreciation of their physiological properties.
Himes' detailed review of the history of contraception suggests that immense human energy and ingenuity has been utilized in the service of preventing the meeting of the sperm and ovum. Men and women have always longed for both fertility and sterility, each at