In this chapter we have seen how the new science of sex endocrinology established its material authority. By focussing on one specific feature in the laboratory, the experiment, we obtained a more detailed picture of the impact of laboratory science on meanings and practices concerning the human body. This episode also had major consequences for the relationships between the disciplines involved in hormone research. In times when the development of standard tests was central to the field, the relationships between the different disciplines changed drastically. I described in Chapter 2 how, in the early years, clinicians—mainly gynecologists and some physiologists involved in paramedical practices—dominated the field. Laboratory scientists— zoologists, physiologists and biochemists—did not enter the field before the 1910s. Initially, these different disciplines occupied equal positions in the networks that gradually emerged between clinicians and laboratory scientists.

In the 1920s, the tables were turned. The relationship between the clinicians and laboratory scientists changed from that of equal partners into one increasingly dominated by laboratory scientists. I described how laboratory scientists presented themselves as the dominant profession in hormone research. What they brought into the field was their expertise in developing testing methods, and introducing new techniques and methods for standardization. In this manner, laboratory scientists established their authority as experts on tests which were crucial in producing standardized hormone preparations and to reduce the complexities in the field. Laboratory scientists thus succeeded in establishing a strategic position in the networks with clinicians, as well as with the third group that became more and more interested in hormone research: the pharmaceutical entrepreneurs. Clinicians, as well as pharmaceutical companies, became dependent on the expertise of laboratory scientists.

The role of clinicians in the research networks changed from that of leading scientists to audiences. Laboratory scientists transferred the testing of sex hormones from the clinic to the laboratory. In this period, the laboratory became the center of research. The clinic now became an audience for the products of the laboratory. I described how laboratory scientists took something from the pioneering clinicians, that is their early experience in testing hormone preparations, and gave it back to them in the form of diagnostic tools for the clinic.

Pharmaceutical companies became dependent on laboratory scientists for the provision of the required biological assay techniques in order to


Figure 3.3 The instrumental equipment of Laqueur’s laboratory arrives at the grounds of Organon in Oss, 1 August, 1923.


Source: Organon Archives



Figure 3.4 Organon’s laboratory in 1923 Source: Organon Archives


manufacture standardized hormone products. Laboratory scientists transferred human beings, skills and apparatus from the laboratory to industry. In The Netherlands, for example, the personnel of Organon were trained in testing techniques at Laqueur’s laboratory at the University of Amsterdam before they were employed as workers in the pharmaceutical firm. Those who had been directly involved in the preparation of hormonal products could be employed only with the permission of Laqueur. Laqueur also moved equipment from his laboratory in Amsterdam to Organon in Oss to set up the pharmaceutical firm’s first research laboratory (Figures 3.3 and 3.4).11 In the next chapter I shall go into more detail about these relationships between laboratory scientists and pharmaceutical companies.

This episode of testing not only shaped the interrelationships of laboratory scientists, clinicians and pharmaceutical companies, but also was crucial in according knowledge claims about sex hormones a universal, context – independent character. Local laboratory practices became universalized by developing instruments, techniques and context-independent standards robust enough to survive outside the laboratory. Laboratory scientists provided the field of sex endocrinology with a means to lift local practices out of their specific contexts. The setting of standards of measurement played a major role in changing laboratory practices into practices that could be made to work elsewhere: the pharmaceutical company and the clinic. Test methods provided sex endocrinologists with the tools to transform the theoretical concept of sex hormones into standardized chemical substances that could exist apart from the laboratory conditions that shaped them. This transformation of sex hormones into material realities required yet another major tool: research materials. In the next chapter we shall follow the different groups involved in the study of sex hormones in their search for the tons of ovaries, testes and urine required in the making of sex hormones.